.My Life in Beer—the Truth as I Lived it

I remember my first beer. It was my sister’s fifth birthday, and the year was 1978. I was 10 years old. The day was a cause for a whole-neighborhood blowout barbecue down in the field. My friend and I, with nothing better to do than watch our parents party, figured out how to snag a couple of beers from under a table, and we chugged them in the creek. I am 100% certain that no one has tasted an Olympia that good since, and I’m prepared to throw whiskeyfists over that statement.

A few years later, in high school, kegs reigned supreme. Budweiser was the order of the day at the Stanford parties I crashed, but on rare occasions a party at Windy Hill might yield Henry Weinhard’s, which was—ahem—“brewed in small batches” and therefore superior to all other swill.

Of special importance to my beer memories of that time period was the night my fellow co-worker at the local backwoods watering hole piled 8 cases of beer onto a dolly and dragged the load a mile home at 12:30am after his shift ended, tipping the whole shipment into the bushes every time a car drove past, only to realize he’d overdone it and return half of the contraband the next day before he got busted.

Fast forward to the brave year 1994, when I opened my grandmother’s refrigerator, did a doubletake, and yelled out, “You have an unopened can of Schlitz in here dated 1971!” To which she replied, “Take it or it’ll get thrown away!” I obliged, and that sacred object—then a youthful 23 years old, now a distinguished 51 years old—still sits on my bookshelf as a shrine to the America that once was. I am 53. I intend to drink that beer on my deathbed.

I didn’t drink much beer after college.

But, five years ago I—by chance—moved here, to Microbrew Country. By coincidence, the world’s best beer was available at its point of origin, just down the street from where I lived. I tried a Pliny the Elder, and can honestly say it is the best beer I have ever tasted.

Which brings us to today. Writing this has ignited a fierce fire in my stomach. One that can only be extinguished by a beer. I would drink an Olympia, but on Jan. 25, 2021, Pabst Brewing Company announced it was pausing production of Olympia beer because of a lack of demand. Ouch. I guess I’ll have a Pliny instead.

Mark Fernquest lives in a glass house in an apple orchard in West County. He imagines he is a writer.
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