- Associated Press - Saturday, May 1, 2021

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Last Sunday afternoon, a dozen friends gathered near the entrance to the Deurty Boys Gallery in the French Quarter, where artist Lance Vargas exhibits his splintery sculptures, cobbled from salvaged wood.

Vargas had invited everyone to share his bounty of 96 12-ounce cans of Miller Lite that had been presented to him by the Molson Coors Beverage Co. as a reward for his unwillingness to accept any substitute for his beloved beverage.

The sudsy party was the culmination of circumstances that began on March 11, when tech-savvy miscreants hacked Molson Coors, disrupting the availability of Miller Lite, particularly the Miller Lite that comes in 12-ounce cans. Vargas certainly could have purchased another brand of beer until the Miller Lite 12-ouncers reappeared. But he wouldn’t hear of it.

According to Vargas, there is only one brew that is perfectly compatible with the Crescent City’s climate and cultural milieu, and that beer is Miller Lite. Vargas could have also slaked his thirst with Miller Lite in 16 or 24-ounce cans, but that too was out of the question.

As he explained it, the great virtue of Miller Lite is that its ethanol content is such that one “can go all day,” sipping from one 12-ounce can after another, without undue fatigue. To attempt to switch to another size could “ruin your cadence,” he warned, resulting in unpredictable, possibly undesirable effects. It wasn’t something he was willing to risk.



The scarcity of 12-ounce Miller Lites was no great crisis for Vargas or anyone else, of course. But the shortage was an unsettlement in an era when there had been far too many unsettlements already. When the story of the Miller Lite drought hit the paper, Vargas became the face of New Orleans’ thirst for continuity and normalcy.

Vargas said his notoriety paid off immediately, when a representative of a local brewery, the Faubourg Brewing Co. (formerly Dixie Beer) provided him with free samples of their own light brew. He was grateful, but unswayed. The Faubourg product, he said, “was good with Chinese food,” but lacked the diaphanous, weightless quality of Miller Lite. It was “more full-bodied,” he said, “and you carry that body around with you.”

Then, as Vargas put it, “The mothership came and dropped off her load.”

An emissary from Molson Coors phoned to say they had delivered four 24-can cases of 12-ounce Miller Lites, plus “a ton of swag,” including koozies, Hawaiian-style shirts, a pool mattress, a picnic blanket, a hammock and coolers to ice down the beer.

The only trouble was, the mothership had mistakenly dropped off the load at Vargas’ ex-wife’s house.

“Maybe,” he said, they got my old address off of an old LinkedIn profile, or something.”

“Luckily,” he said, his wife and he are on good terms, because she could have held the treasure “for ransom.”

Vargas intended to leave his former wife a couple of cans of beer as a gesture of gratitude, but he drove by to pick up the treasure during a downpour and it slipped his mind. “I had to run,” he said.

Vargas said that there was only one thing to do with the 96-can trove: Share it with friends and social media followers.

“I didn’t want to just gloat about my good fortune,” he said.

Like a pirate doling out plunder to his faithful crew, Vargas passed out cans from his Miller Lite ice chest on April 24. The sun shone, white beer cans were tipped back when full and crushed when empty, and laughter regularly erupted.

Once again, Vargas said, Miller Lite allowed him to go the distance. “It looked like I was going to need a nap, but we rallied,” he said.

“We just wanted to share a token of our appreciation with Mr. Vargas for his passion and loyalty to Miller Lite,” a Molson Coors representative wrote in an email, explaining the company’s generosity.

The brewery management was especially charmed that Vargas decorates some of his whimsical sculptures with Miller Lite bottle caps, collected for him by friendly bartenders.

Finally, the Molson Coors rep lauded him for “his understanding that the iconic beer is the perfect beverage for iconic New Orleans celebrations.”

The spottiness of Miller Lite distribution persists. Though Vargas eventually discovered that Costco and other area grocery stores had stocks of 12-ounce cans, on April 24 the walk-in cooler at the Robert supermarket in the Marigny was bereft of the properly portioned brew.

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