Sunday, May 26, 2013


The Doom that didn't come to Sarnath

The Senpai will understand this
I went ballistic after making a few unsuccessful attempts to purchase a bottle of Founder's Doom. One time I even saw the bottle in the clerk's hand, but was told it wasn't in the system yet, come back at 3:00. I did; they were all gone. After quelling my need for revenge and destroying all evidence of my plans to make the bastards suffer...blueprints make pretty confetti when run through a shredder, by the way...I settled down and realized that's the way it is now. Why get upset? Founder's isn't in this state and we're lucky to get any of it at all, right? And then I went online and saw how many people in the state did get their hands on it and it dawned on me that most of us don't stand much of a chance at the limited releases that come to our local liquor stores for many reasons. 

Big-ass birds with bad attitudes
People who work for the distributors and the liquor stores will naturally get first crack. The scrupulous ones will limit what their employees can purchase. Scruples, like these beers, are not always easily come by. I do understand this and those who work hard to bring us these beers deserve that opportunity. But then there are those establishments whose employees hold these bottles for their friends, with no limits involved. I've stopped shopping at one place that I am certain engages in this practice. They've disappointed me far too many times and my shredder has yet to feast on the plans meant for them. Anyone know where I can get a rabid cassowary? 

I do know many stores that will hold the special releases in back, waiting for someone to ask for them. This eliminates those people who come in and grab a bottle not even knowing what it is. But the main reason for this is that they don't want the shelf emptied by one person who will use anything he doesn't drink as trade bait or for his own profit. These places usually limit one bottle per person. This is perhaps the most fair way to distribute those offerings that have been thinly meted out. 

A quick aside here: it appears that eBay thought it best to obey the law and the gray market for beer looks to be out of business. I'd congratulate them for it if they hadn't let it go on as long as they did. 

The Beer Hunter
Beer hunting has changed since the days of Michael Jackson. When he was on the prowl for new and exciting beer it was because it was the only way to find it. The beer world has changed considerably since he earned his most famous nomicker. At the peak of his hunting activities in the United States (the mid-eighties to the early nineties),  the American craft beer scene was considered "fledgling". Since then we've added over 2,000 breweries! Each year, craft beer grabs a larger share of beer sales and more and more breweries open. We're starting to get what we dreamed of, but be careful for what you wish. 

The demand for craft beer has risen to the point that many breweries can't keep up and either need to expand their capacity or limit their distribution by pulling out of a few states. Those that want to expand their capacity can't always afford to do so and wind up being absorbed by a larger company, which draws the ire of craft beer purists. I know some who refuse to drink Goose Island since their purchase by InBev. The quality has not suffered, but two things drive this boycott: 1) the beer is no longer as exclusive as it once was and 2) the profits go to Big Beer. I understand and accept the latter; the former is just snobbishness at work. For me, I'll still drink BCBS and do so gladly. 

Is it snobbish to want to try Pliny the Younger, Kate the Great, Dark Lord, Sexual Chocolate and other beers in this exclusive and elusive grouping? Maybe, if it's just to say you've had them. But for many, curiosity comes into play. How good are they? Do they stand up to their reputations? Will they bring me to orgasm? But it's not just these singular beers that we look for. There are amazing breweries we don't get in New Jersey, like Three Floyds, Surly, Russian River, New Glarus, Jester King, the Alchemist, Hill Farmstead and Bells, to name just a few. So the beer geeks will travel, trade or attempt to purchase online. 

When I travel, I always look for the local beers and anything I can't get back home. I research ahead of time to find the best places to purchase beer near my destination. I try not to take away too much time from the family vacations in doing so and, as I've mentioned previously, brewpubs are almost always family friendly and typically have good food. So I always plan at least one meal on any trip at a brewpub. But that's the annual vacation. I've begun to cut back on how much I will travel from home just to find beer. I say this as I plan a one day, whirlwind tour of 6 breweries in the Hudson Valley in August. Believe me though, I have cut back due to lack of time and funds. 

I also used to trade quite a bit, but I've cut back on that as well. Shipping costs can kill you and the stress of packing the box to ensure the bottles arrive unscathed can send one's OCD into overdrive. And then there's amassing special beers to have for trade. You want one for yourself and you need to have one to cellar in some cases. So you may need to buy three of a special release for the sake of trading. I also worry that I haven't given back as good as I got. So I tend to err on the side of caution and have, at times, been a little too generous. Beer trading can get expensive and is one reason I'm a huge fan of leftovers for lunch. 

Purchasing beer online can be tricky. Not everyone will ship beer to New Jersey due to a law forbidding it. I don't know which law this is or the details, but I know that beer clubs never have any qualms in doing this.  It may not even be a New Jersey law. It is a Federal offense to ship alcohol via the mail, but I don't know if that changed when the Post Office privatized. It's all so hard to comprehend that I rarely even try this avenue of securing rare beer. 

So am I just settling back and enjoying the year 'rounds? Have I settled on a set selection of beers that rotate with the seasons? Oh hell no! I've turned to the local breweries to quell my fix for new and exciting brews. 

Let's face it, unless you're single, have no children and have a trust fund that allows you to be exceptionally well off without having to work, there's no way you're going to be able to explore all the beer that is currently out there. Even Michael Jackson probably wouldn't know where to begin, but he'd smile knowing that there are now so many options. 

We, the beer geeks, are getting what we want. Craft beer is exploding across the country. It's impossible to keep up with the new breweries, much less the new releases. It gives me a
Gratuitous attractive female
headache even thinking about trying, so to relieve any cranial pressure I've begun to concentrate on what the locals have to offer. "Drink Locally" is becoming quite a mantra and I fully understand why. The success of the local breweries relies on the support and loyalty of the local drinking population. A successful local brewery is good for the economy and, more importantly for beer geeks, makes for better and easier to find trade bait. Once the rest of the country hears all the hype surrounding Carton Decoy, Kane Overhead or Bolero Snort Blackhorn demand will be created and the trade is afoot!

Just a sampling
Does this mean that I won't rush to my local beer store when I know KBS has hit the store? No. Does it mean that I'll stop getting pissed off when they tell me they sold out at 10:05AM? Absolutely! Probably. Maybe. Eh, we'll see. Hopefully instead, I'll just grab my growler and go to the Coverleaf, Poor Henry's, Copper Mine, the Taphouse in Wayne or Three Wise Monks and fill up on Carton, Kane, Bolero Snort or whatever new local brewery the future has in store for us. With breweries opening at the current rate, it should prove to be quite rewarding.