With those instructions dancing in my head, I handed a cup of beer to my compatriots at the front of the Tracy Rotary Club beer booth last Saturday afternoon at the bean festival for delivery to a waiting, thirsty customer.
I was one of the Rotary volunteers in the back of the beer booth, pulling four varieties of beer into plastic cups — but, most importantly, attempting to do so without creating so much foam to cause a customer to cry out, “Hey, look at all this foam — I’ve only got a half-cup of beer.”
Pulling beer out of a keg can be a sometimes difficult task, as even experienced bartenders will attest. Sometimes, the foam just keeps pouring out and overwhelms the liquid beer below. As a once-a-year beer-booth volunteer, the challenge of keeping the foam in check can be even greater.
But, I had professional help Saturday afternoon. Two experienced beer guys from DBI of San Joaquin, the Stockton-based Miller-Coors-Heineken distributing company, were on hand to lend advice and support.
First, Chris Blasé helped me perfect my beer pulling technique.
“Pull the handle quick and all the way. Slow and half-way produces foam,” he said. Then he helped me with my swirling technique, so the beer flowed into the tilted cup without the “big foam.”
Then, his sidekick, Roy Grossman, gave one more piece of beer-pulling advice.
“Release the handle after you have pulled it,” he said. “If you hold on, you can cause motion that produces foam.”
That was a new one, but it seemed to help.
So, as the afternoon progressed, my beer-pulling efforts became refined — and more successful. The dreaded foam was kept in check. Well, at least most times.
As beer-dispensing volume increased in direct proportion to rising afternoon temperatures, I learned which varieties of beer were the easiest, and the most difficult, to pour with just the right amount (about a quarter- to a half-inch) of foam.
The easiest, by far, was Heineken, the ubiquitous Dutch brew that produced very little foam. Then came Coors Light, the most popular selection with medium-grade foaming tendencies.
The most difficult were Blue Moon, the Belgian-style wheat beer, and Miller MGD (Miller Genuine Draft). Both required determined efforts to limit the foam and a lot of patience. For those brews, I filled a number of cups half-full and then let the foam subside before filling the cups. I confess I spilled a lot of Blue Moon and MGD along the way.
Anyway, pulling beer at the Tracy Dry Bean Festival for three hours Saturday afternoon was a worthwhile experience. It wasn’t as arduous as I first imagined — in fact, I enjoyed it. Along the way, I completed my class in “Beer Pouring 101,” earning at least a passing grade for “fighting the foam.”
A recreation legacy
Tracy Unified School District Trustee Bill Swenson, his wife, Anne, and son Rob will be Peru, Neb., today to help pay tribute to the patriarch of the Swenson family and the clan’s involvement in sports and recreation.
They will take part in the induction of Bill’s dad, the late Bert Swenson, into the Peru State College Athletic Hall of Fame. Bert graduated from Peru, located south of Omaha, in 1908, after excelling in football, basketball and baseball.
In our area, he was well known as director of recreation in Stockton for 36 years, taking recreation in that city from its infancy into a major presence in the community. Stockton’s Swenson Park Golf Course is named for Bert, who died in 1963.
But Bert Swenson also had an impact on Tracy. He was a recreation evangelist who came here on a number of occasions in the 1940s and 1950s to speak to local groups about the importance of recreation. He urged Tracy to develop a recreation program of its own. Creation of the Tracy District Recreation Commission in 1951, and subsequently the city of Tracy Parks and Recreation Department, was the result of that prodding.
The Swenson family’s involvement in sports and recreation runs deep. Bill played basketball at the University of New Mexico and volleyball for the national-level Stockton YMCA volleyball team before coming here in the early 1950s to teach P.E. at Senior Elementary School and then coach basketball at Tracy High.
Son Rob, many Tracyites no doubt will recall, was a standout lineman and linebacker for the Cal Bears who then became an all-pro linebacker for the Denver Broncos. Daughter Susie was a mainstay of a University of California, Los Angeles, women’s basketball team.
Today, the Swensons return to their recreation and sports roots and will be well-represented at the Nebraska ceremonies honoring a family legend.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.