By Staff Blogger Tom Cramer
Images By Tom Cramer
A lot of what I discuss in this piece is old news to many long-time craft beer enthusiasts, but for the benefit of those who may relatively new to craft (which we should always encourage) there are some explanations of some common terms.
Long before I ever got into craft beer, beer was pretty simple. It was either:
Go to bar – drink beer.
Go to liquor store – buy beer - go home - drink beer.
In fact, that formula held true for a long time even after I got into craft beer. Even if I selected a bomber of a new beer to bring to an informal tasting the following weekend, I usually failed. I couldn’t wait to taste it.
At the time, these bombers I’m speaking of are now referred to as “shelfies.” For the most part, they were readily available. If I drank a bomber and liked it, I could easily get another. What I mean by “informal share” is that several of us would get together, each bringing a bomber or two that (hopefully) none of us had yet tried.
Eventually, I learned to buy six packs of craft beer along with some bombers; drink the sixers and put the bombers in a cool dark place, preferably out of sight. I also learned that some styles are worth “cellaring” (like barrel aged stouts)
Within the last few years, I became familiar with terms like bottle count, brewery-only releases, trading, secondary markets and whales, and I got caught up in it.
Rough definition of a whale: a limited release where demand far outstrips supply, thus creating a high secondary market value.
Rough definition of secondary market value: how much you’d have to give up in trade or how much you’d have to spend to get someone lucky enough to part with their hard-to-get beer. For example, someone pays $30 to $50 for a bomber at the brewery, but could sell it for $250 to $500.
Now, I don’t have a very big cellar. Depending how you personally define a whale, I might have one, maybe two. Other bottles were either procured by going out of state, trading or buying and in my opinion are worth hanging on to for a year or two.
But the question is…
When do I drink them - and with whom?
I consider these bottles too special to ever consider drinking them by myself. They should be for a special occasion and/or part of a “formal” bottle share.
What do I consider a formal bottle share?
In my opinion, a formal bottle share is with people who have roughly the same amount of knowledge about the world of craft beer, and who are going to bring bottles that are of similar quality or value.
To illustrate, if I were going to an informal share, and brought a $10 shelfie, I wouldn’t really care what anyone else brought. But I wouldn’t bring a bomber of bourbon barrel aged stout with a secondary market value of $200 to a share where the next best beer is likely to be an offering from Shock Top.
However, if a friend who is crazy about craft beer, has been trying many different styles and trying to learn as much as possible, but for whatever reason has never yet been able to acquire a special bottle – then yes, I’d invite that friend to a “formal” share. Heck yeah. Others did it for me.
What is the point of all of this?
Recently, I’ve heard the term “beer snob” thrown around quite a bit. Sometimes I think it’s justified and sometimes I don’t. Often, it’s from a person who has hurt feelings because they weren’t invited to a certain share, but really doesn’t yet understand all of the variables that affect the “value” of a beer.
I try to put it into context. If they are into cars, I might ask them: would you trade a brand new Kia hatchback for a brand new BMW SUV straight up?
What are your thoughts on this?
(Editor's Note: Send your thoughts to editorpints @gmail.com and they could be used in a future Templars Tales issue.)
About Tom: Tom Cramer first learned about the many different styles of beer while working in Belgium in the mid 90’s. Enjoys writing, guitar playing and grilling – all of which go well with craft beer!
Follow Tom on Twitter and Instagram at 70sKidCramer