It’s The Water!

Tony Ballz

If I were to sit down and calculate the actual fluid ounceage of Olympia beer willingly dumped into my system during my 20s, it would surely make me barf. I would probably have to pee real bad as well. It’s the water, honest. Olympia was originally manufactured by an independent brewery in Tumwater, Washington, founded before the turn of the century…

It came back strong after prohibition and was a favorite of those residing in the northwest. In the 1980s, the owner was involved in a sex scandal with a young boy and Olympia was sold to the Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee, makers of horrible pig-swill-like Schlitz, Old Style, and Frank Booth’s favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The recipe was thrown out and today Olympia, like its cousin PBR, is made from the leftover dregs of other beers and sold to cheapskates who can’t tell a good brew from a pitcher of warm spit and don’t really give a hoot after two or three of ’em and can live with the associated daily diarrhea.

Back in the day, we consumed so much Olympia that it may have irreparably altered our DNA. For the better, let’s hope. I tried to keep up with everyone, but after about five cans my body would be crying for mercy: “Please. Stop. No more.” It was all we could afford though, so the next night…

The mystique of Olympia grew around us like moss or kudzu. Its aura was nearly sacred. We stared at the can label for hours looking for symbology and numeric patterns, like those orthodox Jews in the movie Pi studying the Torah. There was a waterfall in the middle ringed by a lucky horseshoe with flowing longhand prose underneath describing the wonderfulness within.

“It’s the water!” the can proclaimed.

Within the raging river stood a single cryptic word: Tumwater.

Tumwater? We puzzled over this one day after day, week after week. What the heck was Tumwater? It wasn’t any kind of water we had ever heard of. My roommate postulated that since Olympia made you feel so awesome, perhaps it was brewed with water that was good for your tum. Kind of like Pepto-Bismol, but better. It was sound reasoning.

A weird macho pride and herd mentality develops around the consumption of these bargain basement beverages, as if swallowing this corporate pisswater makes you more punk rock or something: “Yeah, I bought the schwaggiest crap they had at the store, so what? Here, drink one. I SAID DRINK ONE, FAGGOT!”

Many of my “healthy” vegetarian friends won’t let a molecule of meat or dairy pass their lips, yet they chug down PBR like it’s going out of old style. Health-conscious, they are.

I have a bud, about my age, who plays in a local band. He and his girlfriend have degrees and semi-lucrative careers. They are well-dressed, attractive, funny and smart people. They have expensive mountain bikes and take frequent vacations. They own a house in a good neighborhood with nice furniture and stereo equipment. He drives a 2011 Jeep Cherokee, purchased new. I’ve never looked in his fridge, but I assume he eats well. He’s basically a man in the prime of his life, making money and having a ball.

What beer does he drink exclusively? Pabst Blue Ribbon. This is a guy who can easily afford the extra few dollars for a 12-pack of Four Peaks or Newcastle, but he opts for the shit that costs less by the ounce than Keystone Light or St. Ides. Anyone else find this odd? If price was no object, which would you rather have, a filet mignon or a 99 center from Wendy’s (insert vegan parallel here)? I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can’t tell them apart.

It’s like a fart in a can. It’s the reason the term “schwag beer” was invented. It’s like toxic sludge with a pop-top. It makes Budweiser taste like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Next to it, Miller High Life really IS the champagne of beers. It makes ordering a Coors Light seem like a good option. It makes going home and sleeping for twelve hours seem like a good option. Or sobriety. If there’s a line for the restrooms, you can just empty your bladder right in the can and keep drinking and it makes no difference. If you’re under 25, there will probably be a keg of it at the next house party you attend. It’s the brew of choice for college freshmen everywhere. High school freshmen too. It’s ALWAYS on sale.

It’s the water!

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