Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Arrrrr! It be the hunt for the white whale of beers matey!
Certain beers have a popularity of almost mythic proportions. Some of this comes from limited quantities, some from amazing taste, some from pure hype. When these beers come out, most of the time you simply have to shrug and hope one of your friends brings one over to share some day, but occasionally things work out to where you can get them yourself.
Surly has many such high-demand but rare beers, most of which are really well brewed. I know there are some Surly haters out there, but I think they consistently put out a great product and live up to much of their hype and attitude. Each year they release an anniversary beer that is something completely wacky and different--even for them! The first three years were keg only and every once in a while you can still get a taste at a festival. Four was an imperial porter with espresso and was fantastic! I still have one bottle, but have been warned that that beer hasn't aged well. Five was Surly's first sour beer and was all Brettanomyces fermented. Initially I was disappointed in the beer, but it has become much more sour and complex since last year. Glad I have a few bottles stashed away yet!
This year is Syx, an "American Strong Ale" aged on six types of wood, using some sort of proprietary honeycomb technique. It comes in at about 15% ABV. It has a wicked looking logo. With an ABV that high I think this one should be aged a bit before cracking one, but if anyone reading this has tried it, please comment about your thoughts!
Part of the appeal of these beers is purely due to the rarity and excitement they generate amongst other beer geeks. I'm always amazed when friends bring out some of these Big Gun beers at brew club meetings and are willing to share with others, but then realize that this is really the only way to properly enjoy them. Drink a bottle of Darkness on my own? I don't think so. Shared amongst others it increases in coolness, with each person adding their own thoughts and history to the beer, adding social as well as taste complexity to the experience. Plus who can drink a bottle of 15% ABV beer on their own?
Yesterday, Syx was released in the Twin Cities, making me glad I live in Minnesota and sad I live out in the hinterlands. After I finished a long day at work I decided to just try a few places in case they had a bottle or two hiding out. I started in Eden Prairie, since someone on the Surly Facebook site had commented earlier that they got some there. At the first Eden Prairie Liquors they had several left at 6PM which is very surprising. The limit was two bottles to make sure more people get to try them, and I get that, but still wish I could buy my fill! I then tried the other location, since they usually get shipments the same day. I was able to get another two bottles there, but the cashier mentioned that that was the bottom of the barrel. Word to the wise: When you go into stores, ask them if they have the beer. Most of the places I know keep them behind the counter or in the cooler. In previous years I looked a place, didn't see the beer and left, only to discover that friends of mine had been there after me and received bottles. Sucks being a Norwegian Minnesotan sometimes. I tried one more place in Chanhassen, but they said it was unlikely that they would be getting any at all. It sounds like within the 494 perimeter Surly distributes their own beers, but outside they have to go through other distributors. Because of the middle-man issue the stores in the more distant suburbs get nothing, or small allocations, and these arrive sporadically and unannounced. Apparently it drives the owners of stores nuts, because we fan-boys call constantly to ask when they will have the beers, and they have no idea.
In the end success. Could I use a couple more for the cellar? Absolutely. Who knows, maybe I can find a few over the next week. The thrill of the hunt calls to me...