HAL LINDSEY'S GARAGE IS A SHRINE TO THE BEER THAT MADE TUMWATER FAMOUS.
TNT photo by Russ Carmack
Beer snobs, you may want to stop reading now.
Lovers of mass production, nostalgic devotion, packaged personality and regional tradition, pop a cold one and read on.
Christopher B. O'Hara says he loves beer. But there ain't much love lost between O'Hara and microbrews. Here's what he says in his publisher's press release for his new book, "Great American Beer: 50 Brands that Shaped the 20th Century":
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"I know there are a ton of great American microbrews out there, and I've tried a lot of them. The fact is, though, I believe that homogenization and mass brewing produce a product that is ultimately fresher and more enjoyable than the fancier beers."
Rather than hops-slapping the author, I cracked his tiny tome (Clarkson Potter/Publishers $16.95).
Faster than you can pull a ring tab, I was guzzling low-hops halcyon lore –- loving descriptions of the time when, as O'Hara writes, beer was "basically a commodity product with very little differentiation."
You know, the era when Budweiser, Coors, Miller and Schlitz grabbed not for just the gusto -- but for consumers' hearts and minds. For O'Hara, these weren't mere beers. They were "powerful brands that had their own unique personalities and images."
If Clydesdales trot to mind, then this book's for you.
"I find beer snobs truly annoying," O'Hara said. "The same character that you'll see turn his nose up at a nice cold Budweiser is the same guy that, 12 years ago in college, was begging his way into a $3-kegger featuring Milwaukee's Best."
Milwaukee's Best is included in O'Hara's 50 great brands, along with Hamm's, Stroh's, Billy Beer, Pearl, Lone Star, PBR and bunch of other regional and national brands. Some are gone. Some remain. All have their places in beer-drinkers psyches.
Four West Coast beers that I grew up with –- ones that I'm sure are brewed into your memories, too –- are included in O'Hara's book:
Tumwater's Olympia: "It's the Water."
Seattle's Rainier: "Mountain Fresh Taste."
San Francisco's Lucky Lager: "The Age-Dated Beer."
Canadian-based but Tacoma-brewed Carling Black Label: "Mabel, Black Label" and "America's Lusty, Lively Beer."
I remember Black Label and mac 'n' cheese dinners in my first apartment.
Lucky Lager was always the cheapest 12-pack in the supermarket (stacked on the floor, in front of the beer cooler).
I'm trying to forget that six-pack of Rainier tallboys that got me through Patrick Swayze's "Road House" at the Paramount.
This one I'll never forget: Uncle Bert loved Oly and shared cold quarts with my grandfather over ballgames on the radio.
Please, share your cheery, beery memories.