Wednesday, August 10, 2011

HOOKING IN A BIG’UN: BRUERY/CITY BEER STORE’s “THE WANDERER”

I like the concept of the “white whale” beer, or more simply, the whale. The beer that sells on the gray market (eBay, most commonly) for upwards of $100 a bottle. The “ISO” beer that everyone’s in search of and nobody finds. Usually there’s a good reason behind the hype, but not always. When I finally had the fabled THREE FLOYDS DARKLORD, I didn’t even like it all that much. Some brewers understand that playing this white whale game is just another slice of their overall marketing plan. THE BRUERY are masters at it. Through a combination of scarcity, one-time-only brews, online hype-building, release events, special pre-release tastings, aggressive packaging in big imposing bottles – and oh yeah, quality – these guys know how to reel in both suckers and genuine beer hunters alike.

So it was when I waited at San Francisco’s CITY BEER STORE a few months back to get a bottle of a one-time beer brewed for their 5th anniversary by THE BRUERY. I really didn’t care what it was, baby – it was from The Bruery, and it had the City Beer Store stamp of approval, and…..this was the only place to buy it, like, ever! They called it “THE WANDERER”. It’s a sour ale, and I knew that going in, and the label told me it was “a dark sour ale aged in barrels with blackberries and cherries”. Oh man. I bought two, one to drink and one to sell on eBay for $200. (Nah, just funnin’ ya, it’s for a reader of this blog who knows who he is).

Last night I split a bottle with another pal, and we were absolutely floored. It’s beers like this that have brought me around to the thought that $20+ is a fair price to pay for the best ales in the world. This might be one of them. An absolutely stunning sour - dry and even a little toasty in the mouthfeel, but just bursting with fruit. Blackberries, my brewing friend was telling me, are pretty hard to bring forward in the mix because the sugars ferment out so quickly during the boil, but cherries, with a stronger and more intense taste overall, seem to come forward a lot more obviously in beers in which real fruit is used. I swear I tasted them both. It is tart but not “sour”, if you get my drift. It’s also not a nosebleed/headache beer – “only” 8% alcohol, and I like that. I woke up with a spring in my step and a tear in my eye because it was all fone.

This is a beer for foodies and for lovers of all things liquid and gastronomic. I’d like to buy that pretty lady on the Food Channel or whatever it’s called who used to be married to Billy Joel a bottle of “The Wanderer” so I can script her entire show for her when she inevitably goes bananas for it and hires me as head writer. What a masterpiece. Start saving your shekels and get yourself on those trading boards in a hurry. 10/10.

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