It’s amazing to me what triggers a memory, what pushes a story into consciousness after years of hibernation. This happened to me last weekend in a hot dark narrow bar in Albany called Valentine’s. Loud music, good people (many of whom were very much younger), and a type of beer that I have not seen, or drank, for literally 35 years.
Schaefer. That beer of the famous jingle, of the iconic label, was resurrected for me Friday night. There it was being advertised at the bar like it was the newest microbrew from the hippest microbrewery.
Crazy, right? Of course, I had to have one. I can’t say it was delicious but I can’t say it was horrible. My friends rant and rave at me over my pedestrian taste in beer. I admit to ordering a Coors Light as often as I order a Sam Adams. Don’t know why. I have recently discovered a new favorite, a McSorley’s Irish Black Lager. That should score me some points with my those with much more discriminating palates.
But that Schaefer beer can, the same I remember from 35 years ago, brought back the memory that maybe a lot of us have in common. That memory of adolescence and curiosity. For me, it’s a harmless and innocent memory.
It’s that memory of when you had your first drink as a teenager. For me, that daring escapade involved the aforementioned Schaefer beer. My dad would get cases of the stuff from the beer distributor in Albertson, on Long Island. He’d store some in the basement, loose cans. Why would he miss a couple beers?
So Billy C from two houses down and I pilfered a pair. Sneaked them outside to the little bluff that overlooked the parking lot of the former Howard Johnson’s restaurant on Willis Avenue, just off Exit 37 of the Long Island Expressway. Warm Schaefer beer. Big shots drinking warm beer on a warm summer night.
And there was Schaefer beer being sold at this Albany bar. Maybe it’s sold there because it was once brewed in Albany, from 1950 to the early 1970s. Maybe it’s sold everywhere and I just don’t get out much anymore.
It turns out it was, up until the mid-70s, the most popular beer in America. I didn’t know my father had such discerning taste. Now, it’s brewed by Pabst Brewing Co.
I remember the jingle. We’d hear it a lot going to and from Mets games at Shea Stadium:
Schaefer / is the / one beer to have when you’re / having more than one / Schafer / pleasure / doesn’t fade even / when your thirst is done / the most rewarding flavor in this man’s world / for people who are having fun / Schafer / is the / one beer to have when you’re / having more than one