Back To The Age Of Aquarius

I WAS RECENTLY BORING MY editor, Jeffrey Klineman, about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and its hippie generation. I took great joy in waxing nostalgic about this special phase of my life, and about the people I’d spent time with who had also been lucky enough to live through that era. You see, I was one of the 500,000 who actually attended those glorious days in Bethel, N.Y.

Although millions more try to make the claim they were there, we who attended know in our hearts the true impact that the event had on us. (Also, there were sign-in sheets, so if you’re walking around talking about the mud but you weren’t really in it, all will be revealed someday.)

So what does this have to do with beverages? Nothing, really, except for the way that the Woodstock generation revealed itself to be an endless marketing opportunity for soft drink companies, and because the merest mention of me in bell-bottoms is enough to get that pesky Klineman off the phone.

Yet here I am, obliged to write my column, and so I figured I’d write about those years through the eyes of a beverage publisher-to-be.

In 1969 there were few choices when it came to imbibing. At Woodstock, we carted in tap water in gallon jugs, and lots of cans of Coke, 7UP, root beer – and cases of beer and cheap wine. In the mud, life was simple.

Having graduated from Woodstock and survived college, I headed for what was supposed to be a brief adventure in Europe. Little did I know I’d spend the next seven years traveling throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the U.S. – and how much of that trip, carefree and idyllic as it was, would come back to me when I started working with all of you.

You see, each country had beverages that reflected its culture. I was particularly intrigued by all the nectar and fruit based drinks that were offered. There was a unique drink in bulb shaped glass that I loved. Years later, I was re-introduced to that elixir, Orangina. Then there was that water I had in a town called Evian. I also spent many a day at the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam sampling the wares, as well as the cheeses that constituted sustenance for a hippie-on-the-go. My mountain village outside of Innsbruck had a fantastic brew, Adambrau. “Glauwine” accompanied the apres-ski experience throughout the Alps. The wines and liquors of Europe were a joy to behold, each bottle capturing the essence of its region.

Returning to the states for the last three years of my travels, my fondest memories were the Coors runs that we took to bring the “Rocky Mountain High” back East. We’d leave Breckenridge with VW buses filled with Coors and head back home to be greeted with great jubilation. See? Even then, I was working to expand their distribution. I marveled at these new plastic bottles when I returned from overseas. Great concept, I hoped it would stick. I vividly remember my time in Tucson, Ariz. as one of the “enhanced” water we created by adding flavoring to tap water. I guess we were 20 years ahead of our time. Having a bottle of soda, on the open road in a convertible, symbolized the spirit of the times.

Despite the troubles we’ve faced since then, I always look back to that time as a kinder, gentler era that symbolized a generation. Woodstock will always hold that special place in my heart. Happy 40th.