Do you get palpable enjoyment from creating and conquering a to-do list? If not, try adding 10 to 50 lines that read “Find and drink XYZ beer” to your list. Totally understandable if you just found yourself doing the running man. My first attempt at craft beer achievement was to seek and sample the “All-Time Top Beers On Planet Earth” from Issue #36 of Beer Advocate, an endeavor I wasn’t sure was feasible and in fact have yet to finish (still trying to figure out how to try Pliny The Younger). It started with circling the beers I had already tried and thinking about how I might get my hands on the others that I’ve heard so much about. I bet I try all of these over time.
Beer availability has much improved as breweries have grown and expanded into new markets. I was living in Massachusetts at the time that I sought after the list above. The range of beers and number of establishments that care for beer lovers in the greater Boston area has yet to be beat for me. Besides the friends/family and Anna’s Taqueria, it may be the thing I most miss from living there. Still, there were a number of these liquid trophies to strive for. Conquering the list would require traveling, trading, shipping, and collaboration.
Traveling was fairly light since the local stores, Marty’s, Gordon’s, and Julio’s Liquors, had been proverbial fields of gold (and black and brown). Before Bell’s Hopslam made its way east, I was lucky enough to have a week long training in the suburbs of Chicago. One night after nine hours of Powerpoint presentations, I called a cab to a somewhat local Binny’s which I had surmised from the webernet was a quality beer store. As is my way, I bought more beer than necessary and returned to share with some classmates. There is a thrill in the hunt, the juice is worth the squeeze, etc.
My second roadshow was a trip to the release of the much hyped and rightfully so. Kate The Great from Portsmouth Brewery is still the standard by which I judge all imperial stouts. For this jaunt, two forever type friends and beer lovers joined the mission. NOTE: one bailed on said mission due to the required early morning rise and previous night of fun. Unfathomable for me but seemingly no regrets from him. I am glad to have had his company. Events like these teach you about the passion and energy of the community of beer lovers. But more on places, people and, events some other time. I share with you that travel whether purposeful or coincidental is a fun and opportune way to experience more beer and the heart of a place.
Unexpectedly, our mission to obtain and assess the greatness of Kate also introduced me to beer trading. A young and industrious fellow was soliciting trades with folks waiting in line for the release. “Come with me to my car,” is much less threatening then it sounds when coming from a crunchy dude waiting outside a brewpub in Portsmouth, NH. It was still fairly sketchy. And also landed me another check off the list! So a bit of travel, collaboration, and a crude form of beer trading gave me access to Supplication from Russian River Brewing and Sexual Chocolate from Foothills Brewing Company (a check on a different list but still a pleasure so have amongst my souvenirs).
The real game changer came later when a friend from a local beer store offered to use his established credibility in the Beer Advocate trading forum to obtain one of the more challenging targets. Masala Mama India Pale Ale from Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery would require having someone send us a growler. As if it wasn’t enough to organize the trade, the friend also put forth a rare beer that would ensure interest from a local in Minneapolis. What a guy?! Not only did I get the growler but some extras thrown in (a wonderful custom of beer traders). Perhaps most importantly, I now knew the method of bartering for the remaining items on the list.
With the exception of Pliny The Elder which I was able to buy online, I was able to trade for or purchase locally the remaining beers I was seeking to check off the list. NOTE: All of my online beer purchasing experiences have been pleasant and I recommend trying it if there is something out of reach and you can stomach the shipping fees. More recently, my brothers and I are collaborating to achieve the countries best IPAs by state from an article my younger brother shared with me. Beer we go again! Wow, is there an uncle-jokes anonymous? Lists are plentiful and changing often but that is not all that important. What’s more fun than a scavenger hunt? I mean besides drinking the beer. Only one way to find out. Grab some friends, find a list, and pursue that glorious liquid.