Oh, the times, they are a-changin’. In Iowa and Vermont, it’s all about the gay marriage. In Pennsylvania, it’s all about the beer. Yep, indeed – it appears that Harrisburg area residents will be able to, at long last, walk into their local Wegmans and pick up a six-pack of Yuengling just like everyone else in America. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll amend state or local sodomy laws any time soon, but it’s right nice to think perhaps sometime in the not too distant future, I can jog down to 7-11 and pick up a liter of Colt .45 to share with my dad. Not that that’s how I spend my visits home or anything. I mean, Colt .45? Gack. It’s the principle of the thing on which I’m grooving.
A brief(ish)(esque) tutorial for those fortunate enough to escape the fate of a Pennsylvania upbringing: until recently, if one wished to procure a keg for one’s backyard barbecue, one had to drive to an institution known as a beer distributor. Beer distributors are often housed in mammoth cinder-block warehouses between an auto parts store and a Seventh Day Adventist church. In addition to various brands and configurations of beer, they also sell that which I’ve seen termed “beer supplies.” I thought this meant home bootlegging equipment, but my infinitely wiser parent maintains this means potato chips. (Utz Potato Chips, thank you very much. It’s very rare that I take some sort of jingoistic pride in the great metropolis that spawned me, but Utz Chips kick ass and take names, so don’t you even try to pawn off that Frito-Lay crap on me. Later for your schmancy organic snak-paks too, man. Utz cooks up chips the way they was meant to be cooked up – in oceans of 100% pure cottonseed oil! Thanks to the very friendly lady at Utz – I think her name was Stephanie – for letting me know that the wave pool of rendered fat I observed on a fourth grade field trip to the Utz factory was not, in point of fact, beef tallow. However, if you prefer your crisps soaked in lard, the Grandma Utz’s line can hook you up.)
Now, if you live in PA and want to buy a bottle of Riunite or Jose Cuervo, you can’t just pop over to Beer World and swing on home all set and ready to whip up spritzers and/or margaritas. For wine and hard liquor, you have to go to that which is known colloquially as a “state store.” State liquor stores are typically smaller and cleaner than beer distributors. They tend to make their homes in strip malls, nestling between a Hallmark shoppe and a vacant storefront. (Last month it was a pseudo-head shop. Three months before that, it was a chiropractor’s office. They should just install an auto parts store or a Seventh Day Adventist church there and call it a night. If you want to make a killing in the Harrisburg retail market, might I suggest opening up an Auto Parts Beer World Megachurch, with self-serve gas pumps in front? I’d do it myself, but I blew that pop stand years ago, and I ain’t going back even under threat of prolonged tickling.)
You also have the option of satisfying your liquid bread jones by stopping by a local bar and picking up a case or two, but beware – you may not transport more than two six-packs per person to your vehicle. That’s right – if you walk into a bar solo and you need to buy three six-packs, you have to carry two to your car and go back for the third, or else get some agreeable barfly to carry it for you. A few Fourths of July ago, my friend Ruth and I stopped by a local dive to get five six-packs of Heineken. I took three; she took two. The bartender and the patrons kept saying, “You can’t carry all those to your car.” Studs that we were/are, we insisted we were cool. Again, “You girls can’t carry all those to your car.” No, we can, man! We’re city girls! We haul twenty pounds of groceries home on foot three times a week! Finally, an agreeable barfly broke it down for us. In case the cops came by, and apparently the cops frequently did just that, it would behoove us to let a third party haul the remaining six-pack to Ruth’s car, lest we wished to incur a $150 fine. I’m sure there was a meth lab all ripe for the raiding a couple of lots down, but that would have required a warrant, and rather than navigate the sticky, labyrinthine inner workings of the PA state legal system, it’s simpler and cheaper to hit up everyday drinking folk on local blue law violations.
And no, I have no idea how many cases of beer you’re allowed to lug to your car before local law enforcement nabs you. I can manage but one. Maybe. With a back brace.
Cheers and na zdrowie, everybody!