The options for the beer lover these days have never been better. Go into any grocery story, or often even the lowliest of convience stores and you’ll find a plethora of beers to chose from.
Sierra Nevada and its speciality brews, Lagunitas and a sampling of foreign beers can be found almost everywhere. And in addition to these fine six packs one can also peruse shelves of even fancier 22 ounce bottles. These beers are often from ultra-micro breweries from across the nation and the world. The big bottles come with a big sticker price though, in the range of $9.99 to even a shocking $19.99 per bottle.
Recently I was hanging out with some buddies talking about Belgium brews and the American breweries that emulate the funky Belgian style. We were dropping names like the well-known Chimay to the more obscure Three Philosphers. I realized I hadn’t had some of these beers for a while probably because I’m not a huge fan of the Belgian style and I balk at buying beer at such a rate. With wine prices these days it’s often cheaper to pick up a couple of bottles of imported Shiraz then to buy a couple of sixers, let alone one of the special 22 ouncers.
But this blog is about experimentation, and living The Uncorked Life no matter the personal sacrifice. So at Whole Foods the other day I decided to drop down on some speciality 22 ounce bottles.
I picked up one bottle from an obscure brewery in Colorado because, well, the label featured a chocolate lab. The beer, the “Cellar Reserve” by Grand Teton Brewing Co., was part of the brewery’s signature artist-designed labels and a clerk at the store told me that the current bottles would be the last the store would have.
The beer was amazing. Hands down, one of the best Belgian style white ales I’ve ever tasted. This was so more than just a tasty beer; it had layers on layers of flavor that began with light, flowery all spice and coriander and then finished with sumptuous notes of hops. This was the type of beer that could complement and accentuate fine dining.
I also purchased a 22 of Allagash brewery’s special Curieux release. I was interested in this beer because it’s aged in small, oak barrels that had been used for aging Bourbon. The Bourbon barrel trend has become quite hot in the U.S. with brewmasters across the nation gaffling up any used Bourbon or other brown liquor barrels they can find to age their brews.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had expected fireworks of deep flavor, and instead found the beer to be a bit bland. I could pick up a few notes of vanilla and some liquor alcohol notes, but I think that was about all I got from the Bourbon oak. The rest of the beer was a bit sour.
And at $19.99 for a 22 ounce bottle of the stuff, I have to admit that perhaps my uninterest was fueled by the bitterness in my mouth after having spent what I had.
It is what it is. I recommend tasting through these speciality brews when you can, because you can truly taste something rare and amazing. (Another good example is the Sierra Nevada Estate Beer, fantastic, and probably one of the few beers you’ll find with a wax sealed bottle cap.) Unfortunately you can also taste a clunker.