A favorite bar band of mine from the Midwest sings an audience-participation song about Leinenkugel's beer that has just four lines: "I like my Leinenkugel's beer (Woo-hoo!)/So does everybody here (Woo-hoo!)/If you don't like it, you're kind of queer (Woo-hoo!)/I like my Leinenkugel's beer (Woo-hoo!)." I'm typically so drunk by the time this song is performed at live shows that I can barely slur the woo-hoos, let alone the other lines, but I do love me some Wisconsin-brewed Leinie's. So when I grab a stool at Jax Fish House (1539 17th Street) and notice Leinenkugel's Red Lager on tap, I can't help but let out a "Woo-hoo!" — an unexpected exclamation that goes over like a wet fart in first class. But I don't care: I haven't seen Leinie's on tap in Denver since, well, ever, and I'm psyched.
I stopped in hoping to find my buddy Erin behind the bar; instead, I'm served by Tim Harris, one of LoDo's most recognizable 'tenders and a twelve-year, day-one veteran of this Jax location. Salt and pepper on the sides, thin-framed glasses over his eyes, Tim wears a burgundy button-up tucked into dark-wash blue jeans and a sharp, matching tie tucked in three buttons from the collar. He commands his space behind the U-shaped bar with the kind of distinction that accompanies confidence and experience. He is excited about the Leinie's as well, telling me that he just put it on tap and is planning to incorporate it into the happy-hour menu later in the week.
Currently, happy hour at Jax (Sunday through Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.) features cheap Coors Light drafts and PBR cans, as well as a slew of specialty infused cocktails for $4 — Strawberry Lemonade with house-infused strawberry vodka, the Wonka Cocktail with infused blueberry vodka and pineapple juice, and a number of infusion martinis served chilled and up. Despite this delicious array of choices, I stick with my beer. In fact, I slurp it down mightily and ask for another. I feel like the proud patriarch at his family reunion: Oh, Leinie's, how I've missed you.
Happy hour also serves up discounted oysters, gumbo, calamari and mussels, but, with the exception of sushi, I'm essentially a seafood virgin. I'm hungry, though, and I'm not going anywhere while the reunion's still poppin', so I get on the horn with Erin and ask for recommendations under $20. Turns out he's on his way to meet me; in the meantime, he suggests the peanut oil-seared tombo, my first run-in with Hawaiian albacore tuna. As I wait for him to arrive, I continue slugging through pints of Red and squint at the crayon-graffiti scribbles all over the exposed brick wall of the bar area. The air-conditioning is strokin', and although it was 95 and scorching earlier in the day, it's now cloudy and cool. I shiver a little, but it's better than sweating.
Bar traffic slows considerably once happy hour is over, but it picks up again as the sun's setting. When Erin arrives with two friends just before 8 p.m., I discover that they've been drinking all day and are in desperate need of sustenance. First, though, we do shots of El Tesoro Silver tequila, and then they order food — chicken-fried shrimp, smoked salmon linguine and grilled steelhead — which they let me sample because I'm a newbie. As we eat and drink, I ask about the chalkboard across the way that boasts 2,673,436 oysters shucked. "Is that accurate?" I ask Erin.
"Nuh...nuh...no way, man," he finally spits out with his eyes closed and mouth full. "Way over three million," he insists, once he's swallowed.
When the meal is almost finished, I glance over and notice two massive triangles of butter wedged next to the warm bread that came with the linguine. Giggling, I entice: "I'm buying a shot for whoever has the balls to one-bite that hunk of butter on a piece of bread." Without hesitation, Erin bites — both literally and figuratively — and almost chokes as hardened bread crumbs spill out of his mouth and into his lap. As his reward, he chooses another El Tesoro for himself, while I sample the pineapple-orange infused tequila. By the time I order my fifth and final Leinie's — belly full of sea creatures, the worm and sweet Wisco lager — and with a smattering of kitchen-complimentary gelato on the way, I just can't help myself. "Sorry everyone," I say to no one in particular. Then, as Tim sets my closing pint down on its coaster: