Beer: A History

According to legend my father gave me sips of his beer when I was a small child. When my grandmother saw this, she of the old Scottish Baptist tradition, she scoffed and gave me some of her tea. “If the girl can have beer, she can have some of my tea.”

I went a long time between those first sips of beer and the ones that came next. The next beer I remember drinking was Molson Dry from the bottle, on Sarah’s recommendation. On our porch, at the Blarney Stone (only on Wednesdays, please; we were not of the weekend lineup & cover charge crowd); anywhere we went, Molson Dry was our choice.

I blank at the next part; we were light drinkers for a long time, until the Terrible Roommate and then we began going out every night because the Terrible Roommate was at our house, being Terrible. We moved in to Murphy’s Pub, a dark, homey place at the corner of Pender and Seymour Streets and there we began drinking dark beer, unless drunk Americans were buying and then we drank Molson Canadian and had headaches the next day. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

The dark beers they had on tap were delicious ales. We drank them by the pitcher. The bartender would have a pitcher drawn up by the time we had our coats off and were fishing in our pockets for money to make the jukebox play Eurythmics and Patsy Cline.

When Murphy’s closed, as all great bars must, to make way for the giant televisions that make great bars into Sports Bars, we went to the Nelson, at the corner of Nelson and Granville. There we had two choices of draught: Dark or Light for $2.50 a pint. At those prices, the choice was obvious.

I hasten to add this was not 50 years ago as you might think but only in 1997.

When the Nelson closed to make way for Babalu, the cigar bar that burned down to make way for a faux Irish pub, we moved on to Rumrunners Saloon in the Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard St. There, for years, we drank Rickards Red that tasted vaguely of soap. Now that Saint Aardvark is a craft brewer I am sure he could tell us why the beer tasted like soap or maybe it was just an inefficient rinse cycle on the dishwasher.

When we moved back to East Van, we became regulars at the Broadway Express (no longer, of course) on Commercial at 12th ave with its poet / career drunk vibe. It had a jukebox too, one of the last places. It had some of the best bathroom graffiti, too and we always made sure we had a Sharpie in our jeans when we went in to pee.

When we moved back to downtown, we started frequenting another great pub downtown called the Sidebar and it may even still be open, I don’t know. Long after the other pubs downtown went upscale and posh, the Sidebar stayed smoky and friendly and full of regulars who had nowhere else to go.

They also had a velvet painting of Monica Lewinsky on the wall.

Dark beer by the pitcher after pitcher after pitcher. More people come, each gets a glass, someone buys the next round. If it’s a party, order two pitchers at once.

Tonight I am drinking a Granville Island IPA from the can and if I close my eyes I can smell summer. The patio at the Fountainhead on Davie buzzing with the heat, voices getting louder as the sun sets and the drinks go down. The spacious, breezy Arts Club Lounge at Granville Island after a hot day of cheese slinging. The relief of the cave-like Murphy’s pub when we came in to drink beer from our long, sweaty days in retail, thighs in shorts sticking to the green vinyl seats.

I’ve decided. I am opening the Mizzle’s first Craft Brew Pub on our patio this July. Bring your friends. And possibly your own chair.

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