Some people hold their alcohol better than others. Take Roscoe Village resident Rob Garcea (pronounced Gar-sha). He’s held a liter of beer for five and a half minutes, good enough to earn him the crown of Chicago’s Masskrugstemmen champ and the chance to compete for the national title Sept. 15 in New York’s Central Park.
Masskrugstemmen literally means “beer-stein holding” and is a popular sport in Bavaria, where clearly they’ve never heard of cornhole. The rules are pretty straightforward: Whoever holds a one-liter stein, filled to the brim with beer, at arm’s length the longest wins. Feel free to play along at home with a five- or 10-pound weight and aim for the 19-minute world record.
“It’s a lot to do with strength, but it’s a mental thing too,” said Pat Parsons, who emceed the Chicago contest, sponsored by Hofbrauhaus, at Wrigleyville’s Uberstein. “I told everybody there, think about yourself somewhere on a beach.” The tournament ran July through August, with weekly winners advancing to the finals.
The six-foot six-inch Garcea, a former tight end, wrestler and hurdler at Elmhurst’s York High School, entered on a whim and nailed the strength part. “I do construction too,” he told us over pints at Mulligans (2000 W. Roscoe St.). “I’m holding my screw gun out all day.”
The mental half came easily as well. “I was holding it watching the Sox game and zoned out.” After four and a half minutes, he was the last man standing, winning his qualifying round and moving on to the finals, where he once again bested his foes. “My shoulder was on fire,” he said.
“He seemed very competitive,” Parsons says of Garcea. “He was a lock to win.”
Now it’s on to the Big Apple, which Garcea is excited to visit, hoping to bump into his “man crush” Anthony Bourdain and take in the sights, particularly the architecture. As a foreman for RG Construction, the family business started by his grandfather, Garcea has worked on his share of highrises, including Trump Tower. “I stood on top, at the base of where the spire goes.”
These days, his eyes are trained closer to the ground. He’s been house hunting with wife Michelle and while other prospective home buyers might be dazzled by jacuzzi tubs and granite counter tops, Garcea knows better. “I look a lot at the foundation,” he said. “If it’s block foundation, it’s going to erode.”
For now, he’s focused on becoming national Masskrugstemmen champ and earning the grand prize of a trip to Munich. (“What else can you do three times and become U.S. champ?” asks Parsons.) He’s been training with an eight-pound weight, two minutes up, then two minutes down. “If I can go 10 minutes, I think I’ll win,” he said. “It’s kind of a lark but there’s a competitive streak in me. I want to win.”