Iron-armed Rogelio Juarez’s dream of holding a heavy glass beer mug longer than any American came to a crashing end on Saturday as the pride of Brooklyn finished sixth at the national beer mug holding competition in Central Park.
The overflow crowd was almost entirely behind Juarez, a busser at Fort Greene’s Der Schwarze Kölner — and the oompahs of the crowd did get Juarez to heretofore uncharted territory, a personal best of nearly eight minutes.
But it wasn’t enough to beat Cleveland native Jerry Karn, a 45-year-old upstart, who held the one-liter mug for an excruciating 8 minutes and 52 seconds.
Juarez didn’t care.
“I’m happy because, in Brooklyn, everybody sees my photo in the newspaper and says, ‘You’re the champion,’ ” said Juarez, a 49-year-old South Slope resident.
Contenders from as far as Las Vegas, Milwaukee, and Panama City lined a massive stage while five gimlet-eyed judges scrutinized every second.
Juarez, a 5-foot-nothing fireplug, came on the borough scene last year, when he won the Fulton Street bar’s mug-holding title in its debut. He defended that title on Aug. 23, then became the borough’s champion a week later at 4 minutes and 45 seconds — earning a spot at the third annual U.S. Masskrugstemmen contest.
But it was not meant to be.
“He did his best, and though he didn’t win, we were all excited by the crowd,” said Greta Acosta-Black, head beer wench at Der Schwarze Kölner. “They rooted for him more than any other contender.”
Juarez’s 14- and 13-year-old nieces and 28-year-old nephew rooted for him with the bar staff. A documentary crew from Der Spiegel, a German magazine, recorded the action for a segment on Juarez.
Karn knew to watch out for the Brooklyn champ.
“He was outstanding,” said Karn, a former Marine with a ZZ Top beard. “He’s a good guy with a good work ethic and honestly he was one I was worried about. He was tough competition.”
The name of the Bavarian sport loosely translates into “beer-mug lift,” and has tipplers raising a filled glass mug for as long as possible.
The beer-wielding arm must be held out straight, parallel to the ground and directly in front of the chest. If you spill a drop, you’re disqualified.
It sounds easy, but we assure you, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
The country’s previous champion, Vladimir Kunca of New Jersey, returned on Saturday, but was shaking and dripping beer before dropping out around seven minutes, three and a half minutes short of his personal best. The world record is an excruciating 19 minutes.
Lenny Coyne, the head judge and chairman of the Oktoberfest German-American Steuben Parade, said the contest depends on how the entrants feel on that day, noting that the inaugural winner clocked in at 16 minutes. But even Coyne had a soft spot for Juarez.
“He did a great job and he really concentrated,” he said. “I hope he’s back next year.”
Oh, that’s certain.
“I’ll never give up,” Juarez said. “I’ll see you next year.”