Beer Bro

I went to the liquor store last weekend to get some Sam Adams light.  Sometimes I just stand there agonizing over which beer to buy, looking over each label like I am making some kind of important decision.   Most of the time I just buy whatever I bought last weekend, and generally I change brands about four times a year.  For a while it was Henry’s Blue boar, before that it was Moose Drool.  Now I am in a Sam Adams rut.  Last weekend was different. My eyes locked on a brand that I haven’t seen in a very long time.





I had to buy the beer because it brought back a memory.
Yea, it’s a lead in to a long and somewhat tedious story.  Bare with me while I try to remember a night some 23 years ago… .

I think it was the fall of 1985 when my brother took me to see Cheap Trick in Concert.  I don’t remember if they were playing at the Kabuki Theater or the Warfield Theater but it was in San Francisco, near Chinatown.  My brother purchased tickets well in advance, knowing him probably the first day they went on sale.  The seats were general seating so we figured that it was best to get there early. Way early. The opening act was supposed to be Translator; we had no interest in seeing them at all, but were prepared to suffer through to get good seats.  When we got to the ticket booth we were a bit surprised that there wasn’t a long line to get in, fearing that the show was canceled we went up to the cashier, showed them our tickets, and asked if everything was still on.  It turned out that shortly after the first group of tickets was sold the seating was changed from general to reserved.  It never occurred to us to ask why.  We thought we were totally screwed.  My brother was a huge Cheap Trick fan and I could almost see the disappointment in his face.  Then the girl in the ticket booth said that all tickets that were purchased prior to such and such number were to be exchanged for reserved tickets according to the time stamp or ticket number, (I don’t remember) anyway, she gave us 7th row center tickets!  Delighted is an understatement. Now we only had one problem, we had two and a half hours to kill and we didn’t dare move the car.


Naturally our first thought was to find a bar.  I don’t remember exactly what was around the theater but I have a clear image in my mind that there was nothing of interest with in walking distance.  However, right across the street from the concert was a small Chinese restaurant.  I wasn’t particularly hungry but they did have a sign in the window with a beer bottle prominently displayed.  Crossing the threshold of the restaurant was like crossing into another world.  There was not one single thing I could not recognize from my own culture, nor was anything in written in English.  On the right side of the restaurant was a small bar only about six seats long.  Somehow I remember the bar in detail.  The bar was supposed to look exotic, it was made out of bamboo with exotic postcards on top and had a layer of acrylic poured over it so thickly that the plastic became the major structural member.  Cigarette burns were so deep they made the drinking glasses wobble.  Decorations were covering every square inch of the walls and ceiling.  Most of the decorations were red and gold (lucky colors) of dragons, bamboo plants, and stylized lettering. 

As soon as we sat down at the bar the little old man behind the bar approached us.  He said something but we couldn’t understand anything he was saying.  It could have been our lack of experience with accents or he could have been speaking Chinese.  We got the drift anyway; he wanted to know what we wanted to order.  The menu was in Chinese, and simply asking for Beer seemed so pedestrian, if you know what I mean.  I had an inspiration; there was a sign on the wall.


Our pronunciation of Tsingtao was so bad that the only way we could get a beer is by pointing to the sign and show two fingers like a peace sign.  Then he smiled and said “Ching-dow” which is how Tsingtao sounds when pronounced properly.  Feeling kind of stupid, I said yes nodded a few times and hoped for the best.  If I remember right it was only a buck a bottle for the beer, and it was really good.  I also remember that he kept picking up the empty bottles, this made keeping track of how much we drank much more difficult.  That was probably the idea.  The beer was wonderful, quite the change from what I was used to at the time.  Cheap beer with optional temperature control was the norm until the British enlightenment only a few months away.  This was my first real experience drinking really cold good quality imported beer.

We managed to sober up enough to enjoy Cheap Trick and only had to suffer through a few minutes of Translator.  We were close enough to play the catch souvenirs.  Cheap Trick was famous for tossing things out to the audience, particularly Rick Nielson the lead guitarist. He would toss out custom made guitar picks like little finger Frisbees.  I remember he had a dispenser with probably hundreds of picks in a tube made for the purpose.  Either my brother could hold his liquor better than I, or he is much better with hand eye dexterity because he was catching stuff left and right.  I came away with one guitar pick that he got for me, but he got at least three and Robin Zander’s sun glasses!  I promised my wife a guitar pick for her mandolin, he was my hero for catching one and giving it to me.


The three things that stuck in my mind most about the concert was my brothers amazing catching ability, and how nice it was spending some good quality time drinking beer with him in the odd little restaurant.  

Cheap Trick was good, and we had a good time, but what sticks in my mind is the total experience. 

The actual concert was only a portion of the total show.


-ps.  I lost all interest in Cheap Trick shortly after the concert, not due to their music or or the concert, I think my tasts simply changed over time and lost track of what they were doing. 


2 thoughts on “Beer Bro

  1. caveblogem says:

    O.K., my memories are a little different in a couple respects. First, I should point out that I have no earthly idea who Translator was, or what kind of music they might have played. I googled them and still don’t know. I thought the opening act was Bad English, with John Waite. Didn’t he perform some songs from his years with the Babys? Perhaps it was the Chinese beer.

    And I have no memory of what Tsingtao tastes like. Probably my nose, which never functioned dependably. Is it like those dry Northern Japanese brews that were popular at the time, like Asahi or Hokkaido? Or did it have some flavor?

    Thirdly, I think that the “amazing catching ability” you flatter me with was something more like the fact that the beer had corroded any moral compunctions I might have otherwise had about diving over the seats in front of me and scrambling all over the no-doubt icky auditorium floor for whatever Rick Neilsen flang in our direction. I retain only one of these picks (despite getting several at each concert). Too many relocations, I guess, although I think you have moved more times than I have. It is so faded that you can barely make out the images. The sunglasses went into Tesh’s pool, and the pool-cleaning robot pushed them around the bottom for the two or three days her parents were out of town. When I got them back the lenses had been etched flat and translucent on one side.

    Fond memories I do have, though, about going with my big brother to “the City.” Such a mysterious and exotic place for us two hicks from the sticks.

  2. And now, I get to put on my “History Geek” hat!

    I love Tsingtao too. I’d never turn away a good German beer.

    The little sleepy Chinese fishing village of Tsingtao had an interesting history. Back in the days of Imperial Germany and Imperial China, there was a bargain struck. Germany needed a far east, deep sea port and China’s Emperor wanted cash and influence. Guess how this worked out for Tsingtao. The village was leased to the Germans for 100 years to do with as they wished. What they did was level the village and build a city, complete with sewers, cobblestone streets, gas lamps and, naturally, a brewery, imported piece by piece from the Fatherland. When WWI broke out, the German far east fleet bugged out for home with a few notable exceptions (The most famous of which was the SMS Emden). The now beautifully built up city of Tsingtao was taken back by the Chinese Emperor and the brewery kemp making the beer. Thus, you get a great Chinese, German pilsner. Neat, Eh?

    Ok… I’ll take the geek hat off now. That was fun though!

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