Rhode Island had a good year in 1774.
As a delegate to the First Continental Congress Stephen Hopkins wrote, "As both wheel and axle require sufficient grease to proceed in good function, so do voices in defense of free speech require such libation as may be necessary to accomplish this sacred purpose…" And a tradition was born.
The well-connected Hopkins appointed a nephew, a lad by the name of Dirk to "look after the keg, and to step lively in its proper distribution." A Hopkins has held the post ever since, (none of them related to the original Hopkins family)
Cliveden Hopkins has devoted himself to this duty since the death of his father, Camden, 22 years ago. The unassuming middle-aged father of three makes his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
We caught up to him recently during a recess on the floor.
The Spoof: Most people don't know that Congress has its own beer vendor. Is it a secret?
Hopkins: (laughs) There's a lot that people don't know about Congress. Is it a secret? Depends who you ask. Technically this became a black op during the Nixon administration, but the job has evolved over the years, it's more like being a concierge, really. I spend a lot of time texting - orders, confirmations, reconciling the PayPal account, that sort of thing.
The Spoof: What brands of beer are available?
Hopkins: (shrugs) Let me tell you something about supply and demand. The people who work in these buildings supply all of the "demand" this country actually admits to on paper. Once you understand that, everything else falls right into place. If you think that your dollar has the right to demand anything, think about where that right comes from - and how many others are out there just like it - so these guys think they're getting whatever they think they want. They don't really care as long as it's cold.
The quaint, Adam Smith idea about rules of "supply" and "demand", work about as much of Sarah Palin does when the currency is political capital. Political capital can disappear faster than a head of beer in a greasy glass. I'll take cash anytime.
The Spoof: You sound like an educated guy. How come you're not on somebody's staff?
Hopkins: Get away from me. Nobody takes a pay cut without an angle. Wilbur Mills and Fanny Fox paid for my education. The morning they dragged them both out of the tidal basin was the saddest day of my daddy's life. Georgetown's not cheap, you know.
The Spoof: What about Prohibition?
Hopkins: What about it? My granddaddy drove a Cadillac. Brand-new one every two years. The "cost of goods sold" column was hardly worth adding up in those years.
The Spoof: What does the future look like from where you stand?
Hopkins: You know it's kind of sad. In the old days, every day was a new game, you could feel the excitement, you knew something was really happening here. [With the strap once again around his neck, he lifted his burden and prepared to head back out onto the floor. I sensed the interview coming to a close.] Now I look up at all the empty seats, and all I can think is that they're missing a great game. See ya'.