SILVER SPRING — It started when Darrin Middleton was 12 years old, walking around his Calverton neighborhood with his older brother, Justin Middleton. The boys started collecting the beer cans they found while walking in the woods and in trash piles. Then the brothers started going with their father to his Wednesday night bowling league where they asked everyone who finished a beer if they could have the can.
One time, the two brothers and a friend were checking out a dumpster when they spotted a one-gallon beer can. Without hesitating, all three young men jumped right into that large, smelly trash receptacle, pulling out a German draft beer can.
The brothers went to beer conventions, but they never purchased any expensive or rare cans.
“We were just collecting anything at the time,” Middleton, who lives in Silver Spring with his wife and two children, aged 13 and 17.
“At that time, everyone was collecting cans. That’s what you did when you were a kid,” he said, acknowledging that most people didn’t collect quite so many.
It was a good hobby, he said. “The designs are neat, and they weren’t incredibly hard to find.”
35 years later, the Silver Spring resident proudly shows off his downstairs man-cave which now features 644 12-ounce domestic and imported beer cans neatly stacked on 12 shelves along one wall.
In addition to the cans, the rest of the room is completely filled with beer paraphernalia, including a magnetic board covered with craft beer bottle caps, 120 beer steins that he mostly bought as a member of an Anheuser-Busch club, a Busch beer clock and lots of posters, including one that reads, “Keep Calm and Have A Beer.”
Several cabinets are filled with neatly-stacked collections of bottle openers and beer glasses.
A few steps below – in what Middleton describes as his sub-basement – are another 200 beer cans.
When asked if any of the cans were worth a lot of money, the commercial landscaping installer said, “No. I wouldn’t be able to retire on it.”
For years, the cans sat in boxes “and stayed in the basement,” he said. But when his wife, Lisa Middleton, stopped running a basement day-care facility out of their home in 2002, he decided the time had come for the man-cave he always wanted.
“It took us a couple of weekends” to set it all up, he said.
Seeing his collection displayed helped bring back a lot of memories, and he can recall where he had found quite a few of the cans.
These days Middleton prefers drinking craft beers to walking around in a search for empty cans, and has visited most of the local craft beer breweries he buys from.
But he isn’t saving the cans, and says he hasn’t added to his collection in years. And while he enjoys watching games featuring his favorite sports teams – the Washington Redskins and the Washington Capitals – surrounded by his cans, he doesn’t know what he’ll do with the ones he has eventually.
His wife prefers staying upstairs, and while she doesn’t mind his vast collection, she admitted, “I’m trying to clean stuff out of this house.”