This is a continuing series of posts about the "darker" side of the craft beer industry. To catch up on the topic visit the <a href="http://blindtigerpodcast.com/?p=300" target="_blank">last article</a> in the series devoted to pay for play. Also visit <a href="http://blindtigerpodcast.com/?cat=37" target="_blank">this page</a> for the entire series.
Last time we discussed the herd mentality of craft brew drinkers. Using the power of the internet to weed out poor beer selections is liberating in preventing an avid drinker from wasting valuable dollars on an expensive beer that just isn’t quite up to the task. The problem being when this avid use of technology forces a sort of herd mentality where personal preference takes a back seat to popular opinion which runs a real risk of missing fantastic beers without the notoriety.
This time I want to talk about another side effect of the technological revolution with regards to craft brewing. Craft beer enthusiasts all too often have an Ahab complex. We chase our own personal white whales investing far more time, energy, and hard-earned cash hunting rare and highly rated beers rather than spending equal efforts enjoying the beers readily accessible.
I want to state before we get any further that this is an extremely hard temptation to avoid and Mike, Jesse, and myself are not immune. Before you hurl insults and calls of hypocrisy at your monitor let me say that I am well aware of the fact that Mike and I are quite guilty of this ourselves. Out Founder’s KBS review involved an absurdly expensive ticket for an 8oz sample tasting. The door prize was the opportunity to buy a bottle of KBS or Doom for $10.00USD per bottle. The very definition of a white whale beer.
And there is nothing wrong with chasing down the rarest of the rare like Pliny the Younger, the Darkness, or Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII). The problem becomes when you are willing to invest a disproportionate about of time, energy, and expense over the rare, elusive beers rather than looking for exceptional, readily available beers.
When Trappist Westvleteren 12 was briefly available for sale in the United States in an exceptionally limit release for the first time, states such as Ohio had been fanatics waiting at 5:00am for distributors that opened at 4:00pm to get their hands on a six-pack that cost near $80.00USD. Similarly Surly brewing company in Minnesota has lines similar to Black Friday sales when they announce that the Darkness is available for sale.
The issue is that drinking these beers is more a mark of investing time but more likely cold, hard cash than a mark of beer expertise. The other Saturday there wasn’t anything preventing a completely novice drinker from trying Founder’s KBS, there wasn’t some litmus test that separated the avid follower from the amateur other than the prohibitive price.
At the end of the day saying you’ve had all 250 beers in the Beer Advocate’s top 250 list means you have spent an absurd amount of time, energy, and money on rare beer. That’s it. It doesn’t make you more knowledgable, better connected, smarter, more cultured, or anything superior over somebody who has sampled a bunch of easily accessible beers. There might be some beer credibility you might have as bragging rights but that a few bucks will get you a cup of coffee.
Having had a few beers on the top 250 list that are extremely hard to find my personal belief is that while these beers are exceptional part of the allure of these beers is the exclusivity rather than the tastes. As I said in the KBS samplesode that was undeniably an amazing beer I think were it as wildly available as Founder’s All-Day IPA it wouldn’t rank nearly as high on the top 250 list.
The reality is that there an a plethora of great American breweries available in your area and a nearly innumerable number of beers in all sorts of styles and flavors. Chasing a mythical white whale is more about reputation than expertise, more about style than substance.