Edit 4 years later: Some of this info is slightly out of date, like Ohio’s ABV cap, but the vast majority is still highly relevant.
When I talked to bottle shop and bar owners about my series on the 3 tier system one of their concerns and challenges was dealing with beer allocations. Each store generally only gets so much of each beer. Craft breweries are just too popular and too small to fulfill every demand for their beer in every store in every state. So read on to learn more about beer allocations and, most importantly, for the master magician (that’s me) to reveal his secrets on getting those rarer beers!
The winter of my dark-content is drawing to a close but I’ve got a few more stouts left in me before that happens. While bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stouts seem to be the fashion of the day I’ve discovered that my preferences are for dry Irish stouts and just about anything on a nitro tap!
Last week I had Three Floyds’ other available stout Moloko, their third stout Dark Lord I hope to have next month at Dark Lord Day. Tonight I’m drinking the second of their stouts, Black Sun, a dry Irish stout. Here’s what they had to say about this beer:
Black Sun has a nose of coffee, roasted malts and piney hops. This medium bodied stout has a broad depth of maltiness and a clean dry finish.
This week I’m trying two different stouts from a company that mostly makes super hoppy beers and one incredibly rare stout (not one of the two I’m having). For the unfamiliar Three Floyds is a regional brewery in Munster, Indiana which is sadly on the opposite end of Indiana from Cincinnati. Three Floyds (aka 3F aka FFF) mostly produces IPAs and pale ales with lots of extra hops, beers like Zombie Dust, Alpha King, Arctic Panzer Wolf. On the flip side of that is the “legend” of Dark Lord, a Russian imperial stout released 1 day a year in a massive festival known as Dark Lord Day. I say “legend” because Dark Lord is either the greatest stout some people have ever had or an overly sweet soy sauce substitute. Another thing backing that legend is that you can trade it for just about anything online.
Last night I had 3Fs’ Moloko milk stout. Milk stouts (aka sweet stout) are so named because they contain, wait for it… milk! Shocking I know, well actually they contain lactose which is essentially the same thing. So any lactose intolerant folks should avoid milk stouts. What does milk add to a beer? Unfermentable sugars which result in a sweeter taste and creamier bodied brew.
For our purposes, definition three is what we will be examining, though two does factor in.
Nearly every week, there are numerous cases of the “rare beer tasting”, “rare bottle release”, or, my personal favorite, “the first/last/only keg of xxx in the State of Ohio/City of Cincinnati.” Any of these increasingly-encountered phenomena would be much, much less irritating if they used the word (or at least concept) of rare correctly. If I can buy the “rare” beers at your tasting or at any reputable beer store in the area ALL YEAR LONG, those beers aren’t rare.
If you have the only keg of such and such that has ever been made in the history of mankind, but I can buy the same beer in bottle format anytime I please, who gives a crap? And that’s without even considering the fact that actual rarity has nothing to do with how good a beer actually is. Give me a Bell’s Two Hearted that I can buy any day of the week from the gas station down the street over your one-hundred bottles ever created of triple-dry-hopped-barrel-aged-wild sextuple stout.
The Store Who Cried Rare!
Words have meanings and when those meanings are detached, the words become pointless. Just as in the case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, if you’re a beer store who bombards me on email/Facebook/Twitter with a critical mass of hyperbole regarding the rarity of your stock, I’m going to stop listening. I realize it’s a marketing ploy and I know that we craft beer lovers have largely brought this upon ourselves in over-valuing the latest “White Whale” and riding the hype train on certain beer traits (barrel-aged, sour, and, yes, rare).
I’m just asking this: the next time you need to market an event or product as “rare”, take a step back for a second and think about whether or not it’s 1) true and 2) necessary. If you’re going to sell a good product, it doesn’t have to be rare.