Is size important?

Standard

The Stout world seems to be confused about size.  If you go to your favorite bottleshop or taproom, you’ll see Stouts in 12oz cans, 16oz cans, 19oz cans (BA TENFIDY), 11.2 oz bottles,  12 oz bottles, 16oz bottles, 500ml bottles, 22oz bombers and 750ml bottles, and in rare cases, 1 liter bottles (yes, Rogue I’m talking about Rolling Thunder).   Consistent we’re not.

2017-03-25_13-45-37_490Why is size important?  Well, in the Stout world it’s important because the other critical variable is %ABV or how potent the beverage is in terms of alcohol content.  While there is a trend toward “session” Stouts, the average Stout weighs in somewhere between 9 and 15% ABV.  Now I know there are others on the lower and higher sides, but most are in that ABV window.  A 22oz
12% bomber is not only filling, the normal person feels pretty loose after consuming an entire bottle.   Some might say that a 22oz bomber is the right size for sharing , but in many situations, sharing isn’t part of the equation.  Putting a bottle stopper on and saving it like a wine isn’t really an option, so drinking the entire bottle becomes the task for the day.  I really like the strategy that Founder’s Brewing is taking this year with their 2017 release of KBS.  They are releasing KBS in both 750ml (25.4oz) bottles and 4 packs of 12 oz bottles!  That certainly gives us Stout lovers the option on how we want to enjoy our KBS!

The most recent release I’m not sure I understand (other than it being a novelty) is Rogue’s 2016 release of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout.  As you can see below, it was 2017-03-25_13-48-34_891released in a 1 Liter (33.8 oz) bottle which can be restoppered.  I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never thought beers really stay the same after they are stoppered.  You lose carbonation and once you open it, oxidization starts.  That’s why I’m not a fan of 32 or 64oz growlers.

Why all of the different sizes and shapes?  There are a few reasons.  One is cost.
Depending on the amount of Stout, some brewers choose a larger capacity bottle which means less bottles.  That leads me to the next reason – marketing.  Scarce supply can create a higher demand for the beer and a heightened interest in the brewery.   For me, an example of this is the offerings from Ram Brewing just outside of Chicago (Schaumburg to be exact).  To be frank, I never heard of Ram until I read about them on various online boards and just how great their Stouts are.  When Ram announced their releases online, lines formed and the trading started.   The 2017 version of Chaos is in great demand on the trading boards.  Small breweries can make great beer and create quite a buzz through low volumes and high demand!

The other part of marketing is brewery only releases versus distribution.  Brewery only releases accomplishes a couple of things: it takes care of your primary customers (those local to the brewery) and allows the brewer to control the distribution.  Brewery only releases is a topic better left for another blog post…so stay tuned!

Another decision is can vs. bottle….there is a clear trend toward canning Stouts and there is an economic as well as quality aspect to this.  Cans allow no light in (obviously) and therefore the beer has a longer shelf life.  Glass allows light in and exposure to light 2017-03-25_13-47-05_782over time breaks down the beer.  That’s why one of the rules of successfully aging Stouts is to keep them in a dark area.

Back to the size of the Stout….I’d like to see some consistency in approach.  If a Stout is 12% or higher ABV, I’d like to have an option for a 12oz. bottle.  I really have to commend Founder’s – I’m not sure of the economics, but as a Stout consumer, I really like having the option and in my world, I would opt for the 4 pack of 12oz. bottles.  That gives me 4 opportunities to enjoy the Stout, whereas if I bought the similar quantity in 750ml bottles, I would only have 2 chances.  I also believe taste sensitivity begins to diminish after 16oz or so (no science behind this, just personal observation) and when quality is more important than quantity, I’d rather have my full complement of taste buds and be left with wanting more!

Marketing, economics, quantity, distribution, even tradition – all these determine the size, shape, and type of vessel for our wonderful Stouts!  What do you think about the various bottle/can sizes for Stouts?  Do you have a preference?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Cheers!

The Art of the Deal (Stout Trading)

Standard

While our President-elect may have written a best selling book about dealing, my guess is that he wasn’t talking about trading craft beer…..and this is the topic for today’s blogpost.   Trading beer is an art and a science;  it’s an art in the fact that one needs to know when to say yes (or no) and it’s a science in understanding what the current value is for the beer you are trading and the beer you are trading for.     Some beers have higher values due to their scarcity or newness; some have higher values due to their name/brand/reputation.

Readers of my blog know I recently took a trip to Asheville with my two sons.  I was fortunate enough to come home with some Oskar Blues Barrel Aged TENFIDY, Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY, and some Wicked Weed Dark Arts. 2016-11-08_18-40-47_072 While I knew these were quality Stouts, I also knew they would be good Stout Currency in the world of trading, as these were relatively rare due to their quantity and availability.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks, I have been able to turn 11 Java BA TENFIDY, 11 BA TENFIDY, and 2 bottles of Dark Arts into:

