I’ve never fully understood beer gardens. Now, I get the concept of an area or establishment dedicated to drinking: bars, taverns, saloons, etc.—totally on board. But there’s always been something about the beer garden that seemed off to me. Is it because they are open air? Because your beverage options are so limited? I don’t know. The beer garden I attended this weekend did have the added advantage of being private and the type you pay once for to drink as much as you can. Yet I still had my reservations.
It must be my restless nature. While I love beer as much as the next Enthusiast, the idea of a temple dedicated to a singular libation (and often single brand)—without the addition of interactivity to some extent—just doesn’t hold my attention. I need to be challenged by more than the fight against sobriety.
We spent the weekend in Portland at a private event that housed said-beer garden last weekend. I made an appearance all three days with varied success. By Sunday everyone was a bit over-enthused when the garden officially closed at 6:00pm. We wandered around for a while listening to the world’s coolest marching band, and I couldn’t help but notice a strange clanging sound, accompanied by shouts of encouragement, coming from the shuttered area behind the tarp-covered, chain-link fence. I spotted someone I knew and, being an Enthusiast of some notoriety in the community, managed to get us through the hidden back entrance, past fairly stringent security to see what all the commotion was.
I had heard of what I was about to see. I had been told stories that involved blood, sweat, tears and triumph. And I had been told that the tradition was outlawed. What we had been invited into was an annual celebration of post-beer garden keg bowling. An exclusive, non-competitive sport in which nothing but hubris and perhaps a little timé is on the line.
Kegs crashed into each other amidst excited cheers from enthusiastic bystanders. There is nothing like the sound of hollow metal against hollow metal against pavement. It’s fantastic and exciting—and I was trembling, despite the free-flowing IPA.
After surveying an assorted line of people take their shot, I gulped down the remaining ounces in my cup and took hold of the “ball.” With a heave, I sent steel plowing through the wall of kegs.
It was exhilarating in a way I haven’t felt often since reaching that birthdate after which you must have been born to purchase alcohol. And with the addition of such a unique activity, I finally got it. The beer garden is the ultimate backyard bbq, and keg bowling is the everclear of horseshoes. While I know this experience is rare, I sincerely hope that every Enthusiast gets a chance to step up to the line to take a throw. There is nothing like it—and you’ll never look at a beer garden the same way again.
Photos courtesy of Josey and Rosie