Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Origin of the Species: Beer Guy Pt. 3

The College Years

I graduated from high school one half a semester early and went straight to college, like, the very next day. I thought I knew what I wanted to do and I wanted my past to end right now, and my future to start yesterday. In a lot of ways, I am still the same. I am no good at waiting for things to happen. I would probably race right into my grave if I knew where it was going to be.

There is nothing like going away to college for the opportunity to reinvent yourself. If I was smart (or wise), I would have taken that opportunity, but I was/am not. So the beer guy goes to college.

As you can guess, I drank a lot of beer. I attended Central Michigan University, a moderately famous regional party school, and got my degree in broadcasting and communications. As a child, I suffered from a lack of creativity and exposure to the world of careers. Everyone in my family worked for the auto companies. Broadcasting was the most concrete thing I could study that was fairly opposite of working for an auto company. The craft beer movement was in its infancy in other parts of the country, and brewing beer never even occurred to me as a real career. In retrospect, I would have been better served if it had.

I can only remember a few things of actual coursework I learned in college:

1. Libel is written, slander is spoken (Broadcast Law, thanks to Peg and Shari and associated hand movements in study sessions)
2. The destruction of the island state of Thera might be the basis for the Atlantis legend (Near East to Alexander history course).
3. I was the person to the left or the right of successful broadcast types in Dr. Pointdexter's intro to Broadcasting or whatever class (something like you or the person to the left or right of you will not make it in this business, and I didn't).
4. The definition of the term self reflexivity in film (from Broadcast Critique) is films about or within a film.

An interesting list, but hardly a stalwart of information. Most of learning in college is social anyway.

So, on beer. There wasn't much to do in the middle of Michigan (literally Central Michigan, put your left index finger in the soft part in the middle of your right palm. That is where Mount Pleasant is, home of the Mighty Central Michigan University Chippewas (Ojibiwa)) except drink beer. We were too poor to drink anything else. Rich kids went to State, smart and rich ones went to Michigan. Since I was involved with the student run radio and television stations, I had an exposure to a lot of different people with different interests, musical influences, backgrounds, beliefs, religions, and upbringings. There certainly wasn't any need to join a fraternity or sorority when you ran with this crowd unless you disliked diversity. It was the exposure to this rag tag collection of people that taught me so much more than I could have gotten from any of my classes. I have become unafraid to try new things or experience things from different perspectives, and have come to expect diversity in the foods I eat, the music I listen to, and the people I choose to interact with. So it is, and should be, with beer.

I recently was asked by a person what my all time favorite beer was. I couldn't think of one beer that was in my mind best. Beer, like life is contextual. On a beach in Mexico, I want a Corona. Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, I crave Anchor Steam. Off the slopes? a Breckenridge Avalanche Ale. After lawn mowing? Pabst Blue Ribbon. With good friends, more than one traditional English Brown Ale like Newcastle. The list goes on and on with me, but I digress.

At this particular college there were only two things to do on a weekend night, go to a party or go to the bar. I preferred the bar, and most Fridays would start at Sir Richard's Pub, and anytime any decent music act was in town, I was at The Foolery. Both were downtown, and subsequently, I moved closer to downtown to be able to walk to these venues. Every Friday after our daily television news program, we would hit the pub for the worst burgers (greasy and salty) and cheap beer. This place didn't even have a kitchen, they cooked the burgers behind the bar in some modified toaster oven contraption that oozed grease. I have no idea how the health department allowed that (or if the health department knew) and marvel that they didn't burn the place down. But these burgers were a couple of bucks. The pitchers of Busch were also $2....$4 for a pitcher (and not a small one) and a burger was right up our alley. We drank a lot of that. After a while, I got snobby at The Pub as they also served Moosehead in bottles for $1. I think that I was the only one who ordered them. That was usually my first beer of the evening, and then on to Busch beer pitchers for the remainder. We went to The Pub so regularly, that the whole front of the bar was ours, and the bouncers finally assumed that I was 21 by my sophomore year, aged 19.....which made me frequent there even more. The place I am told went through a couple of remodels and name changes before closing some time in the last decade. But it was The Pub, among the carved up picnic tables, the suit of armor that we always put lit cigarettes in face plate of the helmet, and those shitty burgers that I started to choose, at the very least, to start the night with what passed as a premium beer product.

College was a whirlwind of experience, and the story for me isn't so much about beer as it is about people. Some of my favorite people I met in or attended college with, including my wife. Retrospectively, I can see where if I did run into the craft beer world and homebrewing at this time, I might have changed course on my career. But that wasn't until a few years later in Ft. Collins. Next time, The Fort Collins years.

Check out Part I and Part II of the Origin of the Species: Beer Guy series.

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