I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see that sign. Yet there it was as we rode into the small town of Santa Margarita, high on a post outside of a tavern. It took me back to my childhood, to my wasted adolescence, to my time at Wayne State University.
It was a sign for Stroh’s beer.
Stroh’s beer was a product of the Stroh Brewery Company, established in my home town of Detroit in 1850 by Bernhard Stroh, a German immigrant. When I was a child, our family spent many summer Sunday afternoons escaping the heat of the city by picnicking on the shores of Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. Canada was just across the water and freighters steamed up and down the river. There was always a case of longneck Stroh’s bottles, some of them pretty well worn, since the bottles were re-used back in those days, but they always had new labels and caps.
In my teenage years, Stroh’s was one of the beers of choice, if we could find somebody to buy for us. Sometimes a friend who worked at a local banquet hall would liberate a case and share it with his buds, and we all toasted him repeatedly until we could toast no longer. I attended university briefly at Wayne State in Detroit and was living down there just off campus. A favorite pastime was taking tours at the old red brick Stroh’s Brewery just a few miles away, free beer for a starving student.
Alas, the Stroh Brewery Company became a conglomerate going national and the old brewery came tumbling down in 1986 because it was outdated. Eventually they lost out in the beer wars and Stroh’s became just another label owned by Pabst Brewing Company. But even before that happened I was drinking craft beers from micro-breweries or red wine, so I’d pretty much forgotten about Stroh’s.
When I saw that sign, all those memories came flowing back. But what was it doing in Santa Margarita? This is grape country, we’re here to visit the vines and the wines. I’ll not know anytime soon because it was too early in the day for that tavern to be open.
You might have noted that I wrote “WE rode into that small town”, “we” being the velobum and a lovely lass from Manhattan Beach named Janet. She and I were visiting the California central coast wine country to celebrate my birthday, bringing along our bicycles and rolling through the vineyards for a couple of days. We stayed, of course, at the Bike Lane Inn in Templeton, started and run by Elaine and Scott McElmury, both cyclists who moved here from San Diego in 2002.
For the many cyclists who visit the inn, they have “velo and vino” ride maps that highlight local wineries. Janet and I rode to Justin Winery on our first day, and on the second day stopped at Wild Horse. The rear rack and carrying bag on my old Joe Bringheli steel bike was just the right size for bottles purchased at the wineries.
View my set of pictures here.