With only 3 weeks of underage drinking left, I feel its time to reflect and give a story of my beer chase up until now, not because it’s in anyway particularly noteworthy, but hopefully to shed some light on the trials of underage beer lovers like myself. If it goes well maybe this will even be inspiring to some kids to put down the macro swill and try something with flavor.
My relationship with beer began towards the end of 7th grade when James Christenson, Matt Abraham and I drank warm Fosters and Sam Adams Cherry Wheats. We pilfered them from Matt Whipple’s parents, waited for them to go out to dinner and then drank them in their basement. This however was not the beginning of a true love for beer, for I began to toy with the black hole of cheap vodka and MGD bought for us by a friends highschool aged brother.
This was a bad habit continued until I began drinking with my friends Greg (Kaya161), Chris, Rex, PJ and Wiener around the beginning of my freshman year of high school. At this point it wasn’t so much that I enjoyed Guinness, the first decent beer I drank regularly, but more to do with Greg harassing me if I drank anything worse, luckily I gave into peer pressure easily.
<table align=right cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola.jpg> The gondola</td></tr></table>
This drinking of better beer continued as I slowly began to allow Greg and Chris to pick me out random 6 packs from the grocery stores they bought at. Slowly over the next two years the group of us progressed through beers like Beck’s, Lowenbrau, Blue Moon, and various Sam Adams. Soon these began to progress into Anchor and Sierra Nevada, and soon I discovered *yes* Bells, New Holland, Roffey’s and Founders, which would remain the staple of my beer diet, until I left Michigan.
The summer after my sophomore year at the age of 17, I traveled to France to visit my good friend, Pierre. While there I had my beer world rocked drinking beers like Delirium Tremens, Mort Subite Gueuze and most of the Leffe line. I'd been introduced to Belgians for the first time and my love of beer was consumated.
<table align=left cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola2.jpg> Underage with Caroline and a Raftman from Unibroue</td></tr></table>
After getting back from France, my journey through the land of beer was dealt a major blow as Greg, Chris, PJ and Wiener all went off to college leaving me with only one serious beer buddy -- Rex. Rex and I recruited my good friend, UnderageDrinker, and spent the majority of my junior year drinking Bells, New Holland and Guinness Draft Cans in Underage’s basement. It was the perfect hangout to knock back a few and play pool with frequent breaks to smoke a bowl in the driveway. One night Rex and I were drinking Guinness when Underage’s mom came home. Normally we would just stash the beers behind a pillow but this time we left the box in the sink and got busted. It wasn’t too bad -- we had drunk so much that there was very little left to be confiscated. A success of sorts if you look at the bright side.
It was at the age of 18 and in my senior year of high school that I began to really pick up pace and turn my introduction to good beer into a quest for great beer. I pin a lot of this on my friendship with Zach, known to you as ZachDiesel, and the New Basement. The New Basement was the upstairs loft in Zach’s house.
Originally most of the drinking was done to build his bottle collection, but with the discovery of RateBeer in November we began for the first time to take written notes and actually assign beers ratings. Just as radical political philosophies flowed through Paris during the 17th century, new beers moved in to the new basement. We constructed a “Beerevator” out one of the windows so we could hoist our most recent scores into the room when Zach’s mom was home. New words were created such as Pabsty to describe anything bad.
Most afternoons were spent in the New Basement sampling 3-4 beers daily and playing countless games of NHLPA 93. 93 became a cult; everyone had their own team and own styles of play. Zach used Chicago and played with classic rust belt style. Underage preferred the Capitals, or as we called them the Wash, and was very successful with the pull up slap shot and Al Iafrate. I usually took Vancouver a.k.a. The Van, with a front line of Courtnall, Ronning and Bure you couldn’t go wrong. Occasionally I would bust out Philadelphia and this turned me into a huge Brad Jones fan. Some other classic opponents were Ian with Detroit or David with New York. Our many hundreds of hours on the game paid off in the development of “The Move”. Armed with this leger de main we could all easily score 20 goals a game.
<table align=right cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola3.jpg> Zach and I before the bust</td></tr></table>
Originally most of the beer was bought at AJ’s [Ed: changed to protect the store], a drive through liquor store where the employees all new Zach from his frequent purchases and never carded him, long after his fake ID was taken by a bar in Ann Arbor. On one of the half days of school we had every fall Zach and I made 5 or 6 trips to AJ’s until we had completely cashed out their good pint selection. I went to my water polo match that night and was a bit intoxicated for the first 3 quarters. Luckily I sobered up before the 4th and scored 2 goals.
