Professional obligations have prevented me from drinking beer for the past week.
So of course, I’m thinking about beer. Brown, amber or gold. Hoppy, mild or sour. Clear or cloudy; foamy or flat. Great flowing waist-high rivers of beer.
Beer, beer, beer.
Since I can’t have any now, I’m looking back at what I’ve had in the past. And I’m especially thinking about beers I’ve had that aren’t made any more, that I couldn’t go buy off the shelf now even if I wanted to.
It would have been fun to keep a beer journal, so I’d have a definitive record of every brew that ever expanded my waistline.
Even without that, I can still remember some brands whose acquaintance I do not expect to make again.
Proudly we sound the roll call of the departed:
Goebel – Apparently the Goebel brand had a long, proud history in the Detroit area. By the time my brother and I bought some once, on impulse, sometime around 1993, it was just another grandpa-style canned beer.
I do remember thinking it held its own pretty well, compared to the other cheap canned beers I was consuming at the time. So, hooray for that much.
New Amsterdam Black & Tan – When I was in college, the arts section at my college paper traditionally held a beer tasting every May. We would give a particularly well-stocked Boston liquor store free advertising in exchange for an equal amount of beer. Then, we’d invite a few college-type worthies to help staff members do the tasting. It always started snarky and deteriorated from there, and it made for a hilarious article in the end-of-year issue.
I was managing editor in May of my senior year (1995), and exercised my editorial privilege to arrange and emcee the beer tasting.
It was the single most clement event of my college days, even better than graduation. Loads and loads of free beer, and — once the tasting was done — all of it mine to decide what to do with.
I drank a lot of beer over that two-day period, several brands of which are now defunct (Rolling Rock Bock, anyone?)
I don’t specifically remember New Amsterdam Black & Tan. But I’m sure it would have intrigued me enough to try, and the comments of the tasters indicate it was OK to pretty good. So I’m throwing it in here just as a placeholder for my happy non-memories.
Red, White and Blue – This stuff was pretty crappy, which didn’t stop me from drinking six cans in about two hours at a Fourth of July party in Boston back around 1995-96.
I then got on a jampacked T train that took about a half-hour to inch its way to the area of the fireworks. By the time I got off the T I could barely walk for having to piss; it remains quite likely the most physical pain I have ever been in in my life.
So, yeah. Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue.
Pilgrim Ale – It would have been 1997 or ’98 that my brother and an old friend came to visit me in the suburbs of Boston. They were going to some sort of chess tournament at the Boston Public Library that turned out to have been canceled when they got there. All part of life’s rich pageant, I suppose.
Anyway, we went out for beers. And instead of the familiar cans or bottles, we saw a curious-looking giant bottle of beer on the shelf. We took it home and shared it. (Yes, we poured it into glasses; we didn’t go at it hobo-style.) And as I remember, it was crisp, flavorful and refreshing, rather more so than whatever I was accustomed to drinking at the time.
The beer that first turned me on to fresh and local turned out to be Pilgrim Ale, brewed by Old Harbor Brewing Co. of Hudson, Mass. The company is long gone — close to 15 years gone, I think.
But nowadays, when I go to Bethlehem Brew Works and get my growler filled, I sometimes think of Pilgrim Ale in its unfamiliar big bottle. I can’t speak to their business practices, but the beer deserved better than obscurity.
Genesee Red – For most of my life I have held a native Rochesterian’s dislike of my hometown beer.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I encountered Genny Red in the late ’90s or so. It was a reddish lager that drank nicely and actually tasted pretty good, in a post-lawnmower sort of way. Everyone has one or two cheap-but-tasty brews they like to keep around from time to time, and Genny Red became one of mine.
So then they went and got rid of it.
(While I am mentioning defunct Genny brands, I’ll also mention Michael Shea’s Irish Amber, which was the brewery’s bid to make something more middlebrow before it introduced its current J.W. Dundee line. I have no firm memories of Michael Shea’s, but I remember it was all over the place for a little while, so I’ll take credit for having downed one on some long-forgotten evening.)
1857 – Stegmaier Porter, made up the road in Wilkes-Barre, was another cheap but flavorful beer that was a go-to of mine for several years after I moved to Pennsylvania. It stomped the better-known Yuengling Porter like a grape, and maybe still does; I’ve not had it in a while.
Anyway, it was probably the Porter that motivated me to try 1857 Lager, another beer in the Stegmaier stable, probably sometime around 2004 or so. 1857 was fizzy, apple-juicy and generally unpleasant, and I was none too regretful to find out it is no longer being made.
It was not, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, a very good year.
Troegs Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale – It wasn’t that long ago that I held forth on the virtues of brown ale. And Harrisburg’s Troegs Brewing Co. made one I always used to love. It was flavorful and drinkable. And then, it was retired. (Only the good die young.)
Troegs is still around and seems to be doing pretty well. So I have hopes I’ll see this one again someday in my local beer store. At least, I hope it comes back before Red, White and Blue does.