Quaint American customs: beer sliding

Since I wrote relatively recently about dwile flonking—a British game that depends (with a small loophole involving ginger beer) on the participants being drunk enough to think it makes sense—it’s only fair to follow it up by writing about the great American sport of beer sliding.

But let’s back up a bit. I went into this thinking I knew at least vaguely what my topic was, but a quick check of the online world showed me the stunning breadth of my ignorance, because I discovered that gelande quaffing is also called beer sliding, and is also American.

Unlike true beer sliding, gelande quaffing is an organized competition in which one person slides a beer down a board and the other person catches it in midair and pours it down his (in this video, although I can’t say how representative it is) throat. Or one person slides the glass, the other person flips the end of the board, arching the beer upward, and the third person catches it and drinks it. Or one person sits on another person’s shoulders and both of them catch a beer. This all seems to happen outside in the snow and some of them are shirtless.

Don’t ask me. When it’s cold, I tend to put clothes on, but then what do I know?

Before we jump to the text below the video, I might as well tell you that it embedded itself, which will save you from seeing yet another of my irrelevant flowers or foggy landscapes. It’s as bizarre as it is relevant, so I’ll leave it.

What’s a gelande? A jump—persumably on skis—usually over an obstacle, or so St. Google informs me.

The game originated among skiers, which is one of any number of reasons I hadn’t heard of it.

Don’t you just feel acres better informed now?

None of that was what I was looking for, though. Gelande quaffing has rules and teams and someone sets dates when it’s going to happen. It’s organized. The beer stays in the glasses until it’s poured down the throats. It comes out of the tradition of bartenders sliding beer down the bar—if, in fact, that really is a tradition instead of just something they do on TV when they can film sixteen takes before it all works out right and where someone who isn’t the bartender has to clean up the first fifteen.

What I was searching for is what happens, at least in Minnesota, after too many beers have been poured down too many throats and some genius decides to pour a bunch of it on the floor so people can launch themselves gut-down and headfirst along it to see how far they can slide.

Yes, folks, that’s what I learned to call beer sliding. And no, I’m not recommending it, all I’m doing is reporting on a quaint American custom. Or a Minnesota custom. I don’t know which it is. Wild Thing and I were in Minnesota and had long since stopped drinking when we heard of it. That’s all I can say reliably.

It does make me wonder what happens when someone gets hurt. You know, when you slam your head at full speed into the wall or ram a splinter two inches into your belly and end up in the emergency room trying to explain how it happened. Do you sue the bar for negligence or yourself for stupidity? As usual, I don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d say both. In a single lawsuit so that you don’t tie the courts up any more than necessary.

Anyway, beer sliding lacks the—. Um. What are we going to call this? Charm? Quaint insanity? Let’s just call it the whatsit. Beer sliding lacks the whatsit of a British tradition like dwile flonking, which is ancient, or even the Birdman Competition, which isn’t.

As a friend said when I sent her a picture of swans paddling majestically through a flooded British town center, “Even your disasters are picturesque.”

Beer sliding is not picturesque. But it is—. Um. Here we go again. I’m having trouble with adjectives today.

It’s American, that’s what it is. Mind you, I’m not sure what “being American” means. I once led a classroomful of college students into a discussion about that without any of us coming to conclusion. It was surprising how little we understood the meaning of something we all took for granted. Any discussion of what it means gets onto touchy–and very interesting–ground very quickly, and I’d welcome comments from anyone who wants to tromp into the middle of it.

But whatever being American means, beer sliding is American.

53 thoughts on “Quaint American customs: beer sliding

  1. American drinking game – *starts* with pouring beer on the floor.
    British drinking games – go on until the *drinkers* are on the floor.
    There may be an important point here in the national attitudes to the resources of the world but I’m not clever enough to make it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I work with four American colleagues who are all as different as night and day, or chalk and cheese, or other very different stuff. So I’m going to ask them what being American is for them. They’ll all have conflicting answers I’m sure. As a Scot in France who once lived in Miami I will refrain from making any silly remarks about Americans whatsoever. I’m too scared to cause commotion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, go on, cause a commotion (if you want). I’d be interested to know what your impression is. And what your American colleagues say. My sense is that once you live outside your country, you develop a sharpened sense of it. Having said that, though, I’m not good a summing up cultures and I’m not sure how I’d sum up being American.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. >You know, when you slam your head at full speed into the wall or ram a splinter two inches into your belly and end up in the emergency room trying to explain how it happened. Do you sue the bar for negligence or yourself for stupidity?
    Ah now that’s the American-ness of it: As soon as you’re hurt, think about who to sue!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Just as I don’t like amusement park rides that move in more than one major direction at a time, I’m not a fan of drinking games that involve more than drinking. I remember games that combine running and drinking and no, no no no, that has no appeal at all. You guys (England, not Minnesota) can own this sport. I’m good with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s not the beer sliding I remember in California… Everyone picked up their drinks if they were sitting at the bar, and a beer was slid to the recipient, who chugged it. Never did it… not a beer dirinker and would not chug anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well you’ve just given me an education. I had no idea about this game/custom/lunacy. I’ve never been skiing, which may be part of the reason; I’ve also never been inclined to participate in drinking games, including doing rounds of shots to keep up with others. Perhaps the alcohol works as an anesthetic when the inevitable injuries occur from all that tipsy gymnastics, wooden planks, and glassware flying.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In my opinion, gelande quaffing needs to take place not only in the snow, but as it’s name implies, the quaffing should rightly happen within a Gelandewagen hurtling down a ski-jump to be truly authentic.

    As to your question on being American…too many extremes right now to define that phrase. Maybe you should ask us after the revolution/war/impeachment/ we sit on the brink of.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The jokes shrivel pretty quickly these days. But your first paragraph made me curious enough to look for a translation of gelandewagen. One site offered “a four-wheel drive, off road…” before going on to be even more informative, specific, and boring. I was more impressed by the site that translated it as a Helendwagen. Whatever that means, it was at the top of the search page, and I like it.


    • I never did either, but then I never heard of it until I went looking for the slide-on-the-floor form of beer sliding. I don’t think, given the limits of my hand-eye coordination and my relatively short drinking career, that I would’ve tried it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, I love that. Maybe we can develop a machine that holds the glass out–sort of like the ring you grab for on a carousel, or aren’t you ancient enough to remember those? I don’t actually remember them (despite being 103 years old, or thereabouts), but I did read about them when I was a kid. Anyway, when someone finally does grab one, the machine fills a new glass and it slips into position.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I hate drinking games to the degree that I didn’t click on any of your links. There! That said, on a visit to …Compton, no… opposite San Francisco… I always forget the name… Oakland! we were at a writer’s party and we taught them a drinking game named after the greatest Slovenian (drunk) poet in which every finger-pointing, cursing or name-calling leads to drinking. And then he had to hide the vodka bottle from crazy Slovenians in order to end the party. I guess that’s when my hatred started.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Huh??? I am as American as, um, pumpkin pie, and I’ve never heard of ‘beer sliding’. But I HAVE heard of ‘beer pong’, and actually played it. This is the game where you put a red paper cup of beer at each end of a ping-pong (sometimes called table tennis, but not by anyone I know) table and try to ‘ping’ or ‘pong’ the ball into it from the other side. If you miss (which is very likely) you must then drink the contents of the cup. Everybody wins.

    Liked by 1 person

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