As part of our mission here at Why Daddy Drinks to revel in the humorous lunacy that is fatherhood, and to promote the drinking of quality beverages, we bring you our weekly segment highlighting something that should be in your glass. This is The Drink Of The Weekend.
I went to college at Washington State University from 1987 to 1991. This is a period that I, and any of my fellow Cougars and fraternity brothers will swear until our dying days was the Last Great Era To Be In College In America.
Reagan was president when we got there. The Soviet Union was about to fall apart and, yes, MTV played actual videos. So many videos. We loved everything from the metal of Headbangers Ball, hosted by Riki Rachtman, to the blossoming of hip hop promoted by hosts Ed Lover and [the original] Dr. Dre on Yo MTV Raps. The economy was booming. All was good.
But there were two things that stood out more than anything else for us: Girls and beer. And they went hand in hand.
The girls were easy. Not that the girls were easy. It was just impossible not to be beholden by the big-hair and, in the words of Otter from “Animal House” “certain morally casual attitude” of many of the beautiful women of Washington State. There’s no point in denying it: If you went to college in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, you know it was OK to party and, well, be a little loose from time to time.
However, in order to party, we needed beer. Lots of it. I remember keg parties we would host in which we had a minimum of 25 kegs. And since such parties often had as many as 500 people and we would often step up to the keg with our 32oz. party mugs, we needed as much of that beer as possible to meet our needs.
And of all the beers we consumed, we consumed no beer more than Bud Light.
Oh, don’t get me wrong: We were professional beer connoisseurs. As least as much as we could be on a college-level income. We drank whatever we could get our hands on: Bud. Coors. Coors Light. Rainier. Buckhorn. Lucky Lager. Schmidt. And in what was probably the most-economical drunk a Wazzu kid could get back in the day, the Stroh’s 30-pack for $10 at Rosauer’s grocery store in Moscow, Idaho.
[You may be asking “Why Idaho?” Well, Pullman, Wash., where Wazzu is located, is only about seven miles from the Idaho state line. And when I got to Wazzu, Idaho had just changed its drinking age to 21 from 19. But, in a move of either incredible intelligence or insanity, Idaho included a grandfather clause within its new law. If you turned 19 by a certain date, you could still legally buy alcohol in Idaho, even though the official age was 21. And my birthday fell inside that grandfather clause. Needless to say, I spent my first year-and-a-half at Wazzu burning up the highway between Pullman and Moscow.]
But…When it came to brass tacks, we usually went with Bud Light. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that Bud Light was the Higher Quality Shitty Beer. It was also amazingly easy to drink. Back then, I don’t know if the ABV level of Bud Light was any more than 3%. I don’t think any of us would have cared, because all we really knew is that it was almost as easy to drink as water and it got us plastered. We could drink it all night long.
Fast forward a few years, to Japan, where I lived for a bit and discovered the awesomeness of Kirin Lager. Then, on to Boston, where I learned all about Samuel Adams, Brewer and Patriot. And now I am in California, where I have walked into a vat of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, have surfed along with the entire line fo Kona Brewing beers, and met the one and only Pliny The Elder. My tastes changed, evolved and got better. Anyone who knows me and has read this page knows how much I love a good IPA, in particular, and I load up on those brands from Airways Brewing Co., Pike Brewing and Bale Breaker from the great state of Washington every time I go up there in the summer. It had been at least 20 years since I had even thought of ordering a Bud Light. It wasn’t just High Quality Shitty Beer. It was just Shitty Beer.
That was until two weeks ago.
My wife and I took our kids, Maddo and Little Sis, went with some friends of ours to a local amusement park called Gilroy Gardens, located in beautiful Gilroy, Calif. This place is about an hour south of where we live in Oakland. It’s kind of a low-speed, Disneyland wannabe that uses agriculture as its theme. I think all the rides, which are also low-speed compared to Disneyland, have some kind of fruit-or-vegetable connection. In a way, this makes sense: Gilroy is located in one of last remaining farming areas on the edge of Silicon Valley. If you’ve ever driven down Highway 101 south of San Jose and suddenly become overwhelmed by the scent of garlic, you have found Gilroy. Garlic is a Big Deal in Gilroy. There’s a reason why it hosts a big, annual, garlic festival and all the locals have kittens over things like garlic ice cream.
We got a deal for the admission, and thank God we did. Gilroy Gardens may not be Disneyland, but it charges near-Disneyland prices for admission and everything else. Even with the teacher’s discounted coupon my wife got, it still cost the four of us almost $88 to walk through the front gate.
And that was before we got an $8 bag of popcorn. Make that two $8 bags of popcorn. We were hungry and hadn’t found our way to any of the eating joints around the park. So, we stopped in at some “candy shop”, asked for two bags of popcorn. The kid working there acted like every high-school junior whose parents made him get a job for the summer, and barely budged as he filled the bags not all the way to the rim. There were no prices, visible, and if there had been, I doubt I would have followed through on the nearly $21 price tag that came with the two bags of what tasted like salty Styrofoam and a bottle of water.
Prices like that I can handle at a ballgame or a movie theater. But not at a kiddie-themed amusement park with slow rides in the shape of strawberries. By the time we found a place to eat for real, I was nearly apoplectic about the $8 bags of popcorn. It didn’t help that it was about 130 degrees outside and we were all melting within our clothes.
My wife and I waited in line at some terrible food stand where the burrito I got tasted about as “Mexican” as two slices of plain white bread. My spirits were low, yet boiling in the heat. I remember that I had noticed some other parent walking around with a plastic cup full of beer. I figured there had to be some of that relief nearby.
There was…In a way. I looked up at the menu and saw that, yes, there was beer, but the choices weren’t inspiring: Corona, Corona Light, Bud and Bud Light. I called them the Four Horsemen of the Beer Apocalypse.
But beggars can’t be choosy. And that is why I ordered not one, but two Bud Lights. It was hot, the beers, and their 4.2% ABV [Bud Light’s picked up on the craft beer practice of putting its alcohol content on its product] were ice cold, and, at around $7 each, were actually a bargain compared to those bags of tasteless popcorn.
I cracked open the lid of the first one and took a long pull. And there it was, the taste of 25 years ago: It was College In A Bottle.
I won’t go out of my way to order Bud Light in the future, but I have to admit that it wasn’t bad enough to make me want to jump off a bridge. No, that feeling was something I kept for those $8 bags of crappy popcorn.