There was a time when you could get legally wasted under the age of twenty-one if you lived in the state of Colorado. Okay? That was the reason for the existence of 3.2 beer. Beer brewed with a lower alcohol content. Beer brewed with a higher intent of getting teenagers to drink. Some referred to this swill as "baby beer," which may have also explained the color and consistency and the graffiti I spotted at an establishment that sold this fluid: "We don't sell beer. We rent it." None of this was enough to keep me from seeking out opportunities to chug the junk. On University Hill in Boulder, Colorado there were half a dozen places that used promotions like "Animal Drown Night" to promote the consumption of 3.2 beer.
It might also have been a byproduct of living just around the corner from a college and down the road from the Coors refinery. Distillery. Whatever. Without a trace of shame, the Board of Regents allowed the facility in which those highly trained and scholarship awarded athletes play basketball The Coors Events Center. I suppose I can appreciate that this was some sort of public service to the student body since all of those bars and restaurants and basketball arenas were within stumbling distance of the dorms and most of the student housing.
But not all of them. One particular night spot that catered to that pre-twenty-one set. It was called "Characters," and the decor favored some of the fern bars of the seventies, with a dance floor sunk in the center of a ring of tables used to hold up the pitchers and glasses that would be drained in attempt to make the interactions between these young people more fluid. The hint we had about the name of the place were the over-sized sepia-toned images of legendary Hollywood stars. It was understood that this was the place where you would go if you didn't feel like hanging around with the punks and goths and borderline personalities that hung out at the New Wave club, Pogo's. The music selection was a sanitized version of the dance hits of the eighties, and if that was the reason you were there, something had gone terribly wrong.
As referenced earlier, the consumption of watery beer was what made it possible for kids to meet kids. As the evening wore on, boys and girls of a certain age were pairing off and making their way back to whatever destination and future awaited them. Long or short term. I wish I could tell you that I knew couples who are currently happily married after meeting over a pitcher of Coors Light at Characters when they were freshmen. I could tell you stories about singles who were couples for a moment or two and are now currently married. To other people. I could tell you stories about the hours I sat on a stool in that place, waiting for my courage to be summoned. And then the lights came up, along with that announcement: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." I went home. Drunk and alone. What was so great about 3.2 beer again?