Dr. Sudsy wasn’t long for this world. Composed of a 3-foot rubber tube and a black, plastic mechanic’s funnel, the DIY beer bong my friends and I made would end up in a dumpster on the edge of town. Dr. Sudsy, named after our high school mascot, dutily funneled Keystone Light into our gullets in my parents’ freezing garage, but I made the tough decision to discard it along with all the other incriminating evidence of the party I hosted while my mom and dad were out of town.
And so, at 20 years old, the first beer bong I ever owned also became my last. Now 32, my drinking habits have tapered significantly, but I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Sudsy when I recently attended a tailgate where full-grown adults were shotgunning beers before kickoff with nary a beer bong in sight. It seemed to me that there’s an unspoken social agreement that while binge-drinking is still a beloved adult pastime, partaking in that pastime with a beer bong is frowned upon.
Which begs a literal age-old question: How old is too old to own a beer bong?
A Beer Bong Is Forever
Scientifically speaking, there’s no real reason to throw out an old beer bong. Assuming the plastic meets the government standards for food safety and has been stored away from extreme heat and industrial chemical compounds, there’s little risk in using the same beer bong for centuries on end. In fact, years of moisture, germs and the fermented organic material of leftover beer pose little harm in degrading the chemical makeup of your beer bong.
“Beer bongs made with plastic would remain completely safe so long as you keep them clean and hygienic,” Colin Barker tells me. As the co-founder of sustainable water-softener company FilterSmart, Barker is very familiar with the biotechnology and health issues surrounding long-term consumption via rubber tubing. Years of moldy beer residue will do damage to your body, though, so if you find yourself rekindling a relationship with your college beer bong, Barker advises that you “clean it well before giving it another try.”
Bonging Beer v. Aging Gracefully
Dr. Sudsy might remain in peak physical condition despite having spent the last decade on an island of garbage in the South Pacific, but my body has not. That is to say, from a human health standpoint, there’s definitely a downside to owning and using a beer bong well into adulthood. As we age, our ability to metabolize alcohol declines, so a 30-year-old bonging 12 ounces of beer will have a higher blood-alcohol concentration than they would have in their 20s. Not to mention, consuming high amounts of alcohol in a short period of time isn’t great for your liver, either.
A Beer Bong’s Use in Mature Society
“As two guys who were in our mid-40s when we started Beerbong.com, we would argue that age is but a number when it comes to doing beer bongs — until you wake up the next morning,” Paul Baker, the co-owner and purveyor of beerbong.com (along with Amir Havash), tells me.
As such, the question of “How old is too old to own a beer bong?” mostly hinges on the social context.
“There comes a time when speed becomes less important, and the quality of what you’re drinking and not quantity becomes far more important,” professional sommelier David Bowen argues. “It’s usually around the time when the hangovers become unbearable and social responsibility and economic security outweigh the need to have fun with beer, which in my experience kicks in around three weeks and two days after your 29th birthday.”
Online, the general consensus seems to be that beer-bong ownership should end by your mid-20s. Doing the occasional beer bong “at a bachelor party with old friends is fine,” says Mike, a 34-year-old who took part in a recent discussion of this topic on r/Beer, Reddit’s community for beer aficionados. “But even then I wouldn’t want to be the one who still has a beer bong on hand.”
“A beer bong is just so indelibly associated with university students that it can be a bit cringeworthy to see an adult using one,” 37-year-old Nate Tsang adds. “Adulthood means having to accept how others perceive you, and if you own a beer bong, people are going to see you as a college kid — so much like a letterman jacket, the beer bong should go into storage the day after graduation.”
But for those who find similar sentimental value in their beloved beer bong as their college T-shirts or novelty pint glasses, all is not lost. “A beer bong can serve as a testament and trophy to the invulnerability of youth, to the days when you could imbibe a ridiculous amount of beer with few, if any, ill effects the next day,” concludes Bowen. “And in that sense, you’re never too old to own a beer bong.”