This week I am in St John’s Newfoundland for my university roommate’s wedding. This is where I completed my undergraduate degree and where I truly discovered a love of beer and everything that comes along with it. I spent a wonderful four years in this city and I have nothing but positive memories of my time spent on its hills and wading through the fog – and a degree in English literature. When I moved here I was 18, fresh out of high school and in a province I didn’t know. I moved into a residence on the MUN campus with a knowledge of university that I gained from watching raunchy comedies – and boy was I ready.
I remember my first night in Barnes House, what would be my home for the next three years. I met my roommate Mike, which was terrifying to me. I did not want to share a room at all, let alone with someone I had never met. I was alone when I walked into a 12′ X 10′ foot room that consisted of two beds, two dressers, two desks, and a narrow path between the two sides of the room, and my heart sank.
“This is small…”
“Who is going to be here with me?”
“Is he going to strangle me in my sleep?”
“What if I don’t like him?”
Mike, his name is all I knew of him, had gotten there first and had dumped his stuff on a bed, but was nowhere to be found. I tried to figure this guy out from his stuff. In the corner I saw a guitar case and I figured out why we were paired together, being a fledgling guitarist myself. Being a nosy person with no respect for personal possessions, I peeked inside of the hard-shelled case. “Huh,” I said to myself, “we have the exact same guitar.” That’s kind of neat, but I still don’t want a roommate. I dropped my bags and went exploring, eventually running into Mike just outside of the house. After some introductions and some small talk we went our separate ways – until that evening. I was in the room setting things up, and in came my real first impression of the guy whom I would be sharing a very small room with for the next eight months. In he strode, his long hair and ripped jeans matching the electric guitar still propped up in the corner, belting out ‘Crosstown Traffic’ by Jimi Hendrix, complete with vocalized guitar fills. That was the sign I needed. That’s when I knew we were going to be ok. I truly couldn’t have picked a better roommate, or friend, had I been given the choice.
In Newfoundland the drinking age is 19 and I moved into residence when I was 18; having a birthday in May meant that for the entirety of my first year of university I was underage, but Mike’s birthday is in October. That meant that he was the designated beer buyer, despite him not being a drinker. I remember the first couple weeks of school, before he turned 19, we went to the store to try to buy a case of beer. Mike was standing off to one side trying to see if I’d be carded. I waited patiently in line behind a girl trying to do the same thing as me. She put her case of beer on the counter and immediately got asked for ID. Stammering, saying she must’ve forgotten it, she left, without her purchase. Now I’m on edge and Mike is waiting for the fireworks as I step to the counter. The man working that night then went on about how he hated this time of year because “these kids come in and beer-face lie to him.” I nodded and may have said something about kids today not having any respect, doing my best old man speech. Mike, failing to keep a straight face, left the store.
During these days I didn’t really care about the beer I was drinking. Our residence was sponsored by one of the big breweries (a practice I believe that has been done away with) and we were given beer. A lot of it. For a poor university student, who was underage, the free beer given out by my newly found home in Newfoundland was the tastiest beer that was ever made. I didn’t go looking for anything complex or anything that wasn’t produced in a can (we weren’t allowed to have bottles in residence due to the prevalence of ‘smash parties’ the year before. These were events that consisted of tossing your empty beer bottles into the corner of the room, seeing who could create the biggest pile of glass shards) because there was no need. I was drinking beer – free beer, and it was perfect. I drank a lot of Newfoundland-specific offshoots of Labatt or Molson, depending on who sponsored us that year. Blue Star was the beer on offer during my first year in the house and during the floor party on my first night in Barnes, so that was my favourite.
Now I am sitting here in 2016 with a Blue Star in my hand, knowing it’s a beer that’s made for 18-year-olds trying to trick someone into thinking they’re old enough to buy a 6-pack. I know that it’s a beer that needs to be served ice cold to ensure you taste as little as possible of what you’re drinking, but right nowI don’t care. All I want is to drink this beer out of a can. It tastes like my first night in Barnes House. It tastes like the night I met my roommate Mike, who is now getting married. It tastes like the freedom of being away from home. It tastes like the new-found rebellion of drinking underage with new people who will soon become lifelong friends. It tastes like laughing on the walk home because we didn’t really know what it meant to “beer-face lie” to someone. It tastes like a stolen kiss from a girl you don’t know and it tastes like the headache the next day. It tastes like friendship. It tastes like love. It tastes like home.