  • 4 Bell’s Black Note Stout (2016)
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Hazels Nuts2016-12-10_12-51-57_081
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Mayan Mocha
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-04_4872016 Dark Lord
  • Perennial Abraxas
  • Firestone Walker Parabajava
  • Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
  • 2016-12-10_12-52-57_113Cigar City Caffe Americano
  • Cigar City Vanilla Hazelnut Marshall Zhukov
  • The Bruery Black Tuesday2016-12-10_12-56-29_309
  • Lawson’s Apple Brandy Fayston Maple Imperial Stout
  • Long Trail Barrel Aged Unearthed Stout
  • Hill Farmstead Twilight of the Idols
  • Bourbon Barrel Dark Horse Plead the 5th
  • Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake
  • Prairie Sherry Barrel  Noir
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-58_960Prairie BA Christmas Bomb!2016-12-10_12-55-29_629

and with some additional help from my inventory, I was also able to acquire:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout2016-12-10_12-57-30_240
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
  • 2 Alchemist Heady Topper
  • 4 Alchemist Focal Banger
  • 2016-12-10_12-59-56_5864 Alchemist Beelzebub
  • 1 Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
  • 1 Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, I’m really pleased as to what I’ve been able to acquire and I believe my trading partners have been pleased as to what they’ve received from me!  I’m a big believer of dollar for dollar trading (known as “$4$” in the trading world), meaning that the trade should be equivalent in terms of money spent.  The only caviat to that is knowing what stouts are more rare or are in high demand – which may require a bit more to close the deal.  That’s where the art comes in….knowing when to add a bit more to seal the deal and knowing when to walk away from a trade when someone is asking too much for the trade.  I’ve walked away from trades and I’ve also knowingly overpaid because I really wanted to acquire a Stout that’s been on my want list for a long time!  But that’s OK….it’s only beer!

In fact, I just closed two additional trades today:

  • 4 2016 KBS for a 2016 Surly Darkness
  • 3 Prairie AB Noir and a Birthday Bomb for a 2016 Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning and a Gingerbread Stout

As in any trade or negotiation, there is the thrill of the chase and the excitement of closing the deal.  However, once the deal is sealed, reality sinks in and the downside of trading rears it’s ugly head.  Besides having to pack the beer well enough to withstand a nuclear blast, the cost of shipping…..whether it’s UPS or FedEx, shipping is not cheap.   I guess I rationalize the cost knowing that it’s usually close to a wash between what I pay for shipping and what my trading partner has to pay.   That being said, shipping costs do add up after a few trades and one must consider whether it’s worth it.  In fact, I’m leaning toward more in-person (IP) trades moving forward.   A couple of these trades were in person and it was great to not deal with packing and the shipping costs and I got to meet some other local craft beer traders.  It’s just a matter of finding local trading partners who have access to those non-local or rare Stouts that I am seeking.

How does one get into trading?  The number of online trading forums are many; I lean toward the Beer Advocate forum but there are many others – Reddit, TalkBeer, and on Facebook, there is the Rare Beer Seekers page along with a good number of local craftbeer pages that encourage and facilitate in person trading.  It’s a pretty straightforward process – you either post your wants (ISO=In Search Of) and what you are willing to trade (FT=For Trade) or you scour the posts to see if there is something you can accommodate.  Then you either receive a DM (Direct Message) or you initiate one to start the trading dance.  Then it’s all about time and patience…..and it either consummates in a deal or you move on to other opportunities!

I will continue to chase the trade; I have a lot of Stouts that I think others may find appealing so I will continue to chase my whales (Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight and Funky Buddha’s Morning Wood are at the top of my list) and hope others will find my inventory appealing and worth trading for!

Do you have any trading tips?  What’s your best or worst trade?  Any horror stories that you would like to share?  We would all like to learn so if you have anything to share, please do so!

 

Trading Stouts

Standard

The concept of beer trading is an interesting one.  While there are many online websites that discuss the how-to’s and enable trading, I want to spend a few minutes discussing the  emotions of a trade.  The basic premise to trading is to use your inventory to acquire beers that you otherwise couldn’t get, either because of geographical distribution, limited distribution, or you just want more of a specific beer.

I’ve traded a few times with some really good people whom I’ve never met.  California, Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma all are home to some great people who are also great beer traders.  I’ve been able to taste beers that I would otherwise never get to taste and hopefully my trading partners would be able to say the same.   The anatomy of a trade is an interesting one; since I’m not really what you would call an active trader or a known trader in the beer trading community, I’m usually the initiator when I want to make a trade.

For example, I’m in the middle of a trade with a good person in Oklahoma, Michael Holland.   The good people at Prairie Artisan Ales recently had a brewery only release of Pirate Paradise Stout…and I really wanted to get a couple of bottles.  If you’ve been reading 2016-08-18_213816124_15B6A_iOSany of my blog posts, tweets, or Instagram posts, you probably know that I am a big fan of any and all stouts that PAA releases.    I love Pirate Bomb! and I also loved the glass of 2016-06-25_194332518_27367_iOSParadise I was fortunate enough to taste at a local establishment, so I had to have Pirate Paradise!

I threw out a feeler on the PAA Facebook page and Mr. Holland kindly responded.  We went back and forth and quickly settled on the exchange.  I was willing to “overpay” since I was the initiator and Michael was pleased with the deal.  Now to turn the deal into reality.  I spent a good hour packing up the bottles and glassware to insure it would make it safely to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Bubble wrap, bubble wrap, styrofoam noodles, and more bubble wrap. The last thing I would want is to have Michael open a box of broken glassware or to have a bottle break during the shipment.  I’ve read too many accounts of broken bottles or opened packages by the shipper so I tend to overpack.  My shipper of choice is UPS so my next stop is to the UPS Store to send it on it’s way.  It’s usually $20-30 to ship a box so it’s important to pack it well enough so it gets to it’s destination safely.

Well, my box of goodies made it to Tulsa in one piece and I am anxiously awaiting my delivery from Michael – it’s scheduled to be delivered tomorrow.  Part of my emotion is relief that my package made it safely so Michael can enjoy the contents and the other part is the anticipation of getting something in the mail that I am really excited about!   I’m looking forward to coming home from work tomorrow with a box on my doorstep!

Fortunately, I’ve not had a negative experience in any of my beer trades.  I’m not a frequent trader, but I do consider myself to be an experienced trader and I do my best to make sure my trading partners are happy.

Do you have any trading stories that you are willing to share?  Good, bad, or ugly?  Any tips you want to share with us?  Leave a comment so we can all learn….