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Beer Trading Part Four: The Beer is Here!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you to beer trading and walked you through a simple trade.  Just in case you missed something, in Part One, we talked about how to set up a trade.  In Part Two, we picked a trader and agreed on beers to trade.  In Part Three, we packed and shipped our beers.  We’ve waited patiently for our package to be delivered and it’s finally here!

Yep, this is my favorite part, opening the big box of goodies.  When I open a box of beer, I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.  Even when I know what’s inside, it’s still exciting to dig in and unwrap all the beers.

Our New Glarus loot in all its’ glory!  Yeah, we pulled a ton of tasty brews from Wisconsin.  If you’ve never had the Belgian