In 1981, Sports Illustrated published a photo of Andre the Giant that has fascinated beer drinkers for nearly three decades. In it, the 7-foot, 500-lb professional wrestler sits at a cafe table, a 12 oz. can of Molson Canadian looking like a doll’s accessory in his gargantuan hand. If not for writer Terry Todd cheersing him in frame, it would look like a trick of the camera.
Seeing the photo for the first time is a mind warp, a surreal illustration of Andre’s superhuman stature. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling that Cincinnati beer geek Chad McDevitt recreates with every beer he picks up.
The first time I saw McDevitt’s Instagram @fists_full_of_beers, I thought he was using forced perspective. The can of Two Roads Road 2 Ruin IPA set between his clawed thumb and forefinger looked like it had just climbed a beanstalk to its doom.
“I bartend on Friday nights, and when people order pitchers of beer or 23 oz. glasses of beer, they're always thinking I'm giving them a smaller size,” McDevitt says. “I set it down on the table, and they just kind of look at it, and they look at me.”
Unlike Andre, who was billed as being 7’4” but was realistically closer to 6’11”, McDevitt is about the height of an average NBA shooting guard. By non-wrestling standards, a big dude, but he’s always had exceptionally large hands and feet, even for his size. At 6’5”, he wears a size 18 shoe and can palm a watermelon. Still, commenters on Instagram or in the dozen-or-so Reddit and Facebook beer groups where he’s active can’t help but bring up the wrestling giant. It happens every post.
“I get that all the time. ‘Are you Andre the Giant?’ or something obviously related to him,” McDevitt says. “It never really bothered me, like, you can't make fun of me for having big hands.”
In his teens, McDevitt’s size made him feel awkward, but it has also been a gateway. A football coach immediately recognized his meaty mits and played him at center, leading to a lifelong love affair with the sport (McDevitt exclusively wears Steelers gear in all his photos). What once was a hindrance became a point of pride. At one point, he had Ohio vanity plates that read THUMBS. After college, McDevitt got a job as a bouncer at a bar in Cincinnati, and his love affair with beer began.
Every night, McDevitt and the staff were given a shift beer. McDevitt didn’t start drinking until he was 21, and since then he’d been on a strict diet of Budweiser. But the bar where he worked the door was on the crest of the city’s craft beer wave. They had over 20 beers on tap, and he found himself experimenting with the options.
Now, he’s an omnivorous drinker. But his posts aren’t endorsements or critiques. They’re a travelogue following McDevitt and his wife Lauren, who is often seen in his posts to give a sense of scale, as they drink through the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati scene. He counts Braxton, Mad Tree, Streetsie, Fretboard, and Taft’s among his favorites, being careful to name-drop the breweries because he’s not just posting these pictures for the shock value.
McDevitt knows what it takes to go viral. In 2014, he recorded a video proposing to Lauren moments after giving birth to their daughter. The video has 1.3 million views and is still continually re-shared even though their kid is in first grade. Friends online had been encouraging McDevitt to go for viral fame again, and in August of this year, he coalesced and started the Instagram page. His first post was him pinching a can of West Side Oktoberfest like it was an artifact from a tiny lost civilization.
“I thought that was just kind of goofy,” McDevitt says. “If I get free beer out of it, that'd be cool, but other than that, I really have no intended purpose for it. It's the same way with that video of my proposal. I just posted it. It took off, but it wasn't my goal to try and get famous.”
McDevitt truly has a bartender’s taste in beers, and the pickups he posts on Instagram aren’t the clout-chasing sensational brews you see on most influencer pages. His favorite beer is the Cincinnati-exclusive Sam Adams 513, but it’s barely ever brewed anymore, so he picks up any Oktoberfest, amber, or winter lager he can find. He’s not immune to the haze craze, and triple dry-hopped NE IPAs like Braxton’s Tropic Flare have made their way into the feed. The one thing he can’t stomach is sours, but he’ll try anything. Even if he can’t finish it, he’ll snap a pic before he pours it down the drain.
Perhaps the most startling image is McDevitt holding a 7 oz. bottle of Little Kings Cream Ale, the bottle practically disappeared in the walls of his grip. That one was an homage to his pastor, who saw a billboard showing the brand’s diminutive bottles held in a giant’s grip and thought of him.
At just under 400 followers, McDevitt is far from being Instagram famous, but he’ll keep posting new beers as long as he can stop beer fans mid-scroll to check out what the Fezzik-handed Midwesterner has been drinking lately.