On a sunny Sunday, it's hard to remember all of the literary brilliance rolling around in my head and spewing from my mouth the night before at Old Chicago (1280 South Colorado Boulevard, and about a zillion other locations on the planet). Here's what I can remember: I've been a huge fan of Old Chicago for many years, dating back to my days at the Air Force Academy, when I'd visit the Colorado Springs outlet whenever I was able to take a break from ruthlessly hazing underclassmen and acting in a sexually inappropriate fashion as all of us learned to do because we had no conscience or sense of morality once we passed under the highly influential "Bring Me Men" sign that erased all traces of human decency or appropriate upbringing since we were foolish eighteen-year-olds so malleable that three simple words from a classic poem immediately turned us into animals looking to prey on the weaker members of the herd.
Obviously, now that those infamous words have been removed from the campus, there's been a drastic reversal in attitudes and behavior. I'm sure all of the champions of victims' and women's rights are ecstatic that their relentless pressure resulted in such a superficial solution: removing one of the academy's most impressive and inspiring sights. When you saw those words that first day, you recalled why you'd decided to dedicate your life to serving your country instead of going off to a four- or seven-year orgy at a "real" school. It's disappointing that today's cadets won't have that simple reminder of the Academy's mission: to take young, motivated men and women and turn them into leaders. I don't think it's being done nearly as well as when my classmates and I were there.
I crave a return to hard-nosed basic thought and practice. That's one of the reasons I love Old Chicago so much: It maintains old-school bar fundamentals by concentrating on beer and fat.
1280 South Colorado Boulevard, and about a zillion other locations on the planet
For those who have somehow failed to visit a link in this homegrown chain, your life as a beer drinker and/or aspiring alcoholic isn't really complete until you've embarked on the Old Chicago World Beer Tour. I've started the damn thing several times -- even though I never completed that first tour I embarked on in 1991. Anyway, each Old C has 110 or so beers on tap and in bottles and cans. After consuming increments of 25 or so beers, you are rewarded with prizes approved by Old Chicago's corporate office, America's beer companies and, no doubt, the University of Colorado Athletic Department.
The only problem with the tour: It includes numerous beers that anybody who's not part of a fraternity initiation should never waste time on. One such group is the Industrial Cleaner Family, which includes Coors, Budweiser and Miller products, as well as the detritus of these beers' brewing processes packaged as "specialty beers" and sold at "import" prices under names such as Killian's or Keystone. You only drink these because they're cheap and easy -- reasons many drinkers go to Old Chicago in the first place.
Next you move on to the meat of the tour, with your microbrewed American beers and mainstream Europeans. Here's where you start separating the guys from the men and the girls from the women you might actually marry. At this point, people who like Zima or Smirnoff Ice or any other cutesy pre-packaged "drink" start dropping like flies. Only true guys and highly desirable women enjoy real beer. The ones who start complaining about how Guinness is too "heavy" or any true pilsner is too "bitter" should immediately be ejected from the premises. If you find yourself alone, you need to get new friends.
Finally, you've reached anywhere from 50 to 75 beers and have amassed a few hard-earned beer mugs and free appetizers on top of immeasurable pride -- but even you hit your wall. Now you're getting into the Obscure and Expensive family. The main offender is Chimay, which is a beer brewed by Belgian monks who obviously did not take a vow of poverty, since the average price is eight bucks for 750 milliliters. You also encounter beers from less reputable European countries like France, which should stick with wine, cheese and illicit sex, because its beer sucks. As a matter of honor, you try to stomach these beers -- but you can't. By now your tastebuds are so dysfunctional you may as well go with Miller Lite. So you abandon the tour and start looking for a nearby Old Chicago, where you can restart the tour and get a new set of corporate prizes.
As ballast for the empty stomach you're going to punish with this variety of beers, Old Chicago provides the ultimate answer: deep-dish pizza. If you want thin-crust pie, make sure your Zima is well-chilled. If you're a real guy, you'll get the thick crust with pounds of cheese and unhealthy toppings. Remember, you shouldn't be a simple drunk; you should strive to be a drunk with coronary artery disease.
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As if Old Chicago could need anything else, the one on South Colorado Boulevard has trivia on Thursdays. The only thing that might be better would be a porn karaoke night.
To those of you who yearn for the good old days, when school was a ten-mile walk uphill both ways, when MTV's Spring Break Bikini Contest didn't include guys, when radio stations like the Fox didn't have a station identification blurb between every song in a supposedly commercial-free music marathon, and when hazing and toughness were part of military training: Get over to Old Chicago for some real drinking.
I'll be the one in the corner curing my chest pains with a beer.