By Ahrvid Enghom: What fuels science fiction and its fandom? Easy: bheer! (Yes, I spell it that way.)
Sweden has a complicated relationship to bheer. Strong bheer was actually banned until the rationing book (“motboken”) system on alcohol was scrapped in 1955, but you could buy weaker pilsner lager. When stronger bheer became legal people ordered “a strong bheer” in the pubs and even “a big strong one” (“en stor stark”).
Few Swedish pubs offer “a pint”. You order “en stor stark”. The problem is that there’s no definition of how “big” (“stor”) such a bheer is! The local paper Mitt i Södermalm has rushed to rescue, and put their top investigative reporters on the problem: how big is “a big strong one”?
In its latest issue, February 6, they have measured the liquid contents of “en stor stark” on 100 Stockholm pubs.
Should you come to a convention in Stockholm (the next one is Fantastika/Swecon June 16-18, https://fantastika2018.wordpress.com/in-english/ ) you may benefit from the following statistics:
- The biggest big strong one was 57 cl (72 SEK) or a pint – yes, you can get those, and it was of course served on the English-style pub The Tudor Arms on Grev Street.
The smallest big strong one was 25 cl (40 SEK), and the place to avoid is Habibi on Skåne Street,
The most expensive one costed 89 SEK (around 10 Euros) for 40 cl and if you’ve just signed a golden book contract you can waste your money at Proviant on Sture Street.
The cheapest one costed just 25 SEK (40 cl) at Lion Bar on Långholms Street. Overjoyed fans are seen checking their maps – and the closest Metro station is Hornstull.
The AVERAGE big strong bheer (from the 100 tested) was 41.64 cl, and the average price was 61.64 SEK (slightly less than 6 Euros).
The paper also calculated the alcohol/SEK (alcohol per Swedish crown). 1 cl of alcohol costs 29.36 SEK (ca 3 Euros) on average.
The best alcohol/SEK is to be found at D-Pub Klosterkeller on Horns Street, which by offering 50 cl for just 30 SEK (ca 3 Euros) gives you 1 cl of alcohol for 12 SEK (ca 1.2 Euro). All of fandom cheers!
Everything from this important feat of investigative journalism when it at its best can be found here: https://alltomstockholm.se/restaurangbar/krog/krogar-mycket-glaset/. It’s in Swedish, but if you have a few strong ones, that will not be a problem.
Someone posted the image above on a sports-themed message board and I thought those poor mundanes were missing a lot because they’d never heard of the Bheer Can Tower to the Moon.
Dave Rike was among the Bay Area fans who created that Tower of fable in the mid-1950s (Terry Carr and Bob Stewart contributed as well). Rike retraced its history in an article for Mimosa 15 (talking about himself in third person):
While Dave Rike might have been the first to refer to the Tower in print that doesn’t mean that the idea was entirely original with him. It might have been at one party or another that one of the gang would idle away his time while listening to endless fannish talk of the others by attempting to stack up some empty bheer cans. (If they’re drunk by a fannish sort then they become bheer instead of beer cans.) All cans at that time were made of steel instead of extruded aluminum and might have stacked easier. “Hey, Bob, what’re trying to do there?” “Oh, I dunno, jes’ thinking that if I had enough cans I could build a tower that’d reach up to the moon.” “Oh yeah, well you buy the bheer and I’ll drink it for ya.” Something like that. Dave doesn’t remember any attempt to set up a Tower but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
The Tower cast a figurative shadow over fandom in decades to come. I’m sure that’s why the late Randy Bathurst sculpted a beanie-wearing bheer can cranking a mimeo for the original FAAn Awards. And rich brown, Dr. Gafia, said in his faannish lexicon:
Occasionally, even today, partying fans at conventions will construct such a Tower out of bheercans in Terry Carr’s memory. At Magicon  this was attempted on a night when the moon was not visible but Art Widner was heard to intone, “If we build it, it will come.”
My own unforgettable experience with the Tower tradition happened while I was co-chairing the 1978 Westercon. We used the hotel’s Presidential Suite as our evening hospitality suite, serving Heineken in bottles (Poul Anderson was GoH) and other beverages in cans. Both side bedrooms were left open for the party, including mine, but one night I was so exhausted I crashed on my bed while the party carried on without me. I awoke in the middle of the night to discover that everyone had gone, leaving the doors wide open. Before going, fans had stacked all the empties in a pyramid on a coffee table, almost reaching the ceiling – the traditional bheer can tower. And lastly, I discovered my wristwatch had been stolen from my arm while I slept.