Beer has a tendency to bring people together. Historically, it has been the drink of the masses -- something that everyone can appreciate, from a cheap domestic 40 oz. to a fine Belgian ale. Forget about wine vintages, grape varieties, pinot noir and chardonnay -- the process of brewing beer lends itself to more possibilities than one can imagine. It's about diversity -- both in terms of what's inside the bottle and who's drinking it. At no place is this truer than Spring Fair's annual Beer Garden -- a place that, for a few weekend days, is pretty darn close to paradise for a college student.
Hidden away from the cotton candy, rides and children's games, as any upperclassmen can attest, the Beer Garden is what Spring Fair is all about. President Brody's usually quiet, picturesque garden is transformed into a social hub. Surrounding the small fish pond in the middle of the garden are kegs of beer -- and plenty of them. There's a stage for live music acts that play throughout the weekend. There's even a food tent that serves up the standard greasy festival fare -- although the food from the Lower Quad area is much better -- the chicken on a stick, in particular, goes great with beer.
Part of the reason why Beer Garden still exists at Hopkins is that it doubles as a fundraiser for student groups. Although many groups lose the money they put down for the kegs by drinking away possible profits, others make a good chunk of change selling beer at the Garden. In fact, the standing record for profit is the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, who took home around $2,000 a few years ago.
Usually, however, people aren't Nazis about the beer they're pouring. Most are there just to have a good time. From the hockey team to the Tutorial Project to the News-Letter, each group has two kegs of beer -- one beer that goes for $1.50 (this year Coors Light, Rolling Rock or Yuengling) and one $2.00 beer (Sam Adams, Sam Adams Summer or Stella Artois). Drink tickets are sold at the entrance, but if you're crafty enough and know the right people (students work the booths), it doesn't have to cost you $20 to drink. Just don't be rolling up to the News-Letter table expecting free beer because you read this article.
Most importantly, this isn't just another chance to down a few cold ones with the same group of friends you've been hanging out with all year. Remember -- beer is for everyone. Local residents drop their antagonistic views towards Hopkins students and enjoy the garden -- some even bring their families. Deans stop by to sip brews in the shade. Alumni return to relish their finest memories of their college days. One minute you're talking it up with your anthropology professor, and the next you're talking with an old friend, repairing a relationship that has devolved to awkward hellos on the way to classes.
As with any place that serves alcohol, you'll need to have an ID that says you're 21 to get in. The entrances and exits to the garden are pretty tightly guarded by SAFE employees and ROTC cadets that sometimes even ask for two forms of identification. Of course, there are ways to get around the palace guards, but that's for me not to divulge and for you to figure out.
If you miss the Beer Garden, you'll be missing what is by far the best tradition at Hopkins. It's not just the beer, but also the people and the atmosphere that keeps hundreds of students returning each year. As Crosby, Still, Nash & Young once said, "We got to get ourselves back to the garden."