The coolers were on the front porch. The dads were inside the cabin, playing poker. Occasionally the door would open, cigar smoke would billow out, and a dad would stumble to the cooler for a load of beers. We were on a reconnaissance mission. It was springtime. Every year, a bunch of Edwardsville families headed down to the Ozarks for a long weekend of canoeing, hiking and swimming. Our moms were sitting around the campfire down by the river. Left to our own devices, the teenagers were doing one of two things: sneaking beers or making out. Or, if we were really lucky, both.
The taste of our first beer stays with us forever, and every once in a while we'll drink one that pokes a particular neuron and bingo -- we're in the woods. A sprint to the cooler yields five beers. A moment later we're sitting against a tree. The can is cold in our hands. We're shaking. Our best friend has already started chugging a Pabst Blue Ribbon. We struck gold: Stag. We pop the top, and a creamy lather pours forth. It smells earthy and sweet, like rich soil. We try to chug it, but we can't. People actually drink this stuff for pleasure? Drink again, and it's starting to make sense. By the second beer, the shock has been replaced by a buzz of adrenaline and alcohol. Later, our girlfriend tastes beer on our tongue, and it's time for more reconnaissance.
Stag is officially considered an "American-style lager," but screw that. Stag is, quite simply, beer. To distinguish it any further would minimize its simple, no-bullshit mission. Stag is beer, and it's really good: clean, crisp, a little sweet, with very little aftertaste.
The Tin Can Tavern & Grille is a new bar in the Tower Grove South neighborhood, along a line of storefronts that seems on the verge of (finally) reawakening to the gradually gentrifying neighborhood surrounding it. If you squint real hard, you can see the potential of a small, Wicker Park-style retail strip. For now, bask in the glory of the Tin Can, which offers a plethora of canned beer for your nostalgic consumption.
Before microbreweries started "crafting" beers, little regional breweries poured forth cheap canned beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon now owns many of these former independent entities: Old Milwaukee, Olympia, Schlitz, Falstaff, Rainier and, yes, Stag. The Tin Can sells them -- and some very good fried chicken -- at dirt-cheap prices. It's a brilliant conceit, one that is starting to appear in other cities as well (Chicago has Cans Bar and Canteen in Wicker Park). When was the last time you had a Milwaukee's Best? At $1.75, you can drink them to your heart's content, and get plastered for ten bucks. (They also sell, joy of joys, Warsteiner in a can.) It's worth ten bucks to zoom back to lost nights filled with freedom and danger. Nights when something as simple as a can of beer was worth its weight in gold, and its flavor on a girl's tongue tasted like rum-raisin ice cream.