fter finishing an ice-cold can of brew, standard operating procedure for most beer drinkers usually involves tossing it away, either over your shoulder or into the trash. (Of course, it you're a manly man, it might also mean crushing that bad boy while unleashing an thunderous belch for added effect).
Bradford Whicker, however, does things a bit differently. If the brew is a rare import, microbrew, or of the exotic variety, its can will be gently rinsed out and placed in the garage of his south Scottsdale home. The 41-year-old isn't hoping to get some cash in exchange for the aluminum, mind you, but is simply adding to his growing collection, what he calls the Scottsdale Beer Museum.
Whicker, who works behind the scenes at US Airways Center, began accumulating his astounding assortment of beer cans, brew memorabilia, and ale ephemera back in 1983 while living in Nuremberg, Germany.
It started with a can of EKU Dunkel Hefeweizen and kept on building from there. From Germany, Whicker had no problem finding interesting and exotic cans to mail back to the United States. Over the past two decades, his collection expanded to include anything and everything ale-related, ranging from coasters and koozies to bottle openers and beer trays.
Whicker's garage is ringed with shelves holding growlers from Arizona breweries like Four Peaks in Tempe and Gentle Ben's in Tucson, as well as mini-kegs, glassware, neon signs, tap handles, and even some homespun beer art (including a snake made from a string of bottle caps).
"Every single one of these cans are ones that only I've drank. That's the rule," he says, pointing the various bookshelves that contain more than 500 different cans.
His collection includes such domestic swill as Coors and Mickey's, imports like Sapporo from Japan and Królewskie from Poland, and regional beers like Pittsburgh's Iron City brand. He also has plenty the same vintage beers including Hamm's, Olympia, and Lowenbrau. The tipsy time-machine goes back even further with rusty antique cone-top cans made by Frankenmuth and Grain Belt, two Midwestern brands.
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Whicker says he's scoured thrift stores, antique boutiques, and other secondhand joints to help his hoarding. In fact, shops such as those are where he's found most of the items in the pride and joy of the museum: his collection of Pabst Blue Ribbon memorabilia.
Whicker's got a certain yen for the Milwaukee-born hepcat fuel, as evidenced by his red ringer tee shirt adorned with the brand's signature blue-ribbon label. He also owns an assortment of PBR belt buckles, vintage advertisements, and even a barbecue. Unlike most museums, Whicker doesn't allow the general public into for a visit to peruse his sudsy stash, only his nearest and dearest, as well as select visitors and even the occasional hack.
"I caught a cab home from the bar the other night and showed the Vietnamese taxi driver," he jokes.