I have been drinking better beer since the mid-1990s. I loved Pilsner Urquell and Pete’s Wicked Ale, but I would not call myself a beer geek back then. I was just as likely to buy a 6er of Bud Light. However, in 2006 I discovered the BeerAdvocate.com website. I pored over the Top 100 Beers list and made a shopping list of beers based on the descriptions listed on the top 100 beers. I was excited to go to Liquor Barn and start picking up AleSmith Speedway Stout, Three Floyds Dreadnaught, Stone Ruination, Masala Mama, Nugget Nectar, Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock, Russian River Supplication, and Westvleteren 12.
Boy, I was disappointed. I found a few of those highly rated beers, but so many I wanted to try were not on the shelves. I learned quickly about beer distribution and the Three Tier System. AleSmith, Kuhnhenn, and many others did not distribute in KY.
However, by buying what was available, I discovered the many styles of beers made and found the styles that I preferred. Soon I had tried and reviewed many of the offerings available at local KY stores and brewpubs. Later, I found The Keg Liquors in Clarksville, IN – more world-class beers. Many more wonderful beers that were unavailable in KY.
I started working part-time at Whole Foods Market and toured the beer aisles daily. Then I started researching out of town liquor stores that I should visit when I was travelling. I sometimes purchased multiples of the same beer with trading in mind. I traded beers with other folks who were smitten with this obsession via BeerAdvocate.com. I had become a beer nerd.
The “hunt” switch was on and humming in my head. I had to find the best beers out there. Find the good stuff I couldn’t get at home.
I sought beers that I had heard good things about, not necessarily rare beers – just beers that I had not tried. I asked travelling friends and family to bring back specific out of town beers. I found Surly Furious online and had it shipped to my sister in IN. I found a guy in CA who would trade Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig for some KY beers. Not rare beers, just unavailable in KY. I do have a bad habit of desiring what is unavailable.
These days I read about intriguing beers and ponder how I may obtain them. I am not alone in this obsession. But Why? Why do we covet what we don’t have? Why do I, and so many others quest for the uncommon beers? Maybe it is the desire to be one of the cool kids, just like back in the day when you wanted the trendy toys? Do we need to prove that we can hang with the “big boys”? Are we trying to impress our friends with the most “ticks”, is it to show-off, the variety, the novelty? Do we want the validation of just consuming that hard to come by beer?
For me maybe it is a little bit of all of those.
I guess this habit/hobby of mine has made me educate myself styles, about which beers can be aged/cellared, and I have learned about national beer trends and limited releases. These days, vacations always include beer. Brewery stops, bottle shop visits with lists of desired beers to search for. I have had a lot of wonderful beer and I am still searching for more!
I don’t hoard, but I do buy more that I can drink. My cellar is product of that. I didn’t set out to create a beer cellar but when I find things that appeal to me or that I have read great things about – well, you know I have to pick it up – right?! If it is a beer that can age well, it goes toward the bottom of the “to drink” list. However, if I obtain a six-pack of Sculpin IPA, I am going to drink that up sooner – fresh IPAs are the best IPAs.
Generally, I just want to try something that sounds good and that I haven’t tried before. Although there are many satisfying beers that are readily available in KY, I am not satisfied with only drinking those. I crave variety and I suppose I like the challenge.
Why do you forage?