There’s something missing from my beer, and it’s not that great snap of fresh, citrusy hops.
It’s some common sense and decency.
For those who keep up with brewery releases of highly sought after beers, you are already well aware of what I’m talking about. Or maybe you’re part of the reason I’m writing this, and it’s all lost on you. And for those fortunate souls who aren’t in the know about what some folks will do to score some of the most highly acclaimed beers out there, possibly all you need to do is take a look at how some breweries are handling their release events for such beer.
Consider, for example, that some breweries are adding so many rules to their beer release events in an effort to make them fair to everyone, they seem end up sounding like a statistical problem the folks at NASA couldn’t even begin to figure out. And while it seems to be nearly impossible to please everyone who comes out for the beer, such changes seem to be aimed at those folks who drive hours in from other areas, other states, mostly to acquire as much of the beer in question as they can, only to often trade it away for other highly, similarly sought after beer, or even sell it to the highest bidder.
It isn’t that these kinds of beers don’t deserve seeking out. There’s no problem in that. But in my opinion, there is a problem in the behaviors some exhibit to acquire them. Should you, for example, find yourself in one of those typically lengthy lines at a beer release, get ready to move back. Simple line jumping is so commonly discussed in online beer forums during and post events that it is a given. But that’s child’s play next to other tactics. Hiring a small group of others (who might care less about the beer) to line up and help you acquire the largest quantity possible to haul back home is yet another commonality. Some of the crazier stories involve the photocopying of admittance wrist bands, for example.
And heaven forbid should those who typically plan to hoard up as much of a particular beer as possible somehow not end up with it, or as much as they would’ve liked. Recently, a certain South Carolina based brewery held the annual release of their much loved and highly traded Imperial Stout – but did it silently. Without warning. Without fanfare. And without notice. What would seem like an attempt to give as many of the locals a shot at buying some brought out, of course, the worst in others. The ranting that ensued on the brewery’s Facebook page from those who would’ve otherwise planned an invasion of the brewery on release day from more distant locales – likely with car trunks emptied and ready to load up – went on and on for close to two hundred comments. (In all fairness, some of those comments were in defense of the brewery’s silent release. But it’s important to note these folks often characterized the latter group with photos of crying babies within the thread – an accurate visual description that anyone with a sense of reason at all would have to agree with, I think.)
True, it would seem that the breweries themselves don’t often seem to be experts at handling large crowds of whale seeking zombies, and have to learn on the fly from one event to the next. And yes, it seems to be nearly impossible to please everyone who comes out for well attended beer releases. I also plainly realize that these are just a portion of the beer crazed folks out there, and plenty – the majority – of people are out there enjoying the beer for the often well crafted, incredibly interesting beverage that it is. But the fact remains that there is plenty of poor consideration of others and immature behavior in the form of a wildly out of bounds sense of entitlement out there among some craft beer geeks. And no matter how far I try to stay away from such things, it still has a way of simply taking some of the fun out of craft beer. I simply wonder sometimes if we’re truly savoring it all – the beer, the scene, the experience of trying something new – any longer, at least for the right reasons.
In a counterpoint of sorts to all this, I thought I would throw out a list of four of the most memorable beers I’ve had to date, though defined not necessarily by the beer itself. There have been plenty of others, but here are four right off the top of my head. These beers include such rare and hard to find releases as Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon and Wedge Brewing’s (Asheville) Pale Ale. Not beers that are worth whale status, right – or even checking out? Read on.
4. Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA, Blacksburg ‘Brewdo’ Festival, 2012. I had met the rep who was working the area for Heavy Seas a couple years before this festival, and he instantly came across as a completely genuine and friendly sort of guy. We exchanged a few emails occasionally, but then I ran across him at the smallish, mainly flagship based Brewdo festival in 2012. Over a couple of pours of Heavy Seas’ flagship IPA Loose Cannon, we had an unexpected but very welcome conversation about how each other’s lives were going, where they were heading, and even relationships, which was timely, at least for me. He lent an ear, when it was not expected. It was as if the talk was between two guys who saw each other weekly at the bar instead of two guys who really only saw each other at festivals, at best – a testament to not only how conversations can open up over good beer, but moreover, to this particular fellow’s easy going, disarmingly friendly nature. All in all, it might have only lasted twenty minutes or so, but I’ll never forget it. Thanks, man….and Cheers, as always.
3. Adroit Theory/Three Notch’d Bloody Roots Ale, 2014. Huddled tightly under a pop up to keep us out of an unwelcome rain storm, myself, my wife, and a couple friends had decided to camp out after a nearby beer festival that we had attended earlier in the day. Of course, not ones to let the spirit of the day die too quickly off, we also decided to have a mini bottle share that night at the campsite. By the light of the lone camping lantern sitting on the tiny table between us, we talked over some of the beer we had tasted at the festival, as we occasionally reached into our coolers throughout the evening to grab bottles we had to hold up to the light to truly see. The chilly air, the rain, the tight quarters – none of it could’ve mattered. It turned out to be one of those somewhat unexpected, great evenings with friends which was made more memorable by our deference to the dreary rain and the cool temps. Then it got even better. It was not lost on us that the fine folks from Adroit Theory, who had presented at the same festival we had attended, were, unbelievably, camping close by. And when they invited us over to sample their Bloody Roots collaboration beer late that night, a beer modeled after the drink of the same name – the night become even more memorable. How’s that for neighborly. Add in that the beer was a perfect solution to ward off that night’s chill to boot.
2. Wedge Brewing’s Paynes Pale Ale, January 20, 2015. Having never visited Wedge before, my wife and I didn’t quite know what to expect. On an unseasonably mild January day, however, we shared a couple flights while taking in what we immediately could tell was a local’s favorite of a brewery, even in a town of about a dozen choices. Gathered around the picnic tables just outside the taproom were group after group of friends who I assumed took the weather’s hint and escaped their more rigid responsibilities of the day to share beers and conversation in the hazy mid afternoon sunshine, all complete with a lazy dog lying underneath nearly every other table. The whole scene was welcoming, incomparably laid back, and even though there was a line for flights and pints, not a single one of the folks in it even twitched to jump anyone else.
1. The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness, October 12, 2012. Sometime during the surprise bottle share that my wife had planned for my 40th birthday – reason enough to include it in this post – I stood behind the kitchen bar in our apartment, at a moment when I suddenly found myself not engaged in tasting, or talking, or pouring. It was a sweet snapshot, and I’ll likely never forget it. Each of my good friends who came to help celebrate were on the other side of the bar, happily and thoroughly engaged in some sort of storytelling with the other next to them, with plenty of interspersed laughter. And the beer? Some of the bottles which inspired those stories were likely not that easy to get, while others were probably easily found on store shelves. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was the company.
For those who might miss the point, I’d imagine you’d say you’ve never had to chase down any of these beers, and might not even imagine having them to begin with. I’d say that I guess you’re missing out then, though it may be time to question what exactly you’re missing out on.