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Everyone knows about The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson. He traveled the world, tasted numerous beers and wrote about beer.
But today, there is a new breed of beer hunter. Those of us that research, track down and buy beer. We are the new beer hunters.
The process of beer hunting begins with research. We follow breweries and liquor stores on Twitter and Facebook. We sign up for brewery and liquor store newsletters. We search beer news and beer review sites. We rely on word-of-mouth. We talk to the beer buyers at the liquor stores. Basically, we do whatever we can to find out about the next round of beer releases. What’s important to us is the rare, hard to find, and most highly acclaimed beers. We do it for various reasons; to trade beer, to cellar the beers for future consumption or, well, to just drink the beer dammit!
The next step is to track down the beer. This is the most time consuming, and oftentimes hectic, part of the process. We might need to travel to multiple liquor stores to find what we are seeking. And timing is important. If a beer is very popular, you need to make sure you get to the liquor store before everyone else. For example, I recently sought out Fifty Fifty Brewing’s Eclipse series of beers. This year, they put out 7 versions of Eclipse aged in various types of barrels, including Elijah Craig, Four Roses and a Grand Cru blend. Some stores got one of the versions of Eclipse, others got more. Each store seemed to have a different mix of what they received. I wanted as many different versions as I could get, so I went to 3 different stores before I found all of the versions I wanted. These were sought after beers too, first time in the Denver market, so they were flying off the shelves and had a small amount of release (some stores getting only a case). It was important for me to move fast and visit several stores before my proverbial thirst was quenched.
It helps to have a flexible schedule. I work from home and can pretty much come and go when I want. I know the delivery schedules of many of my liquor stores and can up-and-go as I need to visit the stores on their delivery days.
The last step is to buy the beer. Sounds like the easy part, but in reality money becomes an issue. I make a pretty good living, but buying the rare, highly acclaimed beers gets expensive. The Eclipse beers I mentioned above were $30+ a pop. I bought 4 varieties and 6 bottles total. That’s $180+ right there. For beer. The money needs to be considered and planned as far ahead of time as possible.
Some people would scoff at this and say, “How can you spend so much money on beer??”. It’s a passion and something I enjoy. Why would someone spend so much money buying season tickets for a sporting event? Why do people spend so much on wine? Video games? Cars? etc.
The beer hunting process is aided by having like-minded beer friends. When searching for Eclipse, I had the help of a couple of friends on Twitter that steered me to the right stores. I also helped them by telling them where to find one of the very hard to find Eclipse’s; Grand Cru.
Just today I received help from one of my Twitter friends. When Dry Dock‘s Bligh’s Barleywine first came out, there was not much information about the beer. At almost $20 per bottle, I didn’t want to chance buying it and not liking it. When I went to the store to buy it, I bought only one. The liquor store had many cases of it too and the beer buyer said he thought it would be around for a while considering the cost. I brought it home and drank it that weekend….and absolutely loved it. Quite possibly the best Colorado beer I had in 2011. I went back to the same liquor store intending to buy more bottles a few days later. And of course, they sold out.
I’ve been searching for Bligh’s ever since, but pretty much gave up. Until…I received a Twitter message from one of my fellow beer hunter friends that the he found a stash of Bligh’s at an obscure liquor store in the middle of nowhere. I went there and bought 3. Score!
Beer hunting is fun, I must admit. Although I would love it if liquor stores would give out more information about beer releases, I do think it would then be less fun to beer hunt. The thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of finding that rarity is just awesome. Beer hunting is not for everyone, it takes time, money and patience. But it all is worth it in the end.