Beer of the Week: The High Spark of a Low-Heeled Bottle Exchange

An obscure reference to an 11-minute-long song from 1971? Nailed it with the SEO, big boy.

What does it take to get me out of the house these days? A mediocre World Cup round of 16 contest is a good starter (poor South Korea didn’t stand a chance). Other than that, it’s beer. It is true that I have my share of beer inside the house (more than my share if you ask my wife), there’s always that new frontier.

Beer bottle gathering

It’s a beer all-star gathering

I discovered that frontier last night. I’ve heard tall tales of these bottle exchanges, with people bringing rare beers from around the country for a beer nirvana. How would this local beer snob react?

Anything that’s new or unusual is intriguing, but also a bit scary. I had to look at my own beer “stores” to find something to bring that would ensure that I wasn’t laughed out of the room. My beers ultimately were not chosen among the silly number of bottles that were opened, but my company was accepted in part due to my “newbie” status. Also, I brought beer-boiled brats. I may not have the beer chops yet but I have a grill and I’m not afraid to use it.

While I felt unworthy in a way, everyone in the room was quite welcoming. We had seven beer drinkers and a selection of spirits that could have stood toe to toe with any room in the country. I’m not messing around here. Even in my limited understanding of the beer world, there were brands and types that I had only heard whispers of that were present.

Jason, ever the host and culinary trend-setter, infused some melon with Creature Comforts Athena. For the IPA freaks, this Athens-based brewery’s Tropicala is probably the best example of the style in the state. We were going far wider than state borders.

What’s almost more interesting than the beers are the stories. Some of the guys at the meetup had traveled across the country and attempted some negotiations that would have put Drew Rosenhaus to shame to get some of these coveted beers. If you want to know about dedication to the cause, one guy traveled through California and onto Oregon and sent beers home at the cost of around $50 a 12-pack (that’s just shipping). I didn’t get a picture of his “personal stash” but it looked like an actual liquor store.

Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder

Let’s hit the highlights. I had some of the top American IPA offerings, including The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust, and Pseudo Sue from the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. If you average those Beer Advocate scores, it comes out to . . . . 100. Do I agree? First of all, I’m not turning down beers this rare. Each one had a different profile, and of course with them being pale ales, there was much “bitta”.

Zombie Dust

The beer is anything but dusty.

Other winners included:

Blue Sunday Sour from New Holland: I love the brewery’s winter ale, so I wasn’t passing up on a sour when I’m still a newbie to the style. Sour blueberry plus oak.

Love Child #4: This Kansas City beer from Boulevard is aged in whiskey barrels and wine foeders, whatever a foeder is (an 1860-gallon wine barrel). It’s sour and funky and it’s “retired”. A retired beer is a lot more fun than a retired almost anything else.

Upland Strawberry Lambic: This is another funky (I guess I’d call funk in beer a flavor profile similar to bleu cheese, in that when you hear about it you’re mildly disgusted but when you taste it, you “get” it) beer that reminded me of a Gose that hit you in the face with strawberry up front. It’s a 2013 version and I was amazed that the guy who brought it and traded for it/practically bled for this beer had a two-ounce sample and was happy to share the rest.

Pipeworks’ Let Me Show You Something: If you ever went to a restaurant and needed a translator even though the menu’s in English, this is the beer for you. It was the color of blue ink and notes of almost everything.

Blue beer

Ever had a purple beer? I have.

Chocolate Rain: You know it from the song (click below), I know it from as Jason described it, a really boozy Wendy’s Frosty. It’s probably some kind of beer sacrilege to compare it to a fast-food staple but there you go. Most chocolate beers I’ve tried have been the dark variety. This one was like milk chocolate, smooth, and oh yeah, 19% alcohol. It was an appropriate finale beer and the fifth perfectly rated beer on the BA site.

Am I ruined by this event? My liver might be. Oddly I felt OK after the event since we drank out of cups that were the beer equivalent of shot glasses. I’m not quite ready to scour the country searching for the beers of my dreams but I am opened up to the possibility of the amazing options we have in the States. Plus hanging out with beer snobs let us throw out our best “oak aged Bud Lite Limarita” jokes. You had to be there.

A quick example of what I brought compared to what other people brought: I had a 2015 Sweetwater Happy Ending, which is a limited-edition imperial stout in bomber (25.4 ounce bottle) form that’s put out once a year by a local brewery. One of the attendees said he had every edition of that back to 2011, and it was best three years down the road. I can’t wait to bring this bottle to our 2018 gathering.

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