Friday, July 15, 2011

Bootlegging Beer

I was reading that Minnesota had failed to renew a license before shutting down its government, with the result that Miller-Coors will have to shut down sales in that state until license renewal can take place. I was thinking that they needed some experienced bootleggers, and that reminded me of the days when I was a member of the Jaycees in West Allis, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee.

I managed to wind up in charge of a beer sales concession for that organization at a regional fair, this back in the days when there was a significant likelihood of me drinking up all of the profits. There was a strike pending at breweries, so as a precaution I made sure that a full trailer was delivered to the fairgrounds before the deadline, and arranged for a power hookup to keep the beer cold. Good move, as it turned out, because the strike did occur.

We wound up being the only beer concession with draft beer, which in Milwaukee is a matter of some importance, and the weather was sunny and hot, so our sales were off the charts. Problem was that with more than two days of the fair remaining we were running out of beer and the breweries were still on strike. I was a big hero, but that was going to change if we ran out of beer, so I got on the phone and started calling breweries in small towns throughout the state. I finally found one in Potosi that could provide ninety half barrels, but they could not deliver and I had a trailer but no truck.

I was working as a machine operator for a major steel company at the time, and I knew how to drive a truck, so on Saturday morning I went to the plant and got a truck (well, okay, if you want to be technical I stole it), went to the fairgrounds and hooked up the trailer and headed for Potosi. Got the load, returned the loaded trailer to the fairgrounds, and the truck to my employer. I don’t think I was entirely sober during this process, and fortunately nobody called the steel company the following week to ask why one of their trucks was hauling a Pabst trailer. (Which was actually full of Potosi horse piss.)

The last two days of the fair we were selling the hell out of Potosi beer, which actually tasted nothing like Pabst (that stuff was bad), in Pabst glasses and if anybody noticed they didn’t say anything. Of course, due to the strike, we were the only place in town selling draft beer by that point.

The Air Force was also at the fair, along with a B-52 which they were displaying. They had a rope around it to keep people at a distance but, since I was providing the ground crew with beer, I managed to get a tour inside, which was really cool.

I told my father about it and he was thrilled. He had spent, by that time, some thirty years flying airplanes for the Air Force and was currently flying C-119s C-130s, but the most recent strategic bomber he had flown was the B-36 and he’d never been in a B-52. He asked if I could get him a tour and I arranged it with the ground crew. That was sort of a big deal for me, that I was arranging a tour of an Air Force bomber for my dad.

It turned weird on me though when he showed up for the tour in uniform, since he was a full colonel and the ranking guy on the ground crew was a sergeant. It was awkward for only a few minutes, though, since he promptly charmed the guys completely. We all had a really good time and Dad got a tour of a B-52 thanks to his ex-Navy son.


bruce said...

Great story... stolen truck, horse piss beer and a good one about Grandpa and the submariner son touring a B-52. I'd like to tour a B-52. Thanks for sharing.

Mad Mikie said...

Good story Bill. Takes me back to when Coors couldn't be had east of the Mississippi River and the runs some of my buddies would make to get it and bring some back to us "deprived" beer drinkers in south Florida.

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