So, Thursday was International Stout Day. I’ve been cutting back, so I had no stout (or any beer for that matter) on Thursday. However, as one blogger put it, I was “pre-loaded for the holiday.” Instead of having a stout on ISD, I enjoyed what might be the most hyped stout of the year: Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout.
Yes, I already have a bottle. There’s some debate out there as to when is the best time to crack open said bottle. I planned to open mine at some point before the end of the year. Now, I won’t have to as I’ve had a glass-worth of the beer and now I can age it away in my cellar. And there’s good reason…
Our best beer bar is located in a restaurant called Sycamore. Sycamore hosts the most incredible beer dinners. Wednesday’s affair featured Founders and their lineup of badass beers. The night featured a firkin of Harvest Ale and, more importantly, a keg of the highly sought after Canadian Breakfast Stout, or “CBS” as the beer nerds call it.
Anyway, for $10, I received a glass of CBS. It was too cold at first, so I warmed it as best I could while sipping slowly. There’s tons of bourbon, but I was surprised to taste so much coffee in this beer. Had it not been for the oak, bourbon, and thick, syrupy mouthfeel, I could have sworn it was Founders Breakfast Stout and not the CBS. Still, this was a sticky mess of a beer. The sweetness from the maple syrup was almost overwhelming. I felt my mouth and hands were sticky in the same way the are during a pancake dinner when I was a kid.
The beer was lot to handle with all that stickiness and the inevitable heat from all that alcohol. However, as is typical of the North American beer geek, this hot, sticky mess was a glorious drink to behold. So, we drank it all in one evening, picking apart what may be a top-5 beer for anyone.
Like I said, I’ll hold onto my bottle of the liquid gold. My wife wants me to sell on eBay for a $100, but I could never do that. First, I want to see what it tastes like after being aged a bit. Second, I don’t know that this beer – nor any beer – is really worth $100. It was good. I don’t regret the $10 I paid for my glass, but no one should have to pay $100 for a beer.
After we were all nearly done with the CBS, a beer club member pulled out a Black Tuesday from The Bruery. Now, that beer is a behemoth. Imagine a Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (if you’ve had one) with a huge bourbon and oak presence. Then, imagine that 18% slobber-knocker in a 750 mL bottle. Yeah. Let that sink in for a moment.
So, that’s how I prepped myself for International Stout Day.
OK. So, Columbia, Missouri is not the smallest of towns. There are ~100,000 people here and a major university. However, we are a two-hour drive to any major city. We’re surrounded by farmland here. Columbia is far from metropolitan.
What this means for the beer/indie nerd is that we are often shorted our desired consumables. There’s no record store. There’s no 40+tap beer bar. Many bands pass over our town in search of larger crowds (or an unwillingness to make three stops in Missouri). And many special release beers never make it to our store shelves. One can feel pretty isolated in such a town.
We often turn inward, but even that has its limitations. Music scenes ebb and flow as kids graduate and move on before a new batch arrives. We’re relegated to the same two local breweries once we’ve consumed whatever’s left on the shelves. Small towns just can’t maintain a certain level of entertainment and consumables to keep the average gentleman dabbler properly occupied.
That said, there are benefits from time to time. These benefits or advantages don’t come around often, but when they do, it can be pretty satisfying. Of course, what I’m talking about mostly pertains to beer and indie rock as other small town benefits (decent schools, nice place to raise a family, everyone knows your name, etc.) are arguably not that great or not exactly for what one is looking. The biggest advantage to living in a small town is that when someone or something comes to town, there’s a much greater chance that one will be able to take part in the festivities than if the same thing happens in a larger city.
Take concerts and rock shows for example. I attended a Built to Spill show a few years back, something I had grown accustomed to over the years, especially in a town the size of Columbia. If and when a band came to town, I could secure a ticket or two with little difficulty. That evening, I was chatting with friends who had previously lived in NYC. For them to see a band like Built to Spill would have taken an extreme amount of luck and $10-20 more per ticket. If a band comes to Columbia, I will be able to get a ticket or at least through the door with ease. Sometimes, there might not be that many of us in the room. It’s a definite perk.
Interestingly, this phenomena also applies to most small-to-medium-sized cities. It worked well in Columbus, OH most of the time with a few shows that sold out before I could get through to the operator or the Ticketmaster desk at Krogers. However, cities like St. Louis and Kansas City are even easier to gain access to marquee shows. Take tonight for instance. I’m heading out to Kansas City for the Wild Flag gig, something I would have difficulty doing in a larger city. The band has a ton of buzz and is touring like mad, but I suspect a ticket in NYC or Chicago is hard to come by at the moment.
With beer, it’s all about the special releases. Like the bands who may or may not stop through town, we have to hope that distributors can find it in their hearts to allow us a case or two of the good stuff. Some beer we will never see, but some makes its way onto our shelves. Yesterday, for example, while some were getting shut-out, stores here in Columbia were quietly placing Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout on their shelves. Actually, in the case of the store around the corner from me, I was able to get a manager to go to the back and retrieve me a single bottle of the liquid gold. I figured that I was lucky enough to get one bottle and would leave the rest for others. It really was that easy to get my hands on a bottle of what is turning out to be a super-rare beer. There was no mad rush, no lines, no crashing computers.
I will complain a lot about the seclusion of living in this town, but I don’t ignore the benefits. When a band comes to town I wan to see, it happens. When a rare beer hits our shelves, I’ll more than likely get my hands on one. The lack of competition means that gentleman dabbling can continue despite other deficiencies in availability.