Thereâ€™s something funny in the water.
Well, actually, itâ€™s in the beer.
And, really, itâ€™s more potentially blindness-inducing than funny.
Skyrocketing copper prices have resulted in various forms of black-market activity around the city. This mostly means the theft and resale of copper components ripped from abandoned or newly built homes, including a devastating hit on Phase IV of the Walden Cliffs subdivision. But the scallawags have hit another sector, and itâ€™s having a direct effect on Joe Six-Pack.
Beer kegs, which are traditionally lined with copper, are being stolen from distributors or rented from party stores and not returned. The copper pirates sell their booty to various buyers all over town: Carrieâ€™s Dicker-and-Deal, Ye Olde Trash Heape, and Copper & Copper among them.
This has led, in just a few months, to a severe citywide keg shortage, according to the City Taverns and Spirits Merchants Association (CTSMA). Popular watering holes like the Cracker Box, Captain Mortimerâ€™s, and The Parrot & the Palm have been forced to offer only bottled or canned brews, leading to grumpy patrons and overworked bar backs. And the cultural implications have weighed just as heavily upon some establishments. â€œWhen I opened this place 12 years ago, I made a solemn promise that Iâ€™d offer Guinness on tap 366 days per year â€“ the extra one being St. Patrickâ€™s Day, which we count twice,â€ said Michael â€œSpottyâ€ Oâ€™Karmah, who owns Poor Pat Muirâ€™s on Sixth Street. â€œIâ€™m not sure Iâ€™ll ever be able to live down selling Guinness in a bottle. Great Scott, itâ€™s awful.â€
In response, the CTSMA has instituted a pilot program involving the use of nickel-lined beer kegs. While keg rip-offs have decreased, the program might already be backfiring. Elbow-benders citywide complain of a metallic aftertaste in their suds, heretofore only found in certain batches of Black Label. â€œYeeagh,â€ complained local drinker Jay Cook after quaffing a Labatt Blue at Captain Mortimerâ€™s recently. â€œIt tastes like I just licked a beer-drenched parking meter. My cousinâ€™s home brew tastes better than this swill.â€
And a tinny taste isnâ€™t the only concern. The nickel-lined kegs could be deadly â€“ to your eyesight. The buzz out of Nilsson Hospital is that three fraternity brothers were recently admitted with cases of temporary blindness after a lager-soaked weekend in the cityâ€™s University Center. Hospital officials were initially concerned that the students were also mentally impaired, because they were all wearing bath robes. But it turns out this is just a new citywide fad.
While the health effects are only highly plausible rumors at this point, city public health counselor Elizabeth Marconi says lining beer kegs with nickel is a concern. â€œI mean, I donâ€™t know for sure â€“ itâ€™s not like I have a report right in front of me that says nickel can cause blindness,â€ she said. â€œBut it just sounds like it could, right? I wouldnâ€™t line kegs with nickel. I guess itâ€™d better than lead, but still.
â€œHonestly, though, Iâ€™ve got my hands full with a raging staph epidemic among the cityâ€™s homeless, so I canâ€™t be too concerned if a couple knuckleheads need to wear glasses after a night of keg stands.â€
CTSMA Executive Director Randy Bevevino defended the nickel-lined kegs, telling The City Desk, â€œOur job is to protect the economic interests of the taverns and spirits merchants in this city. We think this is an appropriate response to the illegal theft and resale of copper-lined kegs.â€
But what about the reports of blindness? â€œThatâ€™s just a nasty rumor. Weâ€™ve looked into this, and thereâ€™s no way nickel can cause blindness. Look â€“ Iâ€™ll eat a nickel right now to prove it,â€ Bevevino said while pretending to eat a nickel.
â€œAs for the tinny taste, we recommend you squeeze a lime into your beer. I personally think fruit in beer is for pansies, but I donâ€™t know what else to do. I hear they put hot sauce in their beer in Mexico. Maybe you can give that a shot.â€
– C. Gaines