Plattsburgh, Beer, Chocolate

A discussion on Twitter among beer writers today reminded me of a tableau, or so it is in my mind, in Plattsburgh, New York, late 70s probably.

I was buying, in a small store on a corner, beer from a cooler and chocolate. The candy was definitely M&Ms, a chocolate bar not available at the time in Montreal.

The beer may have been Genesee Cream Ale, made in Rochester elsewhere in upstate New York. But I think it was Michelob.

I said to the clerk: “two fine tastes”. She agreed but added, “But one after the other and man …”, making a gesture with both hands away from the midsection.

So it is with two good things, or a surfeit of anything (culinary) in succession. A wealth of calories. Too much, usually, for most.

Whether literally to pair them is a matter of preference. For me, after a few decades of experience, beer is best served, usually, on its own. Maybe have cracker or some cheese. hallowed exceptions:  a burger, fries, pizza, wings. And yes, a Belgian dish or two, e.g. carbonnade).

It’s also a question of metabolism and age, frankly.

Plattsburgh at that time had talismanic significance for us in Quebec, for young Beer et Seq anyway. It was a way to experience the United States yet arrive back even the same day. They had McDonald’s, Burger King, and regional chains like Lums. If you haven’t had a Lumburger you haven’t lived. Its Ollieburger, with its own interesting history, was the prize jewel in the range.

And a frosty “schooner” of Schaefer lager, Genny, Piels, etc. went well with an Ollieburger, surfeit or no. You’ll have to take my word for it.

When I think of Plattsburgh, a small ,upstate border town, I think mostly of icy air  – often we went in winter. It was easier to cross the border then, and we had more time. The summer was busy with cottage life, or summer camp, or first overseas trips.

It was music at local clubs, first taste of bourbon, and American cigarettes. The distinctive odour (odor) of Camels, Phillip Morris, Parliament (oddly), and Kents – with the Micronite filter – lingers with me to this day.

In memory only, of course.





10 thoughts on “Plattsburgh, Beer, Chocolate”

  1. I went to SUNY Plattsburgh ‘74-‘78. Six packs of Piels for 99 cents, 3 St. Pauli short bottles for $1, and the best St. Paddy’s Day celebrations. Don’t miss those winters though.

    • Thanks for this, amazing prices. Did you you ever frequent Brodi’s, a club past the air force base, down a street from the main road? I wrote about it earlier here and the music they played.

      I also remember in the city the Office, or Your Father’s Office, as well.

      And a Mexican restaurant, I think over the bridge before the section where the airmen’s quarters were. Great corn coated in chili powder.

      • The college students and the airmen at that time didn’t mix, so we stayed pretty much downtown, plus it was easy walking distance for those long drinking sessions. The only bar name I remember now was the Monopole – the late night thick crust pizza was a very popular item and hard to forget!

        The Piels I remember because even at the time it was pretty cheap (and the price reflected the quality) and in winter we would stick it outside the window to chill as cold as possible to make it drinkable. At home during summers while I was working was when we would buy Genny Cream Ale – a case of returnable bottles was around $6 and really was a tasty beer.

        • Thanks, this was the initial post on Brodi’s which still may interest as it describes some of the general atmosphere of the period:

          Lum’s had an Ollieburger, I added that to the post. I recall the name Lumburger too, maybe that was the name of the full range.

          Don’t recall Monopole, the Office was near the water, down a street perpendicular to the main street.

          Piels was on the thin side, yes, they had a draft in the can too you may recall, which predated MGD certainly.

          Genny had a big presence in Plattsburgh then, and say, FX Matt’s, less so to my recollection. I’d also get bottled Guinness there, a few ale imports from UK, and a few German imports like the St. Pauli Girl. And Beck’s, which at the time was hard to find in Montreal.

          It’s really a completely different era, in so many ways…

          Believe it or not I can actually remember the first Big Mac I had there. We hadn’t McDonald’s in Montreal for some years still and it was a very novel taste, that soft bun and pink mayonnaise.

          • That’s a very interesting article about the Monopole. I spent my 18th birthday drinking in the upstairs area, and the fact it was a hotel makes sense now thinking back on it. I don’t recall the Lum’s unfortunately.
            Plattsburgh was also a big draw for people in Montreal for the mall that opened up just off I-87.

  2. Gary,
    When visiting my wife’s Canadian relatives in about ’80, we all drove over to Chatham, ON, to visit an old tavern that still featured separate entrances. We used the entrance for mixed groups and ladies. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in about ’80 my wife and I sat down at the bar in an empty small neighborhood spot. The bartender shooed to a table, saying that women were allowed at the bar.
    We subscribe to the electronic edition of the Times. We’re in the primary distribution region for the NY edition. But when we last signed up for the print paper daily, we received only one and one-half papers over a three month period. They were very efficient at billing and collections, though. They did eventually refund everything.

    • Thanks for all this, I’m sure the male-only thing existed elsewhere, if not by law then practise.

      Until after WW II pubs in practise in U.K. were largely men only, except (of course) for staff. There were exceptions though, I’ve chronicled some.

      Chatham! I’ve been there. It’s probably not changed too much since you have been there. Do you remember the (great) Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia? Sylvia was from Chatham. Surname Fricker, I think from memory.

      Four Strong Winds was their great hit.

  3. Gary,
    This piece is a nice description of enjoying a slightly foreign experience. Fifty years ago, going from state to state or province to province could offer a novel environment. In the ’70s I once accompanied a friend from Portland, OR, to Vancouver, BC, to visit his brother, who had moved to avoid the US draft. After seeing a matinee Ibsen play (!), we went to a bare-bones hotel bar that was huge, and fairly empty. The server carried a tray of pre-poured glasses of lager from table to table. Patrons were asked how many they wanted, and paid on the spot. My friend warned me that he was routinely thoroughly searched by US customs on returning to the US, but on this trip we weren’t subject to a long inspection.
    On a side note, the NY Times (Nov. 1, ’20) has a long article about the renovation of the pre-prohibition Ulmer brewery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I’d like a tour.

    • Thanks Arnold! You ran into the Canadian “hotel”, meaning in this connection hotel beer bar, aka beverage room, which I wrote about a while back you may recall, the Ontario Beverage Room. It was a post-Prohibition development that resembled nothing much familiar in the U.S. or even U.K., although Australia had something similar.

      Maybe it was a colonial thing. 🙂

      There are, or were before Coronavirus, a few of those hotels left in Toronto. They operate pretty much as they always did except now it is all genders mixed, no separate rooms.

      Thanks for that tip on the NYT article, we get it every Sunday (in print I mean), and I’ll take a look.

      By the way I should have added in the story that the cigarette smell was reliant on Turkish tobaccos, so quite aromatic and different from the “flat” Virginia tobacco taste Canada favoured. I’d think it’s still the same, Marlborough and such, but probably toned down.

      There was also I think Old Gold, powerful in taste and effect.



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