When I was in high school and college, there was a drinking game called Thumper that, I must confess, I rather enjoyed. As drinking games go, it was pretty physical, requiring quick wits more than dexterity. The set-up: A group gathers around a table. Each person has their own unique “sign”—basically a gesture that was sometimes obscene but more often just absurdly complex and utterly meaningless. The game started with everyone pounding their hands on the table like it was a giant bongo drum (hence “thumper,” I guess) and shouting a series of arcane rules: “What’s the name of the game?!” Thumper! “How do you play?!” Signs! “What kind of signs?!” Dirty signs! “How dirty?!” You get the idea. Then somebody started by gesturing their own sign followed by someone else’s as fast as possible. You lost if you missed your cue, mistook someone else’s sign as your own and jumped the gun, or just stood there, bleary, dumbfounded, and/or oblivious to the fact that someone had just invoked your sign. Losers had to take a drink. Everyone lost at some point.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m a sad little man on deadline, wallowing in bittersweet nostalgia? Well, yes. But also because one of my favorite rules (“What’s the best receptacle to drink beer out of?!” A BUCKET!) came into being because of a promotional gimmick that someone at the Schoenling Brewing Company cooked up in the mid-1980s: the Little Kings Beer Pail. We just called it a bucket, but it was brilliant and it served its purpose well. The good news here is that after a long, unjust hiatus, Little Kings Cream Ale is back. You can buy the little green bottles in stores, and it can even be found on tap in some of our city’s more enlightened saloons. The even better news is that Little Kings did not return alone; Hudy Delight, Hudy 14-K, Burger, and a host of craftier beers under the Christian Moerlein label are also back. For all of this, we have Greg Hardman, one of the most dedicated, beer-obsessed humans on the planet, to thank. Bob Driehaus, who profiles Hardman in this issue while also delving into his own family’s obsession with the precious lagers of Hudepohl, makes it clear that reviving these dormant labels is not just a savvy business move but something of a quest. Hardman doesn’t merely want to sell these beers, he wants to restore them to a place of civic glory.
To which we say: Cheers! But Hardman isn’t alone, as our extensive cover story on the local beer scene shows. Suddenly, beer enthusiasts are everywhere. New microbreweries, homebrewers proliferating like rabbits, and a long list of well-stocked beer stores and well-curated bars and restaurants seem to be pointing us toward another golden age. Lucky us. Now, if we could just get everyone to drink out of buckets again, all would be right with the world.