A fitting beer tribute for these three mugs

“Everything’s fine when you’re looking through a foaming stein.” – The Three Stooges, “Beer & Pretzels,” circa 1933.

Speaking as one of the millions of kids who spent a disproportionate number of his formative years glued to Sally Starr’s “Popeye Theater,” I’d say it’s about time we all lifted a mug to Moe, Larry and Curly.

Soitenly, they’ve already received their just share of accolades for their sophisticated contributions to the fine arts of comedy and drama.

In this space, though, Joe Sixpack directs the reader’s attention to the Stooges’ efforts on behalf of the brewing arts. If anyone deserves a Nobel Prize for Beer, it’s Profs. Howard, Fine and Howard

Consider that, before the threesome hit the screen, America was lost in the muck of the 13-year-long Prohibition.

Then the Stooges break onto the scene and America repeals the 18th Amendment.

This is not just a coincidence of timing, friends. Take another gander at your Stooge video collection (you know, the one your girlfriend tried to burn), and you’ll find a virtual veneration of beer. It’s all there – from daffy exploding bottles to whacky rolling kegs – tickling our funnybones and lifting us from the morass of temperance.

The Stooges’ beer oeuvre was perhaps most thoroughly explored in their seminal “Beer & Pretzels,” an MGM short that takes place in a beer garden.

Earlier critics (Thompson, “Post-Hegelian Exegesis of a Knucklehead,” 1952) dismissed the film as standard slap-shtick. But looking deeper, we find the film’s subtext explores – nay, celebrates! – the uncorking of the Prohibition.

Its feature dance number, called “Tap, Tap, Tap on the Little Keg,” is a musical homage to the rebirth of beer. Where just months earlier, booze was the untouchable scourge of Eliot Ness, in this film it’s the honored guest.

The joy is manifested by the inimitable Curly, triumphant over those who would demonize his malt beverage, playing the spoons and smoking a cigar while downing a draft.

Brilliant. Just brilliant!

It’s no wonder, then, that somebody has toasted the trio with their very own Three Stooges Beer.

Contract-brewed by the Lion brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., this lager is the invention of a couple of Boston-area kids who never grew up.

“It’s a good, everyday, old-fashioned, drinkin’ beer,” said Dewey Parsons, co-owner of Panther Brewing. The company gets its name from the beer distributor that employed the Stooges in the film “Three Little Beers.”

The beer started out as a novelty, but Parsons says it’s attracting return customers. About 600,000 cases have been brewed since it went into production last August. That’s about 50 percent more beer than the standard microbrewery would brew in the same period.

How’s it taste?

The one I sampled from Javies Beverages in Manayunk reminded me of a drinkable Miller. A case runs about 20 bucks.

You can sample Three Stooges Beer, and support the painting of a mural to honor Philadelphia-born Stooge Larry Fine, on Thursday at a cocktail party at the Inn Philadelphia Restaurant and Piano Bar (251 S. Camac St., Center City). Admission: 10 smackers. Bring your own cream pies.

Beer junket

New Jersey, the alleged Garden State, is our beer destination of the week, and I say that with all due irony. Those venturing beyond picturesque Admiral Wilson Boulevard are usually advised to give up all reasonable hope for a decent bar.

True, some tasty brews (Flying Fish in Cherry Hill, most notably) lurk in this corner, but there are few joints in which to actually guzzle the goods. This may explain South Jersey’s affection for backyard keggers.

Serving the barbecue crowd adequately are a half-dozen or so superb package stores dotting Camden County’s highways. The best of them is Voorhees Liquors (10 Berlin Road, Voorhees).

Joe Sixpack visited a couple of weeks ago and came out with an armful of UK imports, including Mordue Workie Ticket, the 1997 Champion Beer of Britain, and Coniston Bluebird Bitter, the ’98 champ. A wall of low-priced Belgians really caught my eye, though. I’ve paid up to 15 bucks for a crusty liter of Hanssens Old Gueuze; I found it at Voorhees for seven. A small bottle of Cantillon Kriek – a refreshing cocktail hour split – was $3.

Legal disclaimer: Smuggling cheap Jersey beer back into Philly is illegal. Hide the booty in the trunk and avoid gunfights with the tollbooth border patrol.

Joe Sixpack (written this week with a bottle of Victory Prima Pils) appears every other Friday.


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