It was 7:20 am, Black Friday.
I woke up and took a five-minute shower. I brewed some coffee in a rush.
I muttered to myself as I scrambled with a fistful of paper towels to clean up the 100% pure Arabica mess that sprawled along the particleboard counter top.
I exchanged my soiled sweater for a few swear words, a coat, and I was off (like a prom dress, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA).
I hurried along to the liquor store on the odd end of town. It was a Podunk, little crapper in a strip mall, but as far as I was aware, they had the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout with the carbine-action, two hundred shot range—you’ll shoot your eye—
Just shut the hell up.
“Oh, are you here for the Bourbon thing?” The little old lady asked me.
“You bet your sweet, sweet fanny.”
“Excuse me, young man?”
“Geez, I’m sorry—I just got a little excited there—but if you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
“What was that?” She gave me such a look.
“Oh, nothing—no—yes—are you selling?”
“We are, but just one bottle per person, and it’s $8 a bottle.”
“That’s just fine,” I said (what’s wrong with me).
“What’s the big deal with this beer anyway? Is it beer?”
Aw, dumb ol’ woman.
“Yeah, actually. It’s a very rare beer that’s released right around this time every year, and we don’t get very much up here, so, it sells very fast.” I had a cultish glint in my eyes that shut her right up. I was on my way.
I craved more.
I craved so much more.
I drove two towns over to the next liquor store. I walked in, got two words in and the lumpy man stopped me immediately.
“That $30 four-pack beer? No, that’s gone already!” He ejaculated, furiously. “I don’t know, come back later.” Fine, your establishment smelled like perverts and Slim Jims, anyway.
Crestfallen, I was that much more bloodthirsty.
I left my house Ishmael, came back as Ishmael, but now—now, at this very moment, I became Ahab.
I made my way back into Burlington. I went to pay Liam a visit at the local record store. They themselves were having their very own Black Friday sale. Then I saw the man with the white box.
“Oh, yeah,” Liam mused, “he bought out all the Bourbon County at City Market.”
“What? Is there any more?” I began to froth at the mouth.
A small hirsute man with a strangely attractive girlfriend then looked over at me. “You could try the store up the street; I think they still had a few four-packs when I was there last.”
Blood vessels were now bursting in my eyes. Liam cringed, like a baby.
I slipped across the snow and ice along the sidewalk as I dashed up toward Pearl Street. Stumbling in, I saw my treasure, sitting on the counter.
“You… have… Bourbon County?”
The woman at the register, weathered by Pall Malls and overexposure to Donna Summer shot a seductive glance. “$8 a bottle, baby…
Or, you could buy a pack,
and be the
I stammered. Blood dripped from my lips.
“I want to be the envy of
30 dollars later, I rushed back to my car so I could head directed to the local tap house to get, you guessed it, more of this god-forsaken beer.
I was the only one in the bar, at 11 o’clock in the morning, but I got it.
I savored every
LET THIS BE A CAUTIONARY TALE TO YE
Why the hell do we go out of our way to torture ourselves to track down these white whales?
That was a rhetorical question.
Don’t bother answering.
There is litany of reasons out of which we can posit. The better question that emerges, however, is what’s the kind of person that tracks these beers down? These types of people expand far beyond just beer culture, but the more fascinating aspect surrounding the culture itself is the true rarity of these beers. Perhaps you can find a digital copy of that rare LP, and stream it online. You can see a picture of a rare piece of art. You may own a cheaper copy of an otherwise rare novel. While these are lesser experiences of the “real” thing—until we finally invent Smell-o-Vision— there is no such replication for things olfactory or pertaining to taste. Whale hunting stokes a strangely competitive nature amongst beer drinkers. How competitive? Visit a craft beer forum and just search for “whales.” You may not notice it at first, but eventually, that raw stench of pathetic elitism will make you thankful that we, in fact, do not have Smell-o-Vision.
The concern, however, extends beyond the occasional aggressive one-ups-man-ship associated with the cult of Ahab; it also lies within our own psyche. There is a radio program out of WNYC called Radiolab—not to draw conclusions, but if you’re into craft beer, you’re likely into NPR, so you’ve probably heard of it. Anyway, there was a recent rebroadcast (as a matter of fact, I just heard it again not 10 minutes ago; you can check it out here: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91684-stochasticity) about stochasticity, or, in less fancy-pants terms, randomness. In one segment of this episode, they discuss the tragic tale of one Ann Klinestiver, who was diagnosed years back with Parkinson’s disease. She began drug treatment that mitigated the effects of the disease, but stoked a voracious gambling addiction. They drew parallels to a study by Wolfram Schultz around the turn of the millennium, in which he and colleague Roland Suri measured dopamine levels in a monkey’s brain when they brought him some yummy juice to drink (yummy juice, yummy beer, see where I’m going with this?). In the ongoing study, they found that consistently, the dopamine levels in the brain spiked earlier and earlier by certain triggers pending the arrival of juice. The anticipation of a reward is, in fact, a gamble.
Naturally, I derived my own meaning from this. Consider the beer geek; dopamine free-flowing standing in line, forking over literal gobs of slimy, stanky money for a bottle of beer, having traveled to AND fro (and I mean fro) for this nonsense, the geek finally takes a sip and realizes it
just tastes like beer.
Sure, there are some exceptional beers to seek out, and sometimes some of the fun comes from the chase, but we should cherish our local breweries and businesses as well. Greatness is sometimes down the next block. If you’re stressing over beer, you’re doing something wrong.
Most importantly, if you are going to go out of your way to get a beer like this, why not do it with some close friends in mind? Some of the best experiences are served by helping hands.
Honestly, some people take the culture too seriously, and I will be first to tell you it’s easy to become a little overzealous. I guess what I am really trying to say here is that I would rather be an Ishmael than dive too deep like an Ahab and get eviscerated by a manic cetacean—but that’s just me.
Drop the mike