Behold the Forty

A paean to the big bad bottle

"We think it's funny that all these brands are still available, " Alt explains.

Still, the popularity of the tavern, which opened a mere three months ago on Morganford Road a few blocks south of Tower Grove Park, has vastly exceeded the expectations of its proprietors, all alums of the venerable St. Louis landmark Llywelyn's Pub.

"The beer business is blowing us away," reports Alt. "In south city, there's definitely a desire for cheap beer, and canned beer's the best vehicle for that."

The face of post-civil rights Colt .45: Redd Foxx
The face of post-civil rights Colt .45: Redd Foxx
Colt .45 "works every time": Billy Dee Williams
Colt .45 "works every time": Billy Dee Williams
When Josh Alt learned it was actually legal to sell cold 
Forties at his Tin Can Tavern & Grille, he jumped at 
the opportunity.
Jennifer Silverberg
When Josh Alt learned it was actually legal to sell cold Forties at his Tin Can Tavern & Grille, he jumped at the opportunity.
New Jersey-based  "40-Ounce Crew" chief and big 
bad bottle collector Pete "Bruz" Brusyo tips a Forty  
to its memory.
New Jersey-based "40-Ounce Crew" chief and big bad bottle collector Pete "Bruz" Brusyo tips a Forty to its memory.

Challenged with the counterargument that Forties might be a superior delivery system to the can, Alt pleads obsolescence.

"I haven't seen a Forty in five years," he says. "It's my impression that you can't sell them in the city."

Old-timers recall that up until the 1980s, it was possible to procure a Forty barside.

"Miss B's was a black club on Vandeventer, near Novak's," recollects Way Out Club owner Bob Putnam. "It looked really small from the outside, but it went back a ways.

"I used to go to a place called the Blue Pheasant in East St. Louis with Miss B and her crew after hours," Putnam goes on. "They used to sell quart bottles there. But that was, like, twenty years ago."

So if Alt, who already has nostalgia coursing through his veins, could turn back time, would he?

"I think it'd be funny [to serve Forties]," he says. "I mean, that's kind of our whole concept."

As it turns out, establishments with appropriate liquor licenses are legally permitted to sell cold Forties, just as surely as they can sell bottles of fine white wine, assures booze boss Bob Kraiberg.

"It could be consumed on-premise if they have a full drink license," says the city's liquor chief. "I would want to follow the spirit of that [1994] order, which was to keep glass off the street. If somebody drank a 40-ounce bottle inside -- poured it into a glass or whatever and consumed it on-premises -- I wouldn't have a problem with it."

No more than 96 hours after Alt was informed of Kraiberg's legal opinion on the matter, the Tin Can commenced offering Forties of Olde English "800" and Miller High Life, thus joining Beulah's Red Velvet Lounge on Martin Luther King Drive as one of only two city establishments (Gino's Lounge, located just west of the city limits on Natural Bridge, also serves High Life Forties) whose menus continue to pay homage to the iconic glass vessel.

The Forty is dead. Long live the Forty.

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