Achieving Beervana … or: The Perfect Beer World Nov. 2012 “The Session”

For this month’s “Session” blog post, Jorge over at Brew Beer and Drink It has posed the question of the Perfect Beer World. That is, what will bring us closer to creating our ideal state of be(er)ing. See what I did there?

There are lots of places to start – perhaps world peace would encourage greater brewery collaborations? Saison du BUFF, anyone? But I’m not going to waste my time with such trivial, Kumbaya-like thinking. World peace is a pretty big task when we have a few easy fixes right here at home.

So let’s grab a brew, salute the flag and hit the jump to see how we can create the Perfect Beer World right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, and maybe get some help from our friends around the globe too.

“Every journey starts with a first step.”
– Someone smart

1. Make the Great American Beer Festival great again

First thing’s first. If we’re going to make positive changes to the beer scene in America, might as well start with our country’s preeminent beer festival. In the wake of this year’s GABF, Andy Crouch proposed his 10-point plan to improve the festival, which, in his eyes, has lost track of what has made it great. While my experience was a mixed bag – one great night and one startled by projectile vomit – Andy raises some great points.

At the top of his list is incorporating more interaction from brewery owners and brewers themselves, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Other attendees note in the comments of Andy’s blog post that they did catch owners/brewers at the festival, but on a whole my own experience was almost exclusively with yellow-shirted volunteers who poured beer at each table and couldn’t really answer any questions. If part of our goal is to educate the public on the nuances of craft beer, then this change to GABF should be of the utmost importance.

Another of Andy’s points – that the festival should do more to showcase “new” or “small” breweries or brewing regions is important. I felt that the Mountain West and Pacific regions of the festival were very well attended by both breweries and festival-goers. However, I would’ve LOVED to see the opportunity for more North Carolina breweries to show their stuff. During a recent trip to the Mystery Brewing, CEO and head brewer Erik Lars Myers told me that he wanted to go to GABF, but registration was such a wild and mad dash that brewer spots were already snatched up by the time he got online to register – just like it was for those buying tickets. Let’s fix this by expanding the size of GABF to include more of the Denver Convention Center and making it easier for breweries to show up, especially if they want to. The only way we’re going to grow the beer culture is to make sure we’re encouraging everyone and anyone to take part.

“In case you never get a second chance: don’t be afraid! If you do get a second chance? You take it!”
― C. Joy Bell C.

2. Make distribution easier and broader

No, this doesn’t start with giant, global companies taking over regional beer landmarks. This starts with wishful thinking and a growth of the educated, beer-drinking populace of our country.

In my Perfect Beer World, Chicago’s Goose Island could send Bourbon County Stout – and any other version of it – from Illinois down here to North Carolina. It would also mean Pliny the Elder would pop up at my local beer store instead of being sequestered to the West Coast. New Glarus could taunt me from my fridge instead of only Wisconsin. It could also mean getting my hands on one of my favorite brands from back home in New York – Ithaca Beer’s Apricot Wheat.

Part of the problem we face may be economics, part of it is simply a choice by brewers and businessmen to keep their product locally or regionally. I can’t fault them for that, but I can fault them for making my Real Beer World a little sadder.

That’s why I say to hell with distribution issues – created purposefully or through sheer economics. In the Perfect Beer World, we should all be able to sample the best beers from breweries around the country and world. DESTIHL should be able to ship their amazing sour beers from Florida to France and Iron Hill can send me their much sought-after pumpkin ale. With no distribution barriers we get to enjoy the best beers from top-flight breweries and small up-and-comers alike.

A big bonus to this change – no more scalping beers on eBay, beer’s Black Market.

“Three. Oooo. It’s the magic number. Yes it is.”
– Childhood

3. No more limited releases, but in a good way

Who wouldn’t love a fresh Hopslam in the middle of July? Someone who isn’t living in the Perfect Beer World, that’s for sure.

Whether it’s Bell’s hopbomb or The Bruery’s Black Tuesday or Foothills Sexual Chocolate, these are beers that are rare and in-demand. I’m fine spending the extra money to enjoy a beer of such high quality, but doesn’t it sound wonderful to the penny pinchers at each brewery when I admit with others I’d love to spend my money all year long on these limited runs? Space, time and cost be damned, this is Perfect Beer World, where every day is Dark Lord Day.

With the ability to buy these beers – and according to Act #2 of Perfect Beer World – buy these beers anywhere, my fridge would be wonderfully stocked to my heart’s content. Russian Imperial Stouts in the summer, wet-hopped ales in the spring and special pumpkin beers whenever I please. This would make us happy at home and also mean we’re not wasting time in line at beer shops waiting to see if we’ll get that last bottle (only allowed to buy one!) of a much-coveted brew.

Oh Perfect Beer World, what a wonderful place you’d be.

*Bonus: This week, Julia Herz of CraftBeer.com posed this question: Should the shaker pint glass go away? In Perfect Beer World, the answer is an astounding yes. Want to know why? Check out my thoughts on the topic.

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10 thoughts on “Achieving Beervana … or: The Perfect Beer World Nov. 2012 “The Session”

  1. Looking from all the way over here in Australia, it’s surprising to find that distribution in the US isn’t great. I’d figured you could get any US beer quite easily, regardless of which state you were in.

  2. I enjoyed this article, although personally I like the fact that beer changes as you travel. It’s one of the fun things about going to new places.

    It’s another story if there’s nothing good available locally though.

    • Absolutely. One of my favorite things (to the annoyance of my wife) is that whenever we’re somewhere new, I pop out my phone and look to see where the closest local brewery or bottle shop is. It’s a very exciting part of travel, but then I just get sad when I leave places like Washington (state) or Colorado and know I won’t be seeing those brews for a very long time.

  3. I actually have mixed feeling on #2 and #3.

    I find quite often that when I get a beer from out-of-market I am disappointed. The beer is fine, but not nearly as awesome as all the hype suggests it should be. I am quite sure that often the reason for this is that the beer here is not as fresh as it would have been in its home-town. Personally (at least for most of the beer styles I most drink) I would rather have a fresh local brew without the reputation over an out-of-town beer that has been declared awesome by everyone else.

    If we could amend #2 to include a provision that out-of-town beer is always preserved and served as intended I can be on-board with this change.

    #3 … I am going to have to disagree with you. I like one-off and seasonal beers, and would not like them to be around all the time.

    Just my opinion, though.

    Good post.

    • … and I certainly welcome your criticism and opposing views!

      Like my response to John above, I think my ideas for reaching “perfection” really fall into the “I want it now” complex I’d guess we all end up with from time-to-time. I LOVED visiting a friend in Wisconsin because I finally got to try New Glarus beers. When I left I was disappointed I’d never have them again until I went back. But I also love all the local, fresh brews I can find right here in North Carolina.

      I could very easily argue both sides of each of the points I make, because I think I have stock in all the angles. I love how excited I get for Sexual Chocolate, literally running down the street to my local bottle shop to grab one before they’re all gone. I love looking forward to the annual release of Hopslam knowing I’m going to be drinking it for days in a row to really enjoy the freshness of it. But then I’m sad that they’re gone.

      What it comes down to, I suppose, is my greed to enjoy as many beers as I can all the time. I’m such a portfolio drinker, trying to find as many unique experiences as possible. That’s why I’m throwing myself in that direction.

      But as both you and John note – and some famous person – absence [can] make the heart grow fonder.

  4. Amen on #2. My post for this Session echoed the same sentiment (as you noted on my site).
    I will disagree on #3, though. Part of what makes the seasonals or one-offs special is their limited availability. That may sound a little bit contradictory, but there’s a line somewhere between distribution/geographic limitations and seasonal limitations that make sense to me.
    That said, your perfect beer world does sound wonderful.

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