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PHOTO: Chris Shields

Nice Cans

The Schultz and Dooley Beercan and Breweriana Show is big news in old brews

 

By John Brodeur

A cartoonish poster, picturing an Irish fellow, who appears to be sharing an alcoholic beverage with his best friend (that is to say a dog), says it’s “Time for Beverwyck.” A white, plastic sign featuring an outsize Utica Club beer can explains, “It’s tough to argue over cold beer.” And, lord knows, “There’s nothing like a Guinness.”

Good advice, all of it.

At the Colonie lodge of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the USA, the organization’s rustic glory is palpable. The lodge sits atop a small incline off Watervliet Shaker Road, a mile or so east of the retail hubbub of Route 9 in Latham. It’s a large, peculiar building, with the street-facing side walled mostly by windows. On the left-hand wall in the entranceway are dozens of framed photographs of the lodge’s previous exalted rulers (the Elks’ fancy name for “guy in charge”). On the opposite wall, a painting of the organization’s titular animal standing majestically in what looks to be a fruited plain, framed by snow-capped mountains.

In the adjacent room, there’s a full-size wraparound bar, a few tables and chairs, and a pool table with hanging beer light. The room looks like an artifact from a bygone era, with its dark, aged woods, and lack of television. A colleague points out that, once upon a time, before penalties for such activities were increased, this is where men would spend many an evening getting “shitty” before drunk-driving home to see their families.

But on this particular Saturday afternoon, the only beers in the place have been empty for 20 or more years. Half of the lodge’s large banquet or event room (the one with all the windows) is filled up by rows of folding banquet tables, sporting displays of vintage cans and bottles (including such lesser-known brands and unusual imports as DAB, Stag bock, Schmidt’s, Wiedeman’s Special Bohemian Brew, Old Vienna, and Alpine); beer trays from the likes of Hedrick Cream Ale, Fitzgeralds Ale, Deer Park Breweries; light-up and mirrored logo signs; and other such trinkets.

Some vendors are more haphazard with their displays: One table boasts a few ’80s-era cola cans, four or five vintage bottles, a metal stein, and a rack of CDs by such drinkin’-friendly artists as Metallica and Rage Against the Machine.

Small groups of middle-age men, many of them assumedly Elks members, circulate among the artifacts, thumbing through boxes of $1 and $5 beer coasters, nudging one another when a particular item piques their interest.

A woman at the front table calls out, “Don’t forget, there are baked goods for sale! All the proceeds benefit the humane society!”

This is the Schultz and Dooley Spring Beercan and Breweriana Show, “breweriana” being a colloquial term for beer- and brewery-related memorabilia. Schultz and Dooley is the Capital Region chapter of the National Association Breweriana Advertising, or NABA. (That’s actually their full name, by the way; “of” is nowhere to be seen.) The chapter is named after Schultz and Dooley, the “spokesmugs” for an award-winning series of Utica Club commercials in the late ’50s early ’60s.

And these are serious collectors—even those who favor the work of late-’80s Bud Light spokesdog Spuds MacKenzie. Bud Light’s most famous canine shill has a whole area dedicated to him . . . er, herself: Posters, stuffed animals, hats and visors, shirts, cardboard retail signs. Any item vaguely related to history’s most famous bull terrier is here. The fine line between collectibles and pure kitsch gets blurry.

For those more interested in regional-brewery history, there’s an entire wall’s length of items from Delmar resident Bill Laraway’s collection. Laraway is the treasurer of Schultz and Dooley, and, as his business card explains, a “collector of Albany and Troy, New York breweriana, specializing in the Beverwyck Brewery.” He and his fellow collectors stage this type of show semiannually here at the Elks lodge, and they participate in other like-minded shows all around the Northeast.

Laraway’s is easily the most interesting and varied collection here, with a price range that could appeal to any number of collectors. A small, ceramic dachshund (Frankie, as he was affectionately known) on a square base promotes the Michigan brewery Frankenmuth. Further down the table is a selection of aluminum beer trays, a yellowed Utica Club wall clock, and an array of framed UC beer-mug photographs with rear lighting. A sign featuring a menacing-looking painting of a ram, an ad for Pabst Bock Beer, sits next to a Schaefer logo placard; above them are more Utica Club ads, this time in the form of two paintings of cocker spaniel puppies. Predictably, he also has a number of knick-knacks from the Albany prohibition-era Beverwyck brewery.

Laraway says the best piece he’s brought for today’s show is a round, metal corner sign for Albany Brewing Co. Ales & Lager (established 1797). The sign, painted in red, white, and blue, is a hefty and durable item dating back to the early 1900s, and it’s priced in the $800 range.

But he explains that eBay and like Internet sites have hurt this type of show, and that he rarely trots out the high-demand pieces for these events anymore.

“If you wanna see some real good stuff,” Laraway beams, “give me a call.”

Around 12:30 PM, the vendors begin to pack up their goods, and the handful of remaining folks begin to file toward the exit. The show’s been going since 9 AM, and, as Laraway points out, “It kind of empties out once we do the raffle.” But there’s always next time, a point the woman at the front table drives home: “Don’t forget, the next show is Sept. 29!”

 


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