The first 30 minutes of a bottle share are the best. You have that “new beer energy”, seeing tons of old friends and new people and every brew you sample is like the first time you thought “wait, this is supposed to taste good?” You’re in that crazy first-person spinny camera point of view and the world is your oyster.
In the second 30 minutes you realize that you are intoxicated, and either you roll with it or take steps to ensure that you’re adjusting your orbit to something reasonable. In my case, I sat down for ten minutes, contemplating my place in the universe. OK, I checked my fantasy leagues for waiver-wire options.
There are no rules after that time. At first you try every beer offered, and after some time you have the ability to say “no thanks” when seeing a style or a particular beer that isn’t in the wheelhouse. Don’t get me wrong, a bottle share is meant to be that try new things opportunity. Some times you have to know when to say when.
My buddy Jason, who I sometimes think is living in a perpetual bottle exchange, set this event up at Paste Magazine in Avondale. Yes, ma, there still are magazines out there. This part of town has a lot of converted warehouses and this is no different, an open space littered with beer bottles before the first person stepped on board.
I arrived late. In the morning I purposely set up my drive so I could stop at a local bottle shop to get something that was worthy. There was a Google Doc, and by the time the party started there were 76 beers listed. I picked up a Bourbon Barrel Narwhal from Sierra Nevada because someone mentioned the name and I got a Boulevard Smokestack series Tart Cherry Stout. I had consumed the latter before and if nobody else wanted it, I’d take it.
Upon entering, I asked a person how it was going. He simply said to put my beer in the fridge and grab one. So I did. I found the St. Arnold’s Pumpkinator. The good ship Jody Smith once sent me Pumpkinators from 2012-2014 because he’s a beer gawd and fabulous person. It’s a dark pumpkin beer with a good balance of spice. It was a good beer although considering the evening’s lineup, it wasn’t the girl everyone was hitting on.
There were a few beers that made everyone line up. A Firestone Walker beer came out and it was like a Beatles concert. I’ve heard of the brewery but didn’t know the legendary aura around this beer. I had a sip. It was smooth. Sorry, can’t recall the mouthfeel at the moment.
I’m on a sour kick so those were the beers I remember most fondly. Jason pulled out a de Garde blueberry beer which was stupid good. Oskar Blues has one called Death by Coconut that’s accurately named. The New Glarus Serendipity was a solid fruit ale. I’ve had the regular Westbrook Gose that’s sold out all the time so their Beared Break-in Gose was lovely.
My moment in the spotlight was when I grabbed a beer from the Winchester Abbey that simply said Imperial Sour: Belgian Dark Strong. That sounded like a dream beer, a combination of two styles I really like. I grabbed an opener (there were almost as many openers as attendees) popped the cork, and the beer exploded six feet into the air. I even tried to cover it up with my hands, spraying the results over a dozen people. The beer finally settled, after five seconds of the worst party foul I’d ever committed. The community found towels and cleaned up the mess shortly. I had a sip, and what can I say, not that great.
It would have been impossible to record every beer I tried. After a time I knew that my only salvation would be to stagger over to the nearby Palookaville where they serve exactly the food you need after a booze run (burger, tater tots, chocolate shake). I even grabbed my stout on the way out the door, as there was no danger of running out.
The crowd consumed more than 100 bottles of beer, and most of them were bomber sized which is about the size of a bottle of wine. Don’t do the math. It was fun, and not something that can be done more often than once a month. Or in Jason’s case, every day that ends in y. I admire that man.