Behind That Door: The Promise Land
The news I heard this morning that The Beer Warehouse was closing its doors brought the memories flooding back. Of course it was Matt that first introduced me to the secrets and mysteries of The Warehouse. That first time in, early one Saturday morning (it was only open Saturday mornings), I wandered around staring in awe at all the possibilities. The sign by the door gave the pricing, wonderful in its simplicity: $10 per domestic case, $15 for a case of imports, and $50 for a loaded up blue tub. Cases of beer were stacked high, alongside scattered six packs, cans, bottles, 40s, and every so often a puddle of spilled beer and a pile of glass. The smell of stale beer and the way my shoes stuck to the floor reminded me of my old frat house.
It did not take us long to develop a tried-and-true two-pronged strategy for getting the best out of a trip to The Warehouse. One person would stand by the stack of beer that was being collected, while the 'runner' would wander looking for undiscovered stash of good stuff. Standing guard was most important, as if you did not fiercely guard what you were planning on taking home, other wanderers would find their way over and take it. I was turned away from many a pile by a salty 'That's mine!', accompanied by an icy glare. In my experience, one could easily come to blows for pilfering another's stash, as I once witnessed. Scouting around for the take was more fun and where the glory was at. It can be best described as a scavenger hunt where your goal was to find a 6-pack of Newcastle Brown Ale amongst 50 cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon, MGD and Old Milwaukee. It required a keen eye and a methodical touch that left no case unopened (you could easily find a case that said Miller Lite on the outside that was filled with Sam Adams) and no bottle unexamined for possible damage (much of the beer sold at The Warehouse was either approaching its quality date or had been damaged in transit, thus the propensity of broken glass). And no matter the day or time or how picked over the stash of the day appeared upon first glance, if you looked hard enough you could always randomly find something good, whether it be a couple Pilsner Urquels left in a case of broken glass, a 6-er of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter lost in a corner, or that one time I found a lonesome 4-pack of Duvel. The good stuff was always in less supply, but there was also less demand.
We didn't come in to a trip to The Warehouse with any preconceived notion of how much money we were going to spend or how much beer we would come home with, as by the time you got in the door all that planning went out the window. There might be too much Heineken Dark to pass up, or the proprietor may call out that everything is 2-for-1. Our discovery of the wonders of the blue tub, not unlike cavemen discovering fire, also threw all possibilities and economics out the window. It took our Warehouse experience to a whole new level. The exact stats of our best take during the blue tub era escape me right now, but it was 3 years ago that we brought home about 20 cases of beer for a mere 60 bucks. I think I am getting a little misty....
One Worth Calling Home About
Coming home from The Warehouse with a smorgasbord of good beer for cheap was only part of the draw, however. It had a culture all its own, and every time in I looked forward to seeing what crazy thing would happen. Idle threats once turned into a shouting match. I saw a runner, obviously a rookie, come back to his stash after looking for beer with a hand bloodied by broken glass. There was that asian family that would show up early and leave with at least 30 cases of Heineken in tow. Then there was the time that, upon seeing a new pallet filled with Tecate brought out on to the floor, a group of gentlemen who had been milling around quietly worked themselves into a frenzy tearing the cellophane off the pallet and diving on top to claim their stake. Finally, one of my personal favorites was the time we painstakingly filled up our blue tub to the point where it was overflowing with every good beer under the roof, only to have it violently rejected by the proprietor due to a rules violation. One was not allowed, apparently, to just fill up a tub with just anything you could find. The intent was to fill it with the dregs of the day that no one else wanted to buy. We went home with our tub only after my friend Jeff swung a deal with the boss, agreeing to buy a second tub from him, site unseen, that had been filled the previous week but not purchased. Only after getting the tub home did we discover that not only was it chock full of first rate labels like Beer-30 and Evil Eye Malt Liquor (which we expected) but that probably a quarter of the beers that had been swimming in the swill at the bottom of the tub were covered in mold.
You never knew what was going to happen at The Beer Warehouse.
Today's take, my last one ever: 52 beers and one large random bottle of corked (yes, a real cork!) belgian ale (really from Belgium!) for $20. Not a bad mornings work. This just brings home the fact that it is all over now. I am sure the sting will wear off after the first couple of times I purchase beer at retail prices, but I cannot help but mourn just a bit. For now, the dreams are just that. All I am left with is a fridge full of cheap beer, a scrapbook in my head full of memories, and one large blue tub, empty. Empty.
Don't Go Into The Light!