This is the 2nd of a series of what made me into the beer guy I am, see The Origin of the Species: Beer Guy for part 1.
The 1980's were a bad time for most things....viva la mullet, Hair Bands, Leg Warmers.
It is always darkest before the dawn, and the 1980's saw some experimentation by the big brewers (not all of it bad), and the birth of the craft brewing industry. As for my part, I shouldn't have been involved at all, due to age limitations, but I liked beer, and it was my beverage of choice.
The 1980's also was the time that arose a social consciousness about alcohol consumption. Mother's Against Drunk Driving was founded in 1980 and at the same time, an anti drug campaign from First Lady Nancy Reagan reminded us to "Just Say No". The awareness about the dangers of excessive consumption of alcohol were coupled with campaigns to discourage underage usage of alcohol by criminalizing the act of providing alcoholic beverages to minors. It became punitive to buy alcohol for the random kid asking you to outside of the 7-11. Until then, this was the primary method of obtaining beer for everyone under the age of 15. Ironically, the effectiveness of this awareness campaign made it easier to obtain illegal drugs than it was to obtain alcoholic beverages.
Now, I am not an advocate of underage drinking, and wish I could tell kids to wait, but really, what is needed is a healthy respect for moderation. I never liked drinking to get drunk. I still don't like the effects of alcohol. I have always said, if we could remove most of the alcohol from beer and still have all the varied flavors, I would be just as happy. The concept of having 1 good beer instead of a pitcher of inexpensive American lager didn't sink in for me until 1989. I will include that story in part 3 (the 90's). But the 80's were a drink what you got time.
Hockey Night in Canada
It was during this decade that I found out that beer and hockey go together. My friends and I would gather every Friday during hockey season to watch Hockey Night in Canada on CBET, Channel 9 out of Windsor, Ontario. Hockey Night in Canada features two games a night and entertaining commentary, namely from Don Cherry. I also got to watch Wayne Gretzky most nights in at least one game. As a teenager, this was riveting TV. I miss HNIC now that I live in the middle of this country. Hockey Night in Canada exposed me to a lot of Canadian Beer, if not from the ads (I don't know if broadcast rules in Canada prohibit beer ads, I don't remember any to be honest) but at least from the banners along the boards at the games. Come to find out, Labatt's, Molson, and Moosehead are better tasting than Coors, Bud, and Miller, and at least in Detroit (and the rest of Michigan), they were oft times cheaper, too. We would stay in, drink beer if we could get it from older "friends" and watch 4 or more hours of Hockey Night in Canada.
Once I got a job, I never got to watch HNIC anymore, but the lasting impression of the Canadian Lagers started me down the road to better beer. I still love to drink a Labatt's (Blue or Blue Light) when I can get it cheap. It is not worth paying an import price, however. After I turned 19, I went to Canada once (as the drinking age is 19 across the river from Detroit in Windsor), but by then, my regular hang outs figured on me being older than I was, or I had friends.
Other things I remember from the late 80's, perhaps into the early 90's. Molson Canadian Ale,Stroh's Signature, Heineken, Michelob Dark, Labatt's IPA (came in 4 pack, and I did not like it), and Ice Beer....there is no redeeming value to Ice Beer, except the excellent ad campaigns (remember the Penguin....Do, Be, Do, Be Doooo) and the fact that I think my friend (and he knows who he is) would have rather drank wine coolers than real beer if it wasn't for Ice beer. Although there were craft brewers popping up in the 1980's, we didn't hear or see them in Michigan until much later.
Next time on Beer Guy: the college years, and onward to the birth of the Craft Brewing Industry.