Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Evolution of a drink in Milwaukee

Pauly had a good post last week about drinks. It was called Evolution of a Drink. Go click through and read it. You may have to go about a quarter down the page to find it (look for Nov. 18). I found this walk through of the drinks in his life to be quite fascinating and inspirational. I started thinking about it in terms of my own experiences. Here is my hack job version of Evolution of a Drink.

As a kid, having a soda was a real treat. My mother didn't have a lot of money to throw around, but she did her best to provide for her 3 kids on the alimony money she received. An 8 pack of soda in returnable bottles meant we each got 2 and then would try to split the other 2. Usually my older brother would drink his down right away, whine and moan get one of the leftovers. Whoever went with our mother to the grocery store got to choose the soda. I would usually go with Spot (orange soda) or Dr. Pepper. Sometimes Coke here or there.

If it wasn't soda, my mom would buy a huge jug of apple or cranberry juice. If Hawaiin Punch was on sale, we might get a surprise. There was usually a can of frozen orange juice in the freezer as well. If I ever had to make it, I would usually eat a quarter of the frozen OJ myself before mixing in the 3 cans of water. Not sure why as I am not a big fan of orange juice.

Our schools in Milwaukee didn't have soda machines. Whether it was grade school, middle school, or high school, it was water or milk at lunch. Only regular 2% milk. There was no choice and chocolate milk was never around.

I remember taking my bike about 3 blocks to the gas station to buy soda. It was an old Pepsi machine at Larry's Auto Clinic. Later I would find a Coke machine about 3 more blocks down the road at a Mobil station on Fond du Lac Avenue. I liked that machine because it was a dime cheaper and I could get Mello Yello. I preferred Mello Yello to Mountain Dew. Can't recall the last time I drank a Mello Yello.

My favorite soda as a kid was Cherry Coke. I remember when they relaunched the product. I was so happy when my mother brought home a 12 pack. The only cherry cola that I had until that time was Jolly Good. It wasn't bad and it was cool that the cans had a riddle you could read after you finished the contents, but it didn't come close to the cherry goodness that was Cherry Coke.

There was usually some kind of liquor in the house. Whether it was beer for my dad on the weekends or the leftover bottle of Cold Duck from Christmas. My mother loved amaretto and a bottle was usually in the top cupboard. I would steal sips of the Cold Duck all the time, hoping that I would never get caught. Once in a while, I would venture into that top cupboard for the "cherry" stuff. Whenever pops wanted a beer, I would get a sip as well. I get a feeling that parents do that today. They don't send their boy off to get them a beer and reward them with a sip. I would take that sip and announce how good it was as my face curled up. My dad always laughed at that telling me I didn't know shit about beer.

One thing I never did a lot was drink in high school. I think I may have had one beer the whole time. That changed in college. I got plastered my first night at UW-Oshkosh. My roommate (a real douchebag) took me to the door room of some friends for some beer. They were drinking Old Milwaukee. I had a couple bottles there before we went off to some fraternity house. There I drank whatever was in the barrel. A couple hours later I was blotto and stumbling down the street back to my dorm room. Next day, I felt fine. No hangover.

You name the beer, I probably drank it in college. Money was always tight so you had to get the most bang for your buck. House parties would take care of that. For $2 you could drink all you wanted until it was gone. I usually would plant my ass at the barrels and hold the tap, serving anyone who came by. This worked out for my friends as they usually got a beer very quickly. Most people assumed I lived at some of these places. I would get stopped on the way to class and asked if we were throwing a party. I made it my job to keep an ear to the ground to know if the Bat Cave, the Booger, the Roman House, or the Hall of Just Us was having a party.

The beer served at these places was usually Old Milwaukee or Meister Brau. If you were drinking in the dorms, it would be whatever was cheap at the liquor store. Hamms, Goebel, Red White and Blue, Black Label, Rhinelander, Huber, Braumeister, Olympia. I drank a lot of Braumeister my senior year because it was so cheap. It was $2.99 a case. By the end of the year I thought was being ripped off as the price rose to $3.79. Braumeister was some crappy beer too. Your taste buds had to get used to the taste. Your stomach had to be conditioned to handle it. I recall one time drinking 11 bottles of Miller High Life and then one bottle of Braumeister. That Braumeister hit my stomach and went to war with the High Life. I immediately ran to the bathroom to puke. The Braumeister won that gang fight. Years later I would go to my grandparents for Christmas and be served a Braumeister. I think my grandfather was insulted that I began laughing when he handed me the bottle. Little did he know my association with this beer.

I didn't just drink beer in college. I went through some phases with alcohol. The first one was Souther Comfort. That was the first liquor I puked my guts out to. Got back from a speech class one night and found my roommate having a get together in our room. His friends handed me a bottle of Southern. I kept drinking shot after shot. This repeated itself over the course of a couple of weeks. Then one time, I had one shot too many and yakked my guts out. The next morning, I picked up some of the used shot glasses and just about hurled again. The smell of the Southern wafting out of them was disgusting. I found myself not drinking SoCo many years later until I would run into Al.

I drank a lot of Jack Daniels too. Who didn't in college? I would find myself going through different cocktails as well. I had a gin and tonic phase. A 7&7 stint. A period of screwdrivers, whisky sours, and brandy and coke.

Once I graduated and moved to Chicago, it was back to cheap beer. I couldn't afford much for that first year. My job was barely paying any bills and I knew I had to make that change. Once I got a better job, I found myself trying different beers. I settled on Miller Lite as my social, marathon beer. A beer I could drink a lot of when with friends. But sometimes I would want something with more substances. Milwaukee has enough micro breweries to take care of that. A good Sprecher or Lakefront does the job. I like to call them Friday beers. A beer that will give a nice calm feeling when drank after work on a Friday. A nice kickoff to the weekend.

I went through a period of brewing beer with a good friend. Made some good honey lagers and porters. Even made beer for a friend's party compete with labels. Elvis Brau was born!

Nowadays, I still try different beers and drinks depending on my mood. Maker's Mark and ginger ale would have to be considered my favorite. A signature drink if you will. I find it to be good right after a meal. If bourbon is not my choice for dinner, it would be Sapphire and tonic. I admit I am a snob when it comes to gin. I leave vodka for the unwashed masses. Give me gin instead! I don't rule out Captain Morgan either. The Captain along with his buddy Coke can make for a good night of drinking as well.

If I am not drinking alcohol, I am probably drinking water. I am not much of a soda person anymore. If I do, it would be a Cherry Coke or a Dr. Pepper, though I do like the Mountain Dew Red once in a while. Otherwise I try to avoid sugar.

Each morning I will have a mug of coffee. That mug is actually about two cups. I don't drink coffee as much to wake me up as I do for the taste. I really enjoy a good cup of coffee. It must be rich and flavorful. I hate weak, watery coffee. It also needs to have a bit of cream and sweet n low.

About the only thing I don't really consume much of is wine. Maybe at dinner but only with a meal.

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