A few weeks ago I made the trip up to Waterbury, Vermont. While my trip up there wasn't built around visiting The Alchemist, it was certainly a planned stop. Heady Topper, a double IPA produced by The Alchemist, is surrounded by a level of buzz and demand that most breweries only dream about. In Vermont it's not that hard to get but, in Boston where we're based, it's incredibly hard to find and, for those outside of New England, it's one of the white whales of beer right now. When I returned from my trip I tweeted out a picture of my cooler full of Heady Topper, to which I got the expected envious responses. But there was a second type of response that surprised me a little bit, people who had cans of it but were holding on to them. My immediate reply to these people was, "Drink It Now!" and that really got me thinking about the whole experience of getting the beer. In talking to some people I realized my view on rare or hard to get beer might be a little bit different that the average person's so I thought I'd share my five basic rules I stick to.
Rule #1: Don't be greedy
When you find some rare beer your first inclination might be to buy it all. Who knows, you might never see it again. But take a second and think twice before you do this. The reason there's some for you to buy is that the last person who saw it didn't do that. Spread the wealth when you find something cool and rare. It's good beer karma.
Rule #2: Don't sell it
Sweet, you've found some cool, rare beer! Assuming you followed Rule #1 you've bought a couple bottle, but not all of it. Now it's time to drink it, not sell it. It kills me when I see people buy up rare beer just to make a profit on eBay or Craigslist. If you're reading this site I'm going to assume you don't do this, but it's still a very important rule. I'm all for capitalism, but not everything has to be about money all the time. Just enjoy the beer.
Rule #3: Drink it now!
While there are some exceptions to this rule for the vast majority of cases the beer you've purchased was meant to be consumed right now. Using Heady Topper as an example this beer deteriorates every day that you don't drink it. Now that's not to say if a few weeks go by it's going to go bad, but alpha acids are volatile and do degrade. For any hoppy beer the sooner you drink it the better it will be. I know it's tempting to hold on to it for a special occasion as it's the only bottle or can you have. Just remember that there's always new beer coming out.
Rule #4: Share it
You've scored some rare or hard to get beer and you're ready to crack it open. Now's the time to call up some friends to join you. It's rare right? Meaning your friends probably haven't tried it and they probably want to. Does it mean you get a little bit less? Sure, but I guarantee you when they pick up something cool next time you'll be on their list to call and share that one (more good beer karma). Now here's where I'm going to push a little more: share with people who aren't as into beer as you as well as your beer friends. I recently shared some Heady Topper with a friend who was a casual craft beer drinker. He likes IPAs but had never heard of Heady Topper at all. He was blown away by it and the experience opened his eyes to a whole new level a beer. The picture above is of three beers I shared with a friend, none of which can be purchased in MA right now. They're not necessarily all super rare everywhere, but in Massachusetts they are!
Rule #5: Beer should be fun
There are times where you won't get a rare beer you really wanted, that's ok, there will always be something new and cool on the way. There will be rare beers that don't live up to expectations, that's ok too. If you find yourself ever taking beer too seriously just take a step back and remember that it's beer and beer should be fun. If it's not, maybe you should start drinking wine...they're into that kind of thing (just kidding!).