Is it worth it? The hassle, the stress, the competition, the (potentially offensive) price tag? While that’s up to the consumer, I think it’s worth talking about what makes some of these beers worth it. Because my feeling is that the answer to all 4 of those questions is “Yes!”
So what does it take to get your hands on these brews? And after all that work, what can you expect?
Samuel Adams Utopias: Obtaining this brew, largely, requires money. At $200 per bottle for this American Strong Ale – and woah is it strong, nearly 30% ABV – it’s tough to stomach the cost. I was treated to a glass of the 2013 vintage for a recent birthday and was STRUCK by how thick this was. Caramel, creme brûlée, raisins, rich and woody. This is an investment I don’t mind my friend making in honor of my birthday.
Hanlons Thomas Hardy’s: Getting a pour of this requires access. Access to a well curated collection. And access to someone who is willing to share. This beer was brewed on and off from the late 70s until 1999, then revived from 2003 until 2008 by another brewery. Arguably, they were doing the “craft old ale” thing before it was cool. While I’ve not had it from the original brewery (Eldridge Pope) I did have the opportunity to taste the 2003 vintage from Hanlons. I smelled chocolate cake, tasted honey, and was pleasantly surprised about just how smooth and easy this was to drink at nearly 12%.
Firestone Walker Parabola: To get your hands on Parabola, requires persistence. Shops rarely have much notice when they’ll be getting it and, with a strict limit on how many bottles each shop gets, it’s gone within an hour. The guys at my local bottle store expect a call from me, daily, starting in March, to inquire about the ETA. I’ve been lucky enough to taste the 2011, 12, 13, 14 and 15 vintages. If I were a smart girl, I would have cellared a second bottle and done a vertical tasting years later. In honor of the 2014 vintage, I attended a tasting with a group of friends – 1/2 beer snobs, 1/2 just plain game for anything. Even those that didn’t know much about craft beer could appreciate that this was something unique – Sweet, small bitterness in the aftertaste, but a coffee bitter. So complex. So wonderful.