Beer Bowling and Related Beer Game Stories
I don’t know if you’ve played the recently popular “beer pong”, or what we used to call “beer bowling” in college. I always stuck to the beer bowling name because of how you set up the cups into the formation of bowling pins, and at our fraternity “beer pong” was a different game that was actually played on a ping pong table. It had a similar concept to beer bowling, with each player having a cup of beer and if the ball went into your cup, you had to take a drink. This was a sort of “add on” feature to normal ping pong which the game followed all other rules for. It was never a big hit because ping pong itself wasn’t that popular at our house. But regardless, it was “beer pong”, and the other was “beer bowling”.
I recently found out that you can play beer bowling with craft beer. My previous experiences (in college) of course always were based on the cheapest, most easily available beer that could be found. I was thrilled to find a use for the glass pitcher we had at home that had been calling my name ever since I got my kegerator, begging for me to find a use for it. There’s always some excitement attached to a pitcher of beer. I think just because it always means either a large amount of beer to be consumed, or a large number of people consuming beer. And in both cases (in my experience) good times usually follow quickly behind. But finding a practical use for a pitcher of beer at home has been elusive- until now.
In college we told ourselves you didn’t want to play with expensive beer because you go through so much of it so quickly, that it was a waste of money. In reality, it probably was because we were in college and didn’t have money to buy expensive beer anyway. Regardless, I confirmed that chugging down a Solo cup 1/3 filled with craft beer is an enjoyable series of beer drinks. Although not a tulip-shaped glass like I personally attest makes good hoppy beers taste delicious by funneling that hop aroma at your nose while you drink, the Solo cup achieves the same result through different means. With only the bottom part filled with beer, you end up having to tip the cup way back, and hence get your nose buried in the cup- soaking up all the hop aroma. You never could have convinced me of this fact had I not tried it myself.
But back to beer bowling. And now again stepping aside for another side story… When beer bowling first came into our fraternity, it was not well-liked. The game of choice was Whales Tales. It was a fast-paced game played where everyone had a beer, and you sat in groups of 8. It was a number-calling game where if the guy sitting 2 spaces to your right said “2”, that was your number and you had to quickly respond with a “Nay, XX who.” Where XX was another number 1 through 7. Essentially you were saying, “Not me, it’s the guy sitting XX spaces to my left.” That guy would follow suit and so on, with the calls bouncing around. It took some serious concentration to keep track of who was calling who, and if you messed up, you had to take a drink. There were lots of ancillary rules that went with it to make it more complex, challenging, and sometimes fun. But to some, the Tales players could be quite prickly and uptight while playing. Some couldn’t stand playing with people that were too slow, or botched their calls too often. Eventually, they’d also get annoyed with background noise that made it harder to hear the calls, so they’d seclude themselves somewhere quiet and shoot nasty looks at you if you stumbled in and stared making noise. The Tales players did not like beer bowling.
Beer bowling was always a lot of fun. You had 2 people on a team, and you faced off against another twosome. It always made for fun partnerships, roping in whoever you could find wandering about in the house that had some time available to devote the pursuit of beer games. And inevitably you had the back and forth banter and “talking smack” with your opponents about how lousy they were and how good your team was. So in contrast to tails, there was a lot of noise and talking. In our dining room, there could be up to 5 games playing at once, with a game made up of 2 folding tables lined up end to end, and each team’s 10 cups half-filled with beer making up their bowling pin triangular formation on the opposite ends. You take turns bounding or throwing a ping pong ball at the other team’s 10 “pins”, trying to get the ball in one. If you did, they had to drink the cup empty and remove it from the table. You win the game by sinking all 10 pins of the opposite team first. Losing team technically had to drink the winning team’s left over pins, but that rarely happened.
As much fun as beer bowling was, there were two marked downsides. One was the sheer volume of beer you ended up consuming. It wasn’t a game you could “pace yourself” at, you just basically drank when the ball landed in the cup- and a fair amount of beer at that. If you were “lucky” enough to win, you’d keep the table and take on another pair- which meant more drinking. The other downside was the mess it left. A ping pong ball bounced back and forth along the tables after landing in cups of beer every now and then ended up leaving beer trails and sprinklings all over things. And leaning over the table to get a closer reach to the cups on the other end of the table frequently led to cups occasionally getting knocked over and spilling their contents. Finally, the leftover pins from the winning team that were rarely drunk ended up being stacked somewhere- along the window, on the floor, on a ledge hear, a heater there, etc. All of this led to a sticky, stinky mess in the morning. The Tales players never missed an opportunity to wail about the aftermath mess in the dining room the next day.
So with this long background behind us, I was excited and nervous about cracking open the “official beer pong” kit my brother-in-law brought over. I of course remembered all the fun, but also remembered the fast path to high BAC, and the beer mess. I no longer had a fraternity tiled, industrial dining room, I had a carpeted basement that we watch TV in and the kids play in. But with finally finding an answer to that glass pitcher that had been calling me, I couldn’t resist. The game was fun, I discovered the nifty Solo cup “beer snifter effect”, and there were no beer spills. I did have stacks of beer cups with residual beer in them the next morning, but nothing to major to clean up. So I can attest that beer bowling can still be fun as a grown-up. Of course, make sure you aren’t driving anywhere afterwards…