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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

Beer Bombs

My Gazette colleague Mike MacAdam told me about the Genesee Brewing Co.’s recent regression. The company has decided to re-release three of its classic beers, and have poured and sealed the suds in compact 12-ounce bottles from about 30 years ago.

Mike has a taste for more potent beers than the ones brewed at Rochester’s favorite brewery. He’s been on a Smithwick’s kick for a while, but I’ll bet old Mac was tempted to pick up one of Genny’s 12-beer “spring heritage collection.”

I was in one of the Gabriel’s supermarkets last week, and even I was suckered into the nostalgic purchase. It’s not that I was ever that big a fan of “Fyfe & Drum” or “12 Horse Ale.” I just couldn’t resist the chance to once again open the stocky, 12-ounce bottles. The heritage box comes with four “Fyfes,” four “Horses” and four “Summer Brews.” I confess I’ve never heard of the last one. And I’m from Rochester.

The stout bottles were in fashion during the 1970s and 1980s, probably because they fit so well into refrigerators and coolers. As all beer drinkers know, just about all beer packaged in glass now comes in tall, elegant-looking bottles. Some breweries, like Rolling Rock, still offer a 7-ounce bottle.

Twisting open a couple “Fyfe & Drums” over the weekend returned me to 1976. I was in college at stately St. Bonaventure University and because it was the Bicentennial, Genny figured to make some extra fizz with its 1963 “F & D” brand.

I was never a rabid advocate of “Fyfe and Drum” as my early beer-drinking years included an almost steady weekend regimen of Genny Cream Ale. We even named our summer basketball team after the famous Rochester beer, and my friends and teammates brother Tim, Heiz, Weeds, Frankie, Bakes, Haz, The Chief and even Smiling Jack Bentley were all willing to pour down a few Cream Ales after drubbing hapless teams with names like Irish Power, the Black Knights and Always Stoned.

Once in a while, we invested in O’Keefe Ale, once in a while Old Vienna, both from Canada. And Schaefer and Miller were big sellers at St. Bonnie, so my infatuation with Cream Ale did not last long.

Good thing. I can’t drink a foamy, sour-tasting Cream Ale now, nor can I tolerate any Genny products. I gave up on Genny Light years ago, replacing it with the cleaner tasting Coors Light, and lately I’m buying more and more Sam Adams. More calories, more filling, more expensive. Drinking may never kill me, but it may damn near clean me out financially.

For now, I’m on a nostalgic beer run. Holding one of these 12-ouncers feels like holding a hand grenade. I think I’ll be able to get through the “Fyfe and Drums,” and will remind myself that my late father always like “12 Horse Ale.”

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the four “Summer Brews.” Don’t think I have the courage to try them, so maybe I’ll just give them to Mike MacAdam. He is a fearless beer drinker, so maybe he’ll bite and quaff.

A better idea might be to save them for Weeds when he visits the race track this summer. After about 12 rum and Cokes, he won’t know what he’s drinking anyway.

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