I love great beer. But I have a confession: I hate great beer.
I’m talking about the rare stuff. The small distribution stuff. The once a year release stuff. The only distributed in certain states/cities/counties/zip codes/roads stuff. I hate trying to get it.
If you follow the right people on social media, you will see posts about discovering a gold mine of Founders’ KBS in March or preparing to freeze in line outside of Binny’s in Chicago on Black Friday for Goose Island’s BCBS to name a couple. Some releases are small and quiet, some you can’t believe you can’t find any since even the brewery can’t shut up about it. The current “release of the moment” here in Grand Rapids is Stone Brewing Co.’s Woot Stout – “A limited release ale brewed with pecans, wheat, & rye, with one quarter aged in bourbon barrels.” (Source: Beer Advocate.) This is the third year Stone has brewed this delicious beer. The first year it came out, I was lucky to stumble upon two bottles and fell in love. Last year’s version was not distributed to Grand Rapids so no dice. This year? It’s here! It’s here! It started showing up on store shelves on Friday and has been disappearing quickly ever since. That means phone calls, side trips to liquor stores out of the way and a general longing for what you can’t seem to have.
There are many Facebook groups (open and closed) devoted to the buying, selling, trading and muling of these rare beers and I belong to a few. I generally keep my participation in these groups to using them to know when certain beers have hit the stores (with so many unwritten rules about how these things are done, I tend to stay away from making any “deals”). These groups are how I knew that this beer was back in town as the proliferation of photos of bottles and requests for locations suddenly filled my news feed. “Muling beer” is when a person buys beer for another person and “mules” it to them for money or trade. This beer could be at the store down the street or in another state. It often results in a “mule” purchasing more than a reasonable amount in order to fulfill requests.
I have a cellar full of beer, I really don’t need more. But I struggle with seeing people purchase a case or two of beer to sell or trade to their “closest” Facebook friends when that just means the next person who made an effort to actually go get that beer is out of luck. I will stop by my friendly neighborhood beer store to see what’s new and if I run across the latest and greatest, I will certainly pick up a bottle or two (or more if allowed and, more importantly, wanted). Maybe I will shoot a text to a couple of actual friends on my beer speed dial list to see if they want any. But I also believe that the beer muling trend that is growing right along with the craft beer scene is ruining the thrill of a new discovery. So many people will never experience a Pliny, a Heady Topper, a Black Note because it won’t stay on the shelves long enough for the novice beer drinker to find. Admittedly, Woot Stout is one of the few beers that I will join the hunt for but part of that is in hopes to have enough to share with our Thirsty Thursday crew so that those who have not experienced it can have the opportunity. I have two bottles at home, two coming from a friend in Philly and I hope to find one more (1 to drink fresh/1 to share/3 to age). I searched a little today and have a lead on a delivery tomorrow to get that last one. And if I find myself in a situation where I can by a case? I will leave my “allotment” for the next person to come along.