It was my own father who first exposed me to beer. At an early age, there was an after-dinner tradition of story time, where my father would tell my brothers and sister tales from his youth growing up in Philadelphia.
He worked at the bottlehouse for Schmidts while attending Villanova in the 1950s. He had landed the job from an uncle who worked at Esslingers. “It was grunt work,” he told me. “I worked the 4 pm to midnight shift. And they gave you three twenty minute beer breaks.” At the time, he was underage and unable to imbibe, yet he would smell like a brewery on his ride home on the El late at night, much to the consternation of fellow passengers.
Years later, as a middle-schooler with a paper route, I would collect discarded beer cans that littered the local yards after late night high school parties, while I delivered the Washington Star on Saturday mornings. When it appeared that my collection wasn’t a passing fad, my father would return from business trips abroad with empty cans for my collection as souvenirs.
During summers at the Jersey shore, my father and my uncles would play pinochle in the garage, which was stocked with cases and cases of Carling Black Label; Uncle Paul, my grandfather’s best friend, worked for a beer distributor and had the bent knuckles from moving cases of beer to show for it.
But despite the fact that beer was prevalent in family discussions and during beach vacation card games, I rarely can recall my dad drinking it growing up. He didn’t drink at all for the longest time and when he finally jumped back into the game he was a wine man. Later he worked with a fellow who he claimed was a “Guinness guy.” “He would make this punch with that and champagne that looked like root beer,” he said. My father himself would sample Guinness on a trip to Ireland but upon return found that the beer stateside wasn’t the same as what he’d had in Dublin.
After college, I relocated to Southern California in 1990 and found myself in the midst of the craft beer boom. When my father had to make a trip to San Diego, I drove down from Los Angeles and we went to a local microbrewery there; he had found his way back to beer. By the time I moved back to the east coast, my dad was a full-blown Heineken fan, so much so that when my sister got married, it became the de facto beer for her reception.
These days, when traveling abroad, he will typically ask to sample a local brew like Lithuania’s SVYTURYS or Australia’s Cooper’s Original Pale Ale. His palate has opened up and now a world of beer awaits him.
In the spirit of that generational giving, All About Beer Magazine posed the question “What is your dad’s favorite beer?” to its contributors, readers and others in our extended family to see what they had to say about it. This is our homage to dads and their beer.
From our writers—
Matt’s Premium. We lived in Syracuse and it was as “local” as you could get.
There was one ritual that will forever stay in mind: the spring bock beer run. Each year, when the Formosa brewery of Ontario would release its seasonal bock in the five liter mini-keg—or whatever the Imperial equivalent was in those pre-metric days—my father would drive across the provincial border to pick up at least two and, since gas was always cheaper in Ontario than in Quebec, fill up the tank. The tricky part, of course, was that the trip would need to be timed so that the tank was almost empty, but not so much that the car would run out of gas before my dad made it to Cornwall. I don’t recall him even once not making it.
My dad’s beer was Busch. He would let me have sips of it whenever I wanted. And I liked it! I remember enjoying the way the bubbles tickled my tongue. They were different than pop bubbles. I also liked the cans—they were blue with a big, white mountain on them. You don’t see mountains like that growing up in Tulsa, OK, so it was quite exotic.
Granddad’s beer was Coors. I think that was mostly because he couldn’t get Coors at the time in Houston, where he lived. So when he and Granny would drive up to visit us in Tulsa, they would head home with a trunk packed with so much Coors, the back end of their car nearly scraped the road!
My dad drank two beers that I remember. When I was very young, he drank the confusingly-named Duke Ale, The Prince of Pilsners, from the Duquesne Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh. When they went under—and a sad day it was in our house—he switched to Miller High Life, which turned out to be an important step for my beer education: I didn’t like it. I had no reason not to, no one had told me that beer even could taste different—it was “beer” —but when I filched one, it tasted grainy, nasty, and I went back to drinking illegally purchased Genny Cream Ale and National Bohemian. But now I knew that beers really had differences. I finally got my dad drinking Yuengling Traditional Lager with the “drink local” argument.
We lived in Boulder, CO, so it was definitely Coors. I used to get the first sip when I would fetch him one and I can still remember that crisp taste.
My dad’s always been very susceptible to advertising and the power of suggestion. So for him, growing up, hearing jingles such as, “What are you gonna have? Pabst Blue Ribbon,” it used to be PBR. Now he loves wheat beers: “heferweizen” (though he’s lived in California for over 40 years, he still has his Brooklyn accent). He brings home mostly Widmer Hefeweizen and Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, and when we’re out, I’ll steer him toward Gordon-Biersch hefe to go with the garlic fries at a Dodger game, or take him to a proper beer bar and suggest Blanche de Bruxelles.