Commemorative Drinking: How I Ended Up Ordering "The Big Boner"


Sometimes you just have to do things.

There I was last week, walking through the Royal Navy Dockyard in Bermuda.  We were looking for a place to catch a break and something to drink after sweating it out in the not-air-conditioned but surprisingly-not-as-horrifyingly-hot-as-you-might-think Dockyard Glassworks, and we found ourselves walking past the Bone Fish Bar & Grill.  We'd just spent half an hour watching an artist work glass with his bare hands and what looked like dental tools.  The Bone Fish had a nice open-air patio with some good people-watching potential.  Perfect.

I pick up a drink menu, and there is it, staring right out at me: "Order the BIG BONER!  Keep the 50-ounce Pilsner glass."

Now, did I really want 50 ounces of beer?  No, not really.  At least, not all in one shot like that.  But now and again you're confronted with an opportunity just have to.  There's a combination of an atypical circumstance, a singular offering, and a "what the hell, I'm here..." mentality.  

And just like that, you have this sitting in front of you.


To its credit, it was a pretty solid German Hefe.  And a good thing, too, because I was going to finish that sucker, one way or another.


We do these things because they're landmark experiences.  Everyone, I assume, enjoys having a story to tell.  What we're buying in these scenarios isn't the beer - it's the story that goes along with it.

Beer geek visitors to Philadelphia invariably find themselves directed to a joint called Monk's Cafe, which is entirely deserving of the visit and meets the colossal hype attached to it in a way that the Grand Canyon does.  But even if it didn't, you'd probably go there anyway, because everyone does. [Pro tip: head straight for the back bar.  It's quieter.]

I'll head to Asheville, NC in a few months, and I have no doubt that I'll pay a visit to the Sierra Nevada brewery there, simply because everyone speaks of it in nearly-religious tones.  If someone asks, I want to be able to share my experience visiting that cathedral of brewing.

When next I visit Europe I'll be driving to a certain monastery to visit with the "brewing brother" and picking up my two allotted cases of you-know-what.  Why?  Because it's what you do, and even though I'm not a huge Trappist beer fan, it'll make for a good story.

We do these things because it creates a bond with those who have come before us, and will come after us - whether it's hanging a bra from the ceiling of Big Bad John's in Victoria, BC or catching the 10 bus to order a Rum Swizzle from the Swizzle Inn or drinking Brennivin ("Black Death") in Iceland or buying a Corona from a street corner vendor in Puerto Vallarta or ordering up a stein of Spaten at Oktoberfest.  

Commemoration matters as much as - or more than - quality, even.  And sometimes quality can surprise you - one of the best beers I've ever had was a Coors Banquet right out of the bright tank at the brewery in Golden.  

Order the Roo

Don't overthink it - just go with it.  One of my favorite establishments routinely offers a rotating wild game burger.  I stopped in there one afternoon with my wife to kill half an hour before meeting some folks for...I don't even remember what, but it was about 2:30PM, not remotely mealtime.  I ordered a beer (hand pump standard bitter, as I recall), and the bartender, before walking away, said, "...oh, and our game burger today is kangaroo."

I turned to Barbara and said, "well, I guess I'm eating a kangaroo burger now."  Because honestly, how often are you offered one?

This conversation came immediately to mind in Bermuda last week.  I didn't need or even especially want that giant pilsner glass of Hefe.  But when offered the Big Boner, what else was I supposed to say?

"One, please."

Keep it simple.


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