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Beer Nuts

December 10, 2015

Marketing is my master. Seriously, I succumb to well designed packaging, or compelling copy on a hang tag or shelf-talker. Tell me that there’s a super special limited edition version of a product, and I’ll go the mall at midnight on a weekday to make sure I can buy one.

And it’s not just for food either. Video games used to have a viselike grip on my life. I had to get prized titles the moment they were available to the public. Even before that, when I was in high school, I was the same way with movies. You could catch me at the theater on a Wednesday or Thursday night watching the sneak preview of a film that would be opening up on Friday.

Just a few years ago, I grabbed a bottle of Harvest Spirits Applejack on the first day of its availability. I was at Albany Distilling Co. on its opening day too to buy a bottle of Coal Yard. I guess old habits die hard.

I mention all of this, because it has become clear to me that I’m doomed to repeat my old habits, but with a new category.

Yesterday I did something I never thought I would ever do. I went to a beer store to welcome the arrival of a coveted beer that was only available in limited supply, and buy a four-pack of cans. To make matters more curious, I knew virtually nothing about the beer. I didn’t even know how much it would cost. All I knew was that I liked the producer, I enjoyed the style, and that I wanted to have some in my hot little hands.

Despite how easily I’m swayed by marketing, this is still very unlike me. Usually my purchases are carefully considered. I research products. I evaluate prices. And I look to make decisions that maximize on the price to value ratio.

Of course, value can be subjective, and that’s where marketing comes into play as the hype machine can increase the value proposition.

But let’s put that aside for a moment.

The beer du jour was the Grimm double IPA called Cloudbusting. And thanks to the miracle of social media I learned that Westmere Brew Crew would start selling limited quantities of it at five o’clock yesterday. No one person was allowed to buy more than one four pack.

I was interested enough in this event to even put it on my calendar. However, I was not invested enough in the release to make a point of arriving early. My hope was that if I got there a couple hours after five, there might still be a four-pack around. After all, how many people could possibly line up at five o’clock on a weekday afternoon to buy four cans of beer?

It turns out quite a few.

Because when I got there at eight o’clock the beer was all sold out. It turns out other people had the same idea as me. Customers kept walking in while I was browsing the aisles asking if the store still had any of the new Grimm DIPA left. They did have some different Grimm Ales on tap to sell in growler form. And that included the extra small sixteen ounce growler bottle, which could be purchased for just a penny (the beer to fill it was significantly more).

So I walked out of there with a pint’s worth of Grimm’s Double Negative bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, a thirty-two ounce crowler of Singlecut’s Mo’ Shuggie IPA which came highly recommended from the beer dude, and a bottle of Jack’s Abby Kiwi Rising. The Jack’s is a double India Pale Lager which I wanted to try after really enjoying the brewery’s regular IPL at the cheese and beer pairing at the Honest Weight Food Coop last week.

Ooh. That imperial stout was just the thing to take the edge of my disappointment last night.

Now the crowler is interesting. At the beer store, they are able to take liquid from the draft line and seal it up in a can! It’s kind of amazing. And at least in theory, it keeps the brew in a significantly more airtight environment. That means I’ll be able to hold onto that very special beer for a few weeks, and when I open it up, it should taste like it was just poured from the tap.

In the past I’ve been hesitant to embrace the growler. For some reason it used to feel strange to have someone pour a beer from a tap, so I could bring it home and drink it all in one go. But with smaller sized growlers and crowlers that don’t demand to be enjoyed as soon, I’m quickly changing my tune.

Especially since the beer store has some of the same special kegs available at our finest beer bars. Except when I enjoy a higher alcohol beer from a smaller growler at home, I don’t have to worry about driving back safely.

Hopefully I’ll be able to resist the urge of standing in line to buy beers before they go on sale. I’ll also need to be careful about my innate desire to hoard beers. But what’s like without its challenges.

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