A veteran Enthusiast

Not to get all sappy, but to say my grandfather has been an inspiration for me would be an understatement. A member of “The Greatest Generation,” this is a man who lived through the Depression, graduated from Stanford, fought as a Naval commander in the South Pacific, ran a successful newspaper business that stretched up and down Washington state and has rarely—if ever—missed a cocktail hour.

Unfortunately, as he served in the Navy, this was not my grandfather’s plane—but I am sure he’d approve.

Maybe I move in the wrong circles, but the tradition of cocktail hour seems to have gone the way of smoking indoors and showing your appreciation of a female colleague’s good work with a firm pat on her behind. Which is why I have always relished the visits to my mother’s parents house which invariably included mandatory 5:30 alcohol consumption. It effectively forces informal personal interaction and has the obvious added benefit of making dinner conversation all the easier an hour later. These were the times in college when I would, with increasingly flushed cheeks, explain the various classes I was taking and be told that I should really read the paper every morning; that it was a shame the young people didn’t keep up on worldly events any more. It was there, too, that I learned how to make the basic cocktails and was able to sample a much wider variety of booze brands than my humble income would allow. Needless to say, I loved it.

My grandfather recently celebrated his 95th birthday. We had a big party the night before with a variety of guests—friends and family, young and old—and booze was plentiful. My grandfather, aged though he may be, was still the ultimate host and in a proud display of his long time enthusiasm, got up after dinner wearing a kilt with drink in hand and made a wonderfully succinct and largely humorous toast, with personal quips and recollections about each of the many who were present. Later, the night’s revelries pushed on, even as the older half of the crowd made their exit. A small contingent of us made our way to a local club and danced while male go-go dancers gyrated onstage. Upon returning to the house, and after filling a cooler with beer, we all jumped in the heated outdoor pool and eventually—and quite enthusiastically—watched the sun come up. Did I mention this started out as a 95th birthday party?

The next evening we held his official birthday dinner, with cocktail hour taking place, this day, at the restaurant. And what, fellow Enthusiast, does a 95-year-old man with the last name McClelland order, pre-meal, after about 80-plus years of cocktail hours? The same thing he’s drank for as long as I’ve know him—scotch on the rocks. I’ll be damned if he hasn’t found the secret to eternal youth.


Cocktail Hour photo courtesy of Hawk914, flickr.


Beer garden frames

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


« Newer Posts