I’m Drinking Don Younger’s Beer

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Don Younger’s death. For those who don’t know, Don was the owner of the Horse Brass, Portland’s legendary beer bar. And that’s telling it lightly. It’s a mecca, with some of the world’s best, most rarest beers on tap. He collected friends in the brewing community like this guy collects miniature liquor bottles. Brewers would always set a keg of something special aside, and Don would put it on. I wrote a lot more about my recollections of Don over on my failed 999 Beers blog, and guest BS’er Chris Tacy actually bar crawled with him a few years back. Good background reading.

But I’m writing to tell you about a beer I’m drinking right now. It was Don’s. I made it to his estate sale on the second day, and most of the good stuff (if there was good stuff – Don had dissimilar taste in beer to me) was already gone. But there on the shelves, I found something dusty and … curious. A six-pack of Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve. Bottling number 13.

This is not a beer you’d normally age, so it must have had some significance. Or not. When I die, I suppose people will find lots of things around and wonder why I kept them. That G4 in the basement, for example, circa 1998. Equally dust-covered.

Weinhard's Private Reserve, Batch no. 13

The label says “only premium quality brewing for four generations.” So maybe it’s one of the last brews from Henry’s before Miller’s takeover? That was in 1999. This could be a 13-plus-year-old beer. Or not. Marketers can be … misleading.

I can tell you one thing – there’s no born-on date. Nor is there any carbonation. The cap was a bit tarnished, and the screw-top never was a reliable barrier for gases in or out. No sound at all when I opened it.

It is absolutely clear, though. No sediment in the bottom, either. Guessing this, like its present-day descendants, is not bottle-conditioned.

And the taste? It’s faint. Just a hint of wet malt. Very thin. I doubt I will drink more than a sip or two, but it smells nice. Like Fuller’s Vintage, even. But very little actual flavor. Vintage beer-scented water.

Rest in peace, Don. Maybe someday you’ll tell me what you were saving this for.

Update: one more thought. The bottle doesn’t include a bottle deposit on the label. Oregon’s famous “Bottle Bill,” which added a 5-cent deposit to beer bottles, was enacted in 1971. It’s hard to believe the beer could be that old, though.

4 thoughts on “I’m Drinking Don Younger’s Beer”

  1. There’s no way that thing dates back to 1971. In fact, I’m 99% sure Private Reserve came in the late 70s. I suppose we could use various label laws to identify its rough age. Does it say anything about where it was brewed? There’s a relatively recent law that says you have to give that info.

    The government warning is also a clue–there? I think that dates to the late 80s.

    And welcome back, btw. You keep up this torrid pace, and I may bump you up from “Sporadic blogs” on the blogroll. And it may be time to demote 999 Beers.

  2. I checked, and there’s no bottle deposit, nor is there a surgeon general’s warning. No UPC code, either. It is batch number 13, so I’m thinking it must be really old based on all those clues. I have five more in the basement, too!

  3. It’s from 1978. If you Google “henry weinhard’s 13 1978” you’ll find out some more info about it.

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