Most of us, when we land in a new city, tend to seek out destination-worthy taprooms, bars, and restaurants as a first point of order. But this week, instead of hyping up vacation highlights, we asked members of The Fervent Few to share the venues and beers that they grew up with—their favorite, down-home spots (or beers) that make up their earliest drinking memories. These are the hometown heroes.
Manny Gumina: “In Wisconsin, Rhinelander Shorties as a chaser to a Bloody Mary are a thing. The brewery even patented the ‘Shorty’ bottle (7oz) back in the day, apparently.”
Ashley Rodriguez: “Growing up in Miami, Florida, the only beer I ever saw was Corona. For years, I thought that was the only beer. I also have a fondness for a bar in my college town called Jimmy’s. Technically, technically, Jimmy’s is called Woodlawn Tap, but no one calls it that. I have no idea why we called it Jimmy’s. It's one of those places where beer is still priced by the quarter (a Hamm's tallboy is $3.50). Get the fries. Just do it.”
Jason Kelly: “I still remember my first pint of Guinness like it was yesterday, although it was at least 20 years ago. It was a dark, dingy neighborhood joint with paneling on the walls. It wasn’t an Irish bar, but it was a place a bunch of older Irish gentlemen went to. I honestly don't even remember if I was of legal drinking age at the time, but I felt like a man perched up on that dirty, red, backless barstool enjoying my first pint.”
Tim Decker: “When I worked for a brewery in Northern California, all our reps from all over the country would stay at the hotel a block away whenever we had sales meetings or the annual holiday party. This hotel shared a parking lot with a casino/cardroom that stays open late, so around 12:30 a.m. a busload of drunk and stoned brewery employees would crash through the door and wreak havoc.
For some reason the thing to order was the potstickers. Don’t ask me why. These were 100% frozen from a plastic bag and had entirely too much salt and MSG, but goddamnit they were delicious with an IPA. On more than one night I’d see over a dozen orders come out in a 90-minute window. One of the regional managers would get stuck with the bill and everyone would stumble back to their rooms.”
Arvo: “The year was 2007. I was a college kid with the ability to legally buy my own beer for the first time, instead of giving someone money for a 30-pack of High Life. I could now go pick out what I wanted. Hell, I could go crazy and buy my own 30-pack of High Life (sidebar: still do). Living in East Lansing at that time meant there were few options for craft beer bars. Most bars sold cheap mugs of Labatt and Rumple Minze shot specials. Luckily, we had Crunchy’s, which is still my favorite bar and cheeseburger in the state. One of my favorite memories was going here and getting New Holland Dragon’s Milk on tap when it first came out. At that time they put it on the menu with an asterisk next to it that meant there was a two-mug limit due to ABV. Yes, that’s right, it was served in a 24oz mug. I used to go quite often for a cheeseburger and a mug.”
Zach Barker: “The best bar in Eau Claire, Wisconsin proudly displays a ‘No Light Beer’ sign above the bar. The walls are filled with photos of blues and jazz musicians who frequently stopped in when the back stage was still functional. Original Robert Crumb artwork and the smoothest pool table round out the rest of the space. And the best jukebox selections you could want. The Joynt is perfect.”
Matt Gilliland: “In the mid '90s a few of us in the Colorado craft brew scene thought it was kind of kitschy and ironic to drink Coors Banquet. I liked Coors—it was my dad's beer—and occasionally driving by the ginormous concrete brewery in Golden was what made me realize that beer is made by people, and that there must be something interesting about it. After a while it faded from cool and ironic to just what I ordered or bought for myself when hanging out with friends, and became the norm when free beer from work didn't seem appetizing (especially '90s craft—all ales with tons of caramel malt; not exactly crisp and refreshing). A few years into my brewing career, I went to a Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) meeting at Coors and they were talking up Barmen Pilsner, which became a brief obsession for me. Slow-pour Pilsner in a footed glass is pretty common now, but at the time it seemed like a unique experience. I believe they still only allow 15 draft accounts in the Denver area. Either way, Banquet or Barmen: those are the nostalgia beers for me.”
Casey Street: “Now that craft beer has become the norm for my friend group, one thing I really miss is pitchers of beer. There was always something special about getting together with your buddies after class or on weekends and grabbing a pitcher and some unbranded glasses, or even plastic cups. It was normally the cheapest beer on tap, but occasionally we’d spring for Yuengling. “Who’s got the next pitcher?” was a common refrain.
But today I can’t think of the last time I had a pitcher of beer outside of a bowling alley. Here’s to hoping they won’t die out as tastes, and the beer industry, continue to change.”
Bryan Arndt: “Hessen Haus in Des Moines, Iowa is a place that I’ve always had a soft spot for. My life and the beer scene have been ever-changing, but this place has always been a constant. It’s been the site of many memorable occasions in my life—like boots of Lager during college, and capping off our baptismal bar crawl with family over some currywurst and Andechs. It’s truly a gem, and a personal favorite: a place with longevity and a commitment to preaching the gospel of great German food and beer, even when it has gone squarely against the grain of whatever the hot new trends have been.”
Andrés Muñoz: “The BU Pub. It’s Boston University’s on-campus bar. I don’t think I would’ve gotten my master’s degree if this place wasn’t there. Only students, faculty, and alumni are allowed in, and it was never too quiet or too loud. I did literally all of my homework there. I also taught the general manager there how to swap out couplers for his German beers. The beer selection was way better than it should’ve been. Apparently they renovated and it looks like yuppie trash now, but the memories will last forever.”
James Hernandez: “There’s a local bar downtown called Sandrini’s. You have to walk downstairs, and usually everyone recognizes you and has a smart-ass comment for you once they can see who it is. Bartenders always know what you want to drink, and usually what you want to eat. They only have like 10 taps, usually a well-balanced lineup, and beer prices are always fair. It’s the kind of place where the mailman will make his delivery and grab a shot from time to time. Nonstop wisecracks pointed my way when I’m in there, but I’d have it no other way. I’ve met way too many cool people there.”