Soon, trying to buy as many different beers at a low price, we began making variety packs. Originally these were 6 packs filled with 6 different beers from the same brewery, but soon we took it further. We began bringing a knife and adhesive tape with us to Forest Hills Foods where we would cut open Rolling Rock 12-packs, empty them of their contents, and re-pack them full of good beer.
This optimized ratings per dollar -- that is until we got busted. One day while constructing a few variety packs someone told the authorities about a younger looking kid, that being me. People came in to see what we were up to; I bolted leaving my half-filled variety pack sitting on the shelf. Zach purchased his successfully but when he returned a few days later, the store manager had him removed for “switching the beer.”
Soon we became bored with the grocery store selections. RateBeer was fueling our desire to try more and more exotic beers we began buying at Cost Plus World Markets and more beer-oriented stores in the area. We never bought at AJ’s again after they stabbed Zach in the back after years of being a loyal customer and started asking for ID.
<table align=right cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola4.jpg> Parents, this is a beer pusher</td></tr></table>
Soon drinking good beer became less of a hobby and more of a revolution. Zach and I began pushing good beer on everyone and slowly people began to take our side. It was a strategic battle where our main weapon was to turn the main high school beer buyers over to our side so people wouldn’t be able to acquire anything else. The resistance was tough. At one particular New Years battle Zach poured some Milwaukee’s Best down the drain after we endured hours of harassment for spending $16 on one six pack. We also snagged copies of Apocalypse Now and Scarface from their movie collection to further demonstrate our disdain for their taste for crappy beer.
A major step in our war against shitty beer was the New Holland barrels. We discovered that if we drove to the brewery half barrels ran a mere 70 dollars. With kegs of Paleooza and Madhatter we were unstoppable.
The acquiring of kegs became very organized. Normally one team would take a buzz cruise to Holland and pick up the keg while the rest of us party-proofed the house, taping sheets over the windows so the cops and neighbors couldn’t see in. Soon we began to slowly win the war. Even today when I return home the results of our victory our obvious.
Trying to get new beers as a minor has always been a pain. Either there would be the occasional few months when I would have a fake ID or I would have to get someone to buy for me. With Zach, Greg and any of my other beer loving friends this wasn’t a problem, but then again they couldn’t buy everywhere. Zach and I began browsing all the liquor stores in town regularly and taking note of what each of them had. However, even the name and description of the bottle weren’t enough for some kids, a few times I resorted to drawing maps of the store showing where beers could be found.
<table align=left cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola5.jpg> Pierre and Radical Rob</td></tr></table>
Eventually my time in the New Basement came to an end and I went off to college. I choose the University of Utah solely based on the prospect of skiing Alta and didn’t spend enough time considering the beer. I spent more of my freshman year drinking $4 fifths of Canadian Host Whiskey with Radical Rob and Sketchball than sampling beer, an incredible time but not exactly like drinking the stouts I dreamed of. It hurt all the more to hear the ridiculous list of the goodies being drunk in the New Basement by Zach et al.
At college my appreciation of beer completely baffled people, they couldn’t understand why I would spend 7 dollars on 6 Squatters when I could get 18 Natty Lights for the same price. However I remained strong, my morale was boosted whenever I could get something new from the Utah State Liquor Store or on trips to Jackson Hole or Denver where I amassed tons of new ratings. The biggest score came when I won a bunch of beer from on-air contest it was mailed to me in Utah – it was absolutely the brightest non-ski day of my freshman year.
When the Olympics came to town the bars virtually forgot about the liquor laws and I was able to score a few ratings that way. Radical and I would load up backpacks and wander around the Olympic tourists and take pictures of drinking in front of the temple just for novelty.
<table align=left cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0><tr><td class=beer align=center><IMG SRC=/images/features/gondola6.jpg> The infamous "New Basement"</td></tr></table>
This year has been far better. I was able to round up some solid beers on my trip to Oregon this fall and Kaya161 has been flying in virtually every weekend with new beers. The night he came back from Belgium with Westy 12, Westy 8, Rochefort 10, Rochefort 6, Rodenbach Grand Cru and St. Bernardus 12 will likely never be topped. Even the beer scene here is starting to change with a little push. Only on Pabst Keg Thursdays is anyone seen drinking macro swill, and people have even begun hunting down good beer with trips to the store in Park City and Wyoming.
Stouts are beginning to be a crowd favorite after I supplied everyone with more Java’s and Expeditions then they could handle.
Although I’ve literally exhausted the supply of bottles here I’m looking forward to being 21 and able to hit up the 6-7 brewpubs that are currently in Salt Lake. The fact that I’ll be able to enter the State Stores and browse around for something new will be very nice. I’m only a bit sad because finding the odd beer here and there will never seem to be as much of an accomplishment as before.