One of the biggest ones for my family is watching the 1989 hit movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s too bad that we watch it less and less these days but when my kids were younger it was damn near looped on our TV.
And if my brother says he has a master’s degree in Christmas Vacation, then I’ve got a Ph.D. — you know, siblings.
Having seen the movie dozens and dozens of times, and having a penchant for beer, I’m going to try to answer this question: What kind of beer would Clark Griswold drink?
In a funny and equally sad way, I feel a certain kinship with Clark W. Griswold Jr., the classic Chevy Chase character. But first, let’s examine the notion of “the last true family man.”
He is kind, talented, honest, lying, sentimental, resentful, spiteful, reverential, sarcastic, caring, hapless, heartless, hard-working, flirtatious, loyal, and most endearing of all, he is nerdily (“Me?! Heck no!”) idealistic.
His visions of grandeur are only exceeded by his inability to smoothly carry out the plan, so much so that he could give himself a walk of shame. Except he would never notice.
Clark does dumb things, and this is how I relate to him because I do too. Not on purpose, mind you, and not yet fatal. It’s more like getting moderately electrocuted in a bathtub or having an eyeball damn near blown out from a home plumbing gaffe. So when Clark opens the attic ceiling door and the sliding stairs come blasting down onto his face, my wife slowly looks my way. Every. Single. Time. It’s not like I’ve actually done that…yet.
But to tackle the big question about what beer Clark would drink, we must first assume he did. We know he drank eggnog, but a few things tell us he loves beer: 1) He’s from Chicago and loves the Bears and Blackhawks, 2) He drank and danced (and fought) at a German Oktoberfest, and 3) He once–sort of–drank a beer with his son. So, he certainly enjoys beer. The question might easily be answered with one of Chicago-land’s staples. Hang on, not that easy.
Enter the big-hearted, little-brained Cousin Eddie. Two memorable scenes involving Eddie are when the “shi**er was full”, and near the movie’s end when he tells Clark about “the gift that keeps on giving…”
In each scene Eddie is drinking a Meister Brau, a former Chicago beer which met a cruel demise as the precursor to Miller Lite. Even though Eddie rolled onto the scene “on fumes”, you know he spent some of his last few dollars at a local store for this wretched stuff.
Clark, on the other hand, would rather kiss Vince Lombardi on the lips than drink the same beer as Eddie, and the Chicago beer that’s viewed slightly better than Meister Brau, is Old Style.
So that’s it! No…no. Be patient.
Mostly undrinkable unless you grew up on it, Old Style is a Chicago staple that some of you may remember your pop drinking. I’m not here to denigrate your father or your sentiments, only the beer. Old Style has neither taste nor style, and it’s the beer that gives you permission to aim low in life. Let me put it another way. If Old Style played baseball, he’d be a .190 hitter. If Meister Brau was a ballplayer, he’d be on the first train back to Sheboygen. Either way, they both play on the same ball field.
Clark, however, appreciates some of the nicer things in life. He is smart and successful, and if he can afford 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights and put a down payment on a pool based on an expected bonus, then he has some disposable income.
Being a food scientist, Clark also has a discriminating palate, and yes, he previously drank cheap beer. But credit him with the fact that he was sharing one in the desert with his son. He would not be a drinker of American domestic lagers, and he grudgingly despises German beer — you know, the fight. So they are out.
Now, remember, this was the 1980’s B.C., or Before Craft. Good beer, at least to me, was mostly scarce, and the “premium” beers were imports you sought out like Heineken, Grolsch and St. Pauli Girl. Canada also exploded onto the scene with beers like Moosehead, Molson and Labatt, but by the end of the 80’s, Moosehead had pretty much yellow-fizzied out. Familiar to Clark because of their hockey ads, Molson and Labatt remain.
But something else happened in 1989 — something very, very obscure. In the stands of a Canadian pro football game, a girl on the big screen was noticed wearing a beer t-shirt, and she soon rocketed into the pop culture scene.
First known as “The Blue Zone Girl”, this blonde bombshell later became a mega-superstar. Who was she? None other than–I am not making this up–Pamela Anderson.
In our hypothetical fantasy, Clark’s skinny-dip with Christie Brinkley or his innocent daydream fling with the department store girl (“can’t see the line, can ya Russ?”) was supplanted with a new poolside tale, this one having a pool full of beer. He went saucer-sled-over-heels over The Blue Zone Girl and was seduced by the beer she was promoting.
I did some daydreaming of my own and I channeled my inner Clark, which led to a logical conclusion. This time it wasn’t “c**ked up” by Clark because he is forever stuck in time. And he will never know good damn beer.
Forgive me for claiming it, but Clark W. Griswold Jr. was, and forever will be…”drum roll please”…a Labatt Blue drinker.