Many 55 year-old men like beer, but not as much as Lance Rice. Lance is an Ohio native whose passion for beer began at a young age. It was Monday, July 8, 1974 when Lance started collecting beer cans at the age of 16. Since then he’s collected literally thousands of beer cans, and he is working on a book that will be a “beautifully written and photographic encyclopedia of American beer culture past and present.”
Lance’s nephew, Aaron Rice, is helping out by taking his uncle on a tour of breweries around the country. Aaron is also a filmmaker, and he’s shooting a documentary called Lance’s Brewery Tour, which he hopes will capture the “beauty of autism” and inspire others living with the disorder to chase their dreams.
Going on a trip of this magnitude is a huge achievement for Lance, who has never left home without a parent or guardian. He’s had to overcome many fears, including claustrophobia, fear of heights, and social phobias. Aaron Rice says,
“At an age when most people give up on development, Lance is experiencing the most rapid period of emotional, cognitive, and personal growth in his entire life. To fully understand Lance’s autism, as a child he wouldn’t leave his home, would not speak, and was institutionalized. Now fast forward half a century. Lance began his brewery tour just over a month ago and in that time he tackled claustrophobia, fear of heights, social phobias, initiated a conversation with a stranger for the first time and even addressed a crowd. For those touched by autism,Lance represents incredible hope. He is an adult who is embracing autism, achieving a dream most thought was impossible, and inspiring countless people as he journeys – and he’s doing it one brewery at a time.”
Lance’s passion is not just about drinking beer, though he does enjoy dark, full-bodied brews. He can identify how a beer was brewed, the hops used, and the flavor profile from just one sip. He is also passionate about the history of beer, and of the brewing industry.
In a world where most professionals are encouraging people with autism to branch out of their restrictive, repetitive interests, Lance is harnessing his, and making progress at the same time. His journey is also proof that people with autism and other disabilities can make significant gains at any age. For a boy who was once considered “low-functioning,” who grew up during a time when autism was misunderstood, and who went through treatments that would now be considered unethical and even illegal, he is living proof that autism does not have to stop anyone from living their dreams.