“Ah! Brador people!”
The clerk at the little store near Lacolle knew why we were there. It was 1979, and I didn’t know much about Quebec, but I did know that it was where we went to buy Molson’s Brador beer.
It was kind of a big deal for SUNY Plattsburgh students to drive across the border to score cases of Brador. It was thought to be a fine and superior beer, especially when compared to the Budweiser and Genny Cream Ale we bought at Chuck Wagon on Brinkerhoff Street. But the true appeal of Brador may have been that it was a high-octane brew with 6.2 percent alcohol.
Today, you can get beer that’s much better — and with just as much alcohol — in any supermarket, but back then, Brador was a magic elixir only possessed by the most determined and discriminating drinkers, and it could only be obtained on a journey to a foreign land.
These “Brador runs” would take us into Canada by way of an obscure border crossing out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t remember much scrutiny on the way into Canada, and even less as we passed back through US Customs laden with cases of Brador. It was a different time.
These were my first trips to another country, so everything was interesting and exotic — as if what I encountered in the outskirts of Plattsburgh wasn’t strange enough. At the time, the North Country still felt raw and wild, like West Virginia collided with the Ozark woods. It was a rough and tumble corner of the state that was forgotten by time, and populated by people with strange accents so thick you could barely understand them. Are we really in New York?
As a bunch of stupid kids from the suburbs, we were convinced that we were one wrong turn away from a Deliverance country — but we always made it back with the beer.
Truth is, Brador probably wasn’t that great. Molson stopped making it some years back, and I’m not sure anyone misses it. Like a lot of things, the memory probably better than the truth.