Thursday, November 3, 2011

The #StoutDay Post: Anatomy of a Beer Stakeout, or, The Canadian Breakfast Stout Post

Beer is for drinking, not for fetishizing, and yet last month I found myself in line waiting to buy a bottle of Founders Brewing Canadian Breakfast Stout, probably my least favorite of their Breakfast Stouts (and yes, it felt ridiculous to type that; if you must know, regular, and then Kentucky, then CBS). Why did I spend my lunch break in line for this beer? Because I could. Because I really did get an adrenaline rush from this experience. Because I’m curious to see what CBS tastes like after being cellared, something I’ve been able to do already with Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

There’s a certain, seemingly-illicit thrill in leaving work to buy alcohol, especially in the middle of the day, and especially if the alcohol in question is scarce. But it's a slow day, and we've got more than enough front desk coverage, so away I go. Against my better judgement, I take the advice of Google Maps, which states that the trip will take 23 minutes. It takes twice that. Goodbye lunch break. I get to the store, hoping that CBS hasn’t arrived yet, and it hasn’t. So I wait, and wait, and wait. I’m the second person in the store anticipating CBS’s arrival. Clearly he’s also a beer geek, and just as clearly, it’s a he. The only female who enters the store buys cheese and leaves. I introduce myself to the person in charge of beer at the store. We’ve actually “talked” via twitter many times, but this is our first meeting in real life. We pick up the conversation where it left off online: beer and 1990s rap. Just like us, he’s waiting for the shipment of CBS, all the while fielding phone calls from other beer geeks.

The other guy in line is wearing a Cigar City shirt. We talk shop. Did I hear that a keg of CBS at Churchkey was kicked in under 15 minutes? I had not. We shake our heads, and the talk naturally turns to Hopslam, the other sought-after Michigan beer. A few more people enter the store, and join the conversation. We all scan the wall of beer: what have we had, not had, liked, not liked? And we wait some more.

The wine people stare at us. Apologetically, I tell one of the wine people that I like wine as well, just not enough to wait in line for it. He laughs and says “sure you do.” I scan the wine, getting hungry since this is technically still my lunch break, yet I’ve brought no lunch. More waiting.

Cheese samples! An excellent Gruyere, and a well-aged Gouda. It’s something. The cheese monger and I chat for a bit and he brings me a few more samples. But then it’s more waiting, back to scanning the walls of wine.

I approach the same wine person, inquiring about a bottle the shop doesn’t have from a producer the shop carries. This is a mix of boredom, curiosity, and defensiveness. I must show him I know what I’m talking about. I’m disappointed that he’s not caught off guard, but says he’ll look into it. More waiting.

I fill out a form for that bottle of wine to get a sense of its price and availability. Someone else is at the cheese counter discussing cured meats. I sidle up so I can leech a sample off this conversation. It works, I get a fantastic domestic chorizo, pimenton is dominant, yet more cheese appears, and I’m happy.

Finally, the distributor shows up. We form a surprisingly orderly queue based on who arrived first, which means I’m second in line. The Founders boxes don’t come off at first, though, so there’s more waiting. I’m getting irrationally giddy about this. It’s a 750mL bottle. I can’t drink that much imperial stout, I probably only want 6 ounces of it, at the most. I resolve to cellar it and then show up to a DC Homebrewers meeting with the bottle, arriving every bit the hero.

I purchase the bottle of CBS, along with a 4-pack of Founder’s wet-hopped Harvest Ale. I take my route back to work, not Google’s. It takes 22 minutes. It’s been 2.5 hours since I left work. Would I do it again? Of course. But first, I have some hours to make up at work.

No comments:

Post a Comment