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No more beer


As you read this it has been one full month since I’ve consumed a cocktail or beer. It hasn’t been easy, but the choice was a no-brainer: gout has been ravaging one foot or another these past four months and it was time to decide whether to give up being able to walk or quaff.
It’s been a good run, however.
My earliest recollection of enjoying a beer goes all the way back to when our family still lived in Chicago, so I must have been about 5. Mom and Dad had my Aunt Loretta and Uncle Joe, plus my Grandpa and Grandma Fleck to the house, and I snuck a few sips from a Meister Brau left on the floor while no one was looking. I’m pretty sure of the brand because that’s what my folks would have served. Another relative was the brew master and we probably got some kind of discount. In any event, I had trouble getting into my pjs that night and it was the last time the bed got wet.
Not that drinking was a big thing in our house.
Dad hardly drank at all. He said it gave him a headache and, worse, made him sleepy. When he did drink, he’d take his beer in the most unusual and disgusting way: with a raw egg cracked into it. The rest of the Chicago “Fleck” clan drank, but also infrequently. It was something you served on special occasions.
No, if drinking comes to me through family it’s decidedly from Mom’s side, the “Sickler” side, who mostly lived in and around the small town of Wittenberg, Wis. Grandma Sickler always had a case of Kingsbury on hand and a couple ready in the icebox. A cold one was your reward at the end of a hard day of dairy farming. Beer was a staple of everyday living and everyone, even children, were welcome to partake.
The epitome of this laissez-faire attitude came on the Sabbath, churchgoers who brought a bulletin to the local tavern were treated to a free beer. The place even offered a special “shorty” tumbler for the preteen crowd.
I was barely tall enough to see over the pool table but I knew enough to not set my glass on the rail.
My consumption of suds peaked in the late 1970s when I was stationed in Bamberg, Germany. Beer was delivered to our apartment each week and there seemed to be an exquisite, ancient brewery around every corner that needed exploring. When it came time to reconnoiter, not even Magellan was more enthusiastic.
Besides the great beer, I had a couple of really good beer drinking buddies back then. Ger was in charge of the German/American Friendship Club and part of his official capacity was to host the occasional beer bash. We stayed up into the wee hours, more than once, howling at the moon.
Peter was a German officemate and, through his knowledge, we’d often find our way into the lesser traveled nooks and crannies that only a “local” knows. He had a most unusual way of drinking. We’d order two. I’d sip mine for a half hour or so and announce it was time for another. At that point Peter would guzzle his entire liter, wipe his mouth and order, “Ein mehr bier bitte.”
After mustering out of the army and returning to the states, my tastes went more to cocktails and the even harder stuff. After three years of German brews, Miller Lite just didn’t cut it any more and don’t get me started on Coors Light. I rotated through various phases: scotch and water; vodka and lemonade; gin and tonic, etc. For a while, Margaritas or just tequila were in the rotation but I had to give it up because I kept losing my prescription glasses.
The Stone City Brewing Company came to Solon and I was reborn. Not only did brew master Jeff and company steam up a fine beer – I especially liked their Iowa Pale Ale– but there was something special about the place. It was my “Cheers,” located just across the street and around the corner.
Alas, all good things come to an end.