Monday, October 19, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

We live in a world of ease and near-instant gratification. I can remember the days when things we take for granted today (the Internet, PCs, VCRs, cable TV, etc) didn't exist, and I know my father can remember a world where things I have always known (TV, nuclear weapons, jet aircraft, computers of any kind, etc) didn't exist.

For example, I remember how hard it used to be to find particular books on semi-obscure topics (like SF or fantasy). Now, with and a host of on-line used bookstores (not to mention E-Bay), finding almost any publication, buying it, and having it shipped right to your door is almost effortless (though it may not be cheap).

Thanks to its "special status" under the laws of the federal and state governments of this country of ours, beer is one of the few products out there which is not easily purchased and shipped right to your door.

Yep, there are certain beers out there that are just about impossible for certain people to legally get, no matter how hard they try or how much money they're willing to spend.

Obviously I'm not talking about beers which just aren't packaged in bottles or cans (like those of all four of our local micros here on the Kenai). That sort of "fresh" beer isn't going to be available at any distance, just like I can't order a sandwich from Mother's Po Boys in New Orleans and have it delivered to my house in Sterling.

However, I could pay to have a 50 lb sack of live crawfish Fedexed up here from Louisiana overnight. It's expensive, but I can give you the website if you're interested.

But I can't buy certain beers from certain other areas of the country and have it sent to me here; it's illegal.

Anyone remember the premise of the first Smokey and the Bandit movie? A pretty dumb movie, but the premise was even dumber, though it was true. At that time (1977), Coors was only sold west of the Mississippi. It was considered bootlegging to transport it east for sale. That particular limitation is long behind us (and who would want to go out of their way to drink a Coors, anyway?), but the same sort of ridiculous rules continue to hamper the ability of beer lovers like me to taste beers from across this country.

But your dedicated beer geek isn't about to let a little thing like the law stand in the way of good beer. So now we have the wonderful world of "Beer Trading".

It works like this: You go to any one of several websites out there (or likely more than one) and post your list of "Wants" and your list of "Gots". Some sites match them automatically, others you have to do a manual search, but the goal is the same as on E-Harmony: put compatible folks into contact with each other. The only difference is that instead of exchanging bodily fluids, these people hope to be swapping brews.

To avoid legal hassles, the sites just list the information; any deals are made privately via email or phone, not via the site itself.

I'm not on any of the sites, as I've never gotten into beer trading, but I was contacted a few weeks ago by a gentleman from Rhode Island who had read some of my reviews and was desperate to try Midnight Sun's new Berserker. On a whim, I decided to help him out and sent him a few bottles, asking for some "East Coast Only" brews in return.

Among the beers I received in return were New England Brewing Company's Wet Willy Scotch Ale and Weyebacher Brewing Company's Old Heathen Imperial Stout. Having previously read about both beers on-line and in various beer magazines, I was anxious to give them a try.

Wet Willy is 10% ABV, aged on oak chips and bottle-conditioned for a year before being released. It poured rich caramel in color, with a light tan head and an amazing aroma. When I took a sip, the flavors were intense and wonderful. Caramel, toffee, herbal, all wrapped up with an exceptional mouthfeel, ending with a little alcohol warmth. I'm a sucker for a good Scotch Ale and this one was one of the best I've ever had!

The Old Heathen (love that name!) is only 8% ABV, but it was remarkably complex. It was brewed from seven different types of malt and uses two different varieties of hops. It poured absolutely black with a coffee-colored head. The aroma was of espresso and dark fruits like raisins and figs. It was incredibly complex on the tongue, mixing espresso, chocolate, earthy, plums, raisins, you-name-it, all into one lovely package. The finish is clean and a touch dry. I've brewed plenty of imperial stouts myself and I tip my hat to this one.

So if you're reading this on the East Coast, I'd look for these brews or others from the New England or Weyerbacher Brewing Companies. I sure wish I could find them on my local shelves.

Speaking of local brews, Midnight Sun has re-released their winter seasonal CoHoHo Imperial IPA. See my blog of 10/20/2008 for a detailed review, but I've had a bottle of this year's batch and it's still great.

On Thursday, 22 October, St. Elias Brewing Company will have live music from 150 Grit from 7 to 9 PM. Stop by, have a brew, and check them out.

Last, but certainly not least, Kassik's Dunkel Weizen took the People's Choice Award at the Mighty Matanuska Brewfest over the weekend. Congrats to Frank & Debbie! Look for their Double Wood DIPA to be released on November 17th. For you Anchorage folks, it'll be featured at the Third Thursday First Taste Event at the Millennium Hotel on November 19th, from 4:30 to 7 PM.

Well, that's about it for this week. I'll try to get this puppy finished earlier next time around. I should have some interesting new stuff to talk about then.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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