ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Michele Norris.
Here's a story for you. A guy goes into a bar. He wants a Budweiser. The beer arrives and it's in a can. If the label says 10 ounces instead of the usual 12, that beer-drinker is most likely in St. Mary's County in southern Maryland. The town's cans aren't sold in very many places in the U.S., but in St. Mary's, the ten is, indeed, the king of beers.
NPR's Noah Adams has the 10-ounce history or how a team of eight big horses brought happiness and prosperity to a small-town distributor.
NOAH ADAMS: Most beer-drinkers in St. Mary's County don't really care how the 10ounce came to be. They just like it. Everyone seems to offer the same three reasons. It tastes better, it stays colder longer, it feels good in your hand. At Toot's Bar, Guy Mundy and Gerri Mundy, husband and wife, are both drinking from 10- ounce cans.
GERRI MUNDY: I like it because it stays cold long enough. They stay so cold.
GUY MUNDY: It feels good in my hand. Goes down quicker. Stays cold.
ADAMS: The Mundys prefer Bud Light. Bud Light 10-ounce is the number one selling beer in St. Mary's County. Number two, that would be the regular Budweiser 10ounce can. St. Mary's County, Maryland, it's small town's countryside, a peninsula reaching down reaching down to the Chesapeake Bay, where the road ends. If this is your home, you might not realize the 10-ounce can is special.
At the Chamber of Commerce, Helena Kayes told me she went to visit her brother out in St. Louis and they took at tour of Anheuser-Busch.
HELENA KAYES: They had a display of all the different bottles and cans that they've used over the years and I couldn't find the 10-ounce Bud, so I walked up and asked about it and they had no idea what I was talking about. And they were like, I've never heard of that, and I said, well, I'm from St. Mary's County, Maryland, and we have 10-ounce Buds.
ADAMS: The 10-ounce drinkers often pay a 12-ounce price. Budweiser will offer a discount on the 12, hardly ever on the 10. Check it out with a restaurant bartender, Tracy Dickens.
How much, at your bar, would a Budweiser 10ounce can be?
TRACY DICKENS: $2.75.
ADAMS: How much would a 12-ounce can be?
ADAMS: 51 degrees in the warehouse of the Guy Distributing Company. Once or twice a week, a tractor-trailer arrives from Houston, Texas, where the 10ounce is brewed and canned. Glenn Guy, whose father and uncle started this place, prefers the 10 himself, but he can't explain it. What exactly is the difference?
GLENN GUY: There is none, but a lot of 10-ounce drinkers will swear there is. We've even had people that had been in like a taste-test situation, and they've actually been correct, and they've been able to pick the 10-ounce out without seeing it, just from the taste, but there's no difference. There can't be.
ADAMS: Glenn Guy's point here is that the beer is made in big vats in Houston. The same beer goes into every size container. Anheuser-Busch says all Budweiser has what they call the exact same taste profile, but the company historian admits the 10-ounce can has long been associated with a phenomenon that few can explain, especially in St. Mary's County.
Now, let's take the story back 50 years to when Glenn Guy was nine years old, and the big horses came to town. This was the same year that Budweiser introduced the 10-ounce. In those days, people bought their beer mostly in the country bars and the local brands from Baltimore were .05 cents less than the premium nationals. Budweiser said, we'll match the price by using a smaller can, and then bring on the Budweiser Clydesdales. Famous, even then, the team of eight matched draft horses would come to parade at the St. Mary's County Fair.
MUNDY: Gussie Busch Jr. The sales for Budweiser, nationwide, had slipped. He got on a train, and he went coast to coast and met with every wholesaler, and he asked my father, he said, what can I do to help you, and dad said, let me have those horses. If I can get those horses, I really think I can work that. He turned to his secretary and told her, says, book the damned horses in that gruff voice of his.
JIM GRAY: St. Mary's County, what do you call it? What's the word I'm looking for? Tradition.
ADAMS: Jim Gray drinks to that, opening a can at Buzzy's General Store. Perhaps because of the Clydesdales at the country fair years ago, a can size that failed in other markets became the St. Mary's favorite, earning the absolute loyalty of Jim Cullison, another patron of Buzzy's, one of several men who come in the afternoon for what they call the four-to-five.
JIM CULLISON: It's just what we've been drinking all our life in here, and I take it-like when we go away, I'll load the motor home, six, seven cases, and take it with me because when I run out of 10ounce, I don't drink anymore. It's just, I'm done. I got a 36-foot motor home. In the side compartment, my wife has her 10-ounce Bud Light, and I have my 10ounce Bud, and we just get a little supply in their for ourselves, and when it gets down, we come back in to Buzzy's and buy some more.
ADAMS: This summer, you might spot Jim Cullison out on the Chesapeake Bay. He'll be taking customers on his new fishing boat. She is called TenOunce.
Noah Adams, NPR News.
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