For some people, beer is not just a drink, it’s a way of life. One of these people had to be the amazing John Milkovisch.
Sadly John died in 1987 but ever since I came across his name while working on a guidebook to Texas several years ago I’ve been yearning to find out more about him.
Last month, while on a visit to the States, I was at last able to get a little closer to this strange man’s legacy.
They say that true eccentrics never actually realise just how offbeat they are, and that must have been the case with Milkovisch.
For a job he was employed on the railroad, but he did his best work when he came home by turning his small, rather ordinary house in the suburbs of Houston into a shrine to beer drinking.
His beer preference was for cans and every container he opened he later employed for decoration, with the result that his home became known as ‘The Beer Can House’. I tracked down the house in a quiet residential road in the leafy western part of the city.
Shimmer and Shine
I drove past once without noticing it, then, when I finally ground to a halt, I wondered how on Earth I’d managed to pass it by. It’s a ridiculous sight. Over 18 years, John laboriously covered every inch of the walls and roofs with old beer cans that now shimmer and shine in the Texas sun like an absurd suit of armour.
There are cans laid horizontally to make up the garden fence, cans embedded in the concrete borders and even the mailbox is can coated. Hanging from the roof are hundreds of ring-pull lids to create a wind-chime effect in the breeze.
Someone with more time than sense has counted around 40,000 containers here, which is testament to Milkovisch’s drinking ability as well as his perseverance. The place is, quite simply, bizarre.
Frustratingly, despite travelling nearly 5,000 miles to visit it, I couldn’t go in. The property is now held in trust and is currently being refurbished. Special lighting is due to be installed to make the most of the features, events are planned and tours will be on the agenda when all is complete.
Not to My Taste
Having taking in all I could from over the fence, I’d have liked to have raised a glass to old John and his wacky obsession, but, despite us both being beer lovers, I don’t think our tastes would have coincided.
A glance at the labels on the cans he left behind reveals a passion for American light lagers like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Heileman’s Old Style, Pearl Light and Texas Pride, none of which I’d be happy for people to spot in my recycling basket, let alone pressed into the walls of my house.
This feature first appeared in What's Brewing in June 2005. Please note that details and facts may have changed since that first publication. Photograph by David Brown, dabfoto.