UCI's Anthill Pub Puts Kibosh on Quarter Club, Its Legendary Drinking Tradition

The Anthill Pub on a Tuesday night during the first full week of classes.
The Anthill Pub on a Tuesday night during the first full week of classes.
Photo by Charles Lam

Beer aficionados at UC Irvine's Anthill Pub have spent years getting their names carved into the walls by joining the Quarter Club, a collection of people--students, staff members, random people off the street--who have managed to drink at least one beer or glass of wine a day for an entire academic quarter. But at the beginning of this latest quarter, the next wave of hopped-up hopefuls were met with an unpleasant surprise: the Quarter Club was cancelled.

After years of doing battle with multiple various campus organizations about the existence of the club and any of its founded or un-founded "dangers," General Manager Scott Winterstein, who was a UC Irvine graduate student and has spent over 14 years running the pub, conceded the battle.

Academia types drinking and... playing chess.
Academia types drinking and... playing chess.
Photo by Charles Lam

What the campus was lost was the largest source of unintentional beer snobs in South County. The challenge introduced all-comers to craft beers from across California and the United States, discarding Budweiser, Coors and Miller for breweries like Russian River, Stone and "Lagunitas. Needless to say, thirsty UCI kids are sad to see it go.

"When I was younger, I had a lot of older friends who were members of the Quarter Club and told me about it," said Kurt Fortunato, a UCI alum and three-time Quarter Club member. "I decided when I turned 21, I would join.

"Eventually, it became less about drinking a beer everyday and more about making time each day to be with my friends," Fortunato continued.

For many, it was an unexpected change, especially for a campus with a reputation of a lack of campus culture.

The Quarter Club was wildly successful even though it was hosted at a school often labeled as a commuter campus. Starting in the fall quarter of 2008 with an inaugural membership of nine, the wall of honor quickly expanded with a class of 23 in Spring 2009. Participation ballooned afterwards, peaking at 126 participants in Spring 2012. The last admitted class, Spring 2013, numbered 120. In total, over 800 people have joined the club, some upwards of 5 or 6 times.  

The wall of honor
The wall of honor
Photo by Charles Lam

"It was something you could do on campus that you couldn't do anywhere else," said UCI Student Taylor Smith, a two-time member. "You wouldn't expect to find something like this at any UC campus.

"I wouldn't call it a 'club,' but you built bonds with the other participants and the bartenders," Smith continued. "It's kind of a disappointment to see it go. I wouldn't have done it again, but it was unique."

But while it's sad to see something as unique as the Quarter Club go, there's still one bright spot. The Anthill Pub will be celebrating its sixth anniversary in December, hopefully the sixth of many to come without nosy UCI administrators messing with it.

"I wanted to make sure I could run a good pub for the long term," Winterstein said.

Follow Stick a Fork in It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! Follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam!


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