Beers of the week: The Art of the Beer Deal

Last Wednesday night, I was invited to a bottle share at my friend Jason Dominy’s house. Jason is a beer wizard. He podcasts about the subject (here’s him talking Craft Beer 101), writes about it and lives it. He was “releasing” a batch of beer he made influenced by Funky Buddha’s Last Snow.

During the share we had a few rare bottles which is a mainstay of Dominy gatherings. He and friends share bottles of beer that are difficult if not impossible to acquire by going to local bottle shops. On his wall he had his “Jesus” collection. The “base” beer of this collection is called Even More Jesus, an Evil Twin creation that’s a motor-oil-thick stout. He had collected bottles from 2013 through last year and had some variants.

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A variant beer is when a base beer that’s popular gets dressed up. There was a version aged in maple barrels, a Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged variant, multiple coffee variants and a bourbon-barrel one named Double Barrel Jesus.

Jason’s goal was to have a Come to Jesus beer gathering where he tried all the bottles that he had. He was missing a couple of bottles to complete his set.

I left before I tilted because a man can try only so many barrel-aged stouts before wanting to pass out on a bear-skin rug, which Jason does not have. Bastard.

I follow multiple local bottle shops and sometimes it’s better to check and ignore than to actually see what they get. Beer doesn’t come to stores like new movies or CDs, on predictable days. It was Thursday afternoon, shortly after lunch, and the renowned store Hop City posted a picture to their instagram.

Holy shit, and yes I wrote that on purpose. The Double Barrel Jesus was a version previously brewed but the two maple bourbon barrel variants were new and really hard to find. I drove to the store, taking a work conference call on the way and navigating through the construction-choked streets of Atlanta. I assumed a mid-afternoon trip would be easy and I was wrong.

I got to the store, asked for the Jesus (there’s a first time for everything), and got the bottles. They were sold out in a couple of hours as there was only one case of each bottle.

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These weren’t cheap bottles. I don’t mind having a bomber in the $10-$15 range once a week or so. These were $25 each. I had the exhilaration of getting a “whale” aka a tough to find beer but the sticker shock kept me grounded.

I told Jason and as he was unable to procure any, we did a trade.

People trade beer. It’s often done between friends in different parts of the country. Jody Smith of Gridiron Experts once sent me three years of the coveted Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator. I responded by sending him some Georgia beer. Shipping beer is expensive and I have only done it once. It’s much easier to do it in person.

I got to his house and his “beer cellar” was open for business. There were bottles on the table and as I admired them, he showed me how each one was rated.

Note that how you rate beer may vary. Still, seeing that a beer is 99 out of 100 by people who like beer gives you a good idea of the level of quality. Here’s what I got:

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Pirate Noir: Any Prairie Artisan Ale with Pirate attached to it is aged in rum barrels. This is an Imperial Stout aged in Jamaican rum barrels. Imperial Stouts got the name because an early batch was sent to Peter the Great in Russia. To make sure the beers made it to their destination without spoilage, they added more booze. Good things can happen when British and Russian people get together and booze is involved.

Boulevard 2014 Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels: There’s a debate going around in beer circles regarding cellaring. Many breweries insist that you should drink a beer shortly after getting it off the shelf. Jason Dominy, beer guru, still cellars. High-gravity aka boozy beers mellow out over time and this one seems pretty mellow.

Wicked Weed Black Angel: Wicked Weed of Asheville, North Carolina is known for their sours. This is a bourbon-barrel aged dark sour ale with chocolate and cherries. I want to drink that previous sentence.

Rodenbach Alexander: This was a legendary beer from the Belgian sour kings, brewed in 2000 then forgotten. They re-released the beer in 2016. It’s ⅔ Rodenbach aged in oak foeders, ⅓ new ale and matured with sour cherries. It’s a sour cherry slap in the face and you’ll love it.

Modern Times Monsters’ Park: The bottle says “Huge Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout” so yeah.

Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break: This is a combination of Westbrook’s Mexican Cake, a beer people stand in line to get and Evil Twin, makers of Even More Jesus, added their Imperial Biscotti Break. So it’s a chili pepper coffee stout mixed with a chocolate stout.

Funky Buddha Sweet Potato Casserole Strong Ale: They made a sweet potato beer? They made a sweet potato beer.

Burial Winnower Porter: We have a porter brewed with cocoa nibs and raspberries. Is anyone else thirsty for dessert?

I can’t say this about fantasy football, but when you do a beer trade and both trade partners are ok with “losing”, it’s going to be good. I had no idea what to expect from Jason but he set me up nicely and no, I didn’t take all of his beers home.

My advice is to find your local beer junkies and see if they’ll let you join the club.

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