Saturday, November 25, 2017
A situation of Craft Beer and Bourbon County Brand Stout
I'm not sure what exactly it is about Black Friday that strips the mental capacity of the average person down to the primal urges. We've all seen the videos of near mortal combat at Walmarts. And while we aren't punching one another for a video game console, we see one another take part of it like cattle to the slaughter.
Over in Torrance, California in the early hours, hazebros lined up starting before 4am for Monkish Brewery's Black Friday release of specialty glassware that, let's face it, will undoubtedly break the next time a bottle share at a buddy's place gets out of pocket. But as foolish as waiting more than eight hours for some 'Like-generating' Instagram prop is, I have more respect for them than I do the countless who were waiting outside of a Binnys and other local bottle shops for this year's latest Wolf in Craft beer sheep's clothing - Bourbon County Brand Stout.
Just like the diet that happens around this time of the Holiday season, the moral compass most craft beer enthusiast have gets a hall pass to gather lots of cases of this Inbev bottle. Especially perplexing because it wasn't that long ago that the Brewers Association started stamping a new Independent craft logo on beer to make sure consumers knew what was actually craft beer and what is now owned by the same makers of Budweiser.
And just like the Ice Bucket challenge, many spearheaded the movement in a feel good manner to show that they stand with the little guy. To stand up to big beer conglomerates and say that they'll support the little guys and not feed money to those companies looking to buy out more in some perverse Invasion of the body snatchers method on your local bottle shop wall. So you choose a Modern Times beer over a 10 Barrel. To clearly know which one is actually craft beer and which one could be cranking out their stand by's in a big facility.
Someone better tell all those other brands owned by InBev, the company that bought out Goose Island back in 2011, that they don't have to pull out justification about how it's "us vs wine makers" and "hey, we all use yeast, am i rite?". That if they just stay quiet long enough and crank out something that has nostalgia, collector factors and a little luck, that they too can get back those customers who have avoided them because of selling out.
You have to wonder where all that bluster is now that had independent brewers backing out of the Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational after they got their sacks of cash. Forget scruples when the formula seems to be Time + Nostalgia = Say No More, Fam! Wicked Weeds just needs to wait it out and crank out some Nintendo Classic level fan favorite and that craft beer cicerone short term memory will be gone in no time.
Here in California the overnight crews were out in full force, be it with better weather, reports of guys waiting outside their LBS around 4:30 with crowds going 20-30 deep. Pretty silly in the grand scheme of things to think this stuff is going to be rare by any means. LBS got dozens and dozens of cases of it. It's now produced in such an grand level that I wonder why anyone would attempt to treat this as some hot commodity in the beer trading scene.And while I fully know rarity shouldn't effect taste, there's other issues to be addressed here, such as how does it taste?
I think the main driving force with the appeal of BCBS is that it was that pinnacle of bourbon barrel aged stouts. It has a huge amount of memories associated with it. Entry level beer drinkers would get to try years worth of versions of it to see how it has changed over the years. Some have verticals in their cellar that they pull out every now and then. So the nostalgia factor is big in why it's still sought out. I get it.
The "one for the vert" mentality. Which I can understand to some degree. You have fond memories of mid-west pours with friends discovering how BCBS aged over the year. Yeah, no. You can't say that anymore. After the past years infections, they went ahead and pasteurized the beer. What you are drinking now is what you'll be drinking later. Any hope you had of aging these beers has died, just like how one's soul feels waiting in front of a Binny's on a cold Thanksgiving night.
This leads us to the other heart break waiting to happen. Tackling the issue of the declining quality of this beer. When you scale up there's always going to be something lost in the move. In this case, over the past few years it has been pretty clear that the taste of this once great beer is falling. Either that or other local breweries took note and improved on the work that Goose Island led. Which makes you wonder if it's time to move on from this abusive relationship you have with Bourbon County.
Stacking it up against Bottle Logic's Darkstar November, there's nothing to be said. DSN takes the win easily. Even if it's perceived as the less sought after BL beer, it won hands down. Showing craft breweries do it better.
With ruling out taste as an excuse to why you're still buying, we need to address another thing the masses are forgetting. The quality control issues. With a history of infections in the past few years both fully confirmed and some that, well, folks just speculated wasn't tasting to its peak, I have to wonder why you would even trust this beer anymore. The amount of refunds Goose Island had to issue for the four brands that were infected should have been an indication. Even with the notion that a fat check and a free shirt working as blinders to washing that bad taste and memory out of your mind, shouldn't the Untapped badge of gushing swill be the reminder to stay away?
We already know that this year's Barleywine Ale Reserve 2017 was pulled because the end results were as the brewers said "It doesn't taste like what we wanted it to". If that's not a sign similar to a rattlesnake tail rattling, a puffer fish puffed up or a dog growling to stay the fuck back from, then I don't know what is.
Ultimately, this fickle nature shouldn't be surprising. It's hard to hold up one's ethical code in the face of something that seems one wants to be apart. Much like I'm sure how today the same folks who were all adament about keeping craft beer craft and were buying BCBS are the same tossing back a couple at their local brewery tasting room touting the merits in how they're taking part of Small Business Saturday. Just remember that you ain't lying to us, you're lying to yourself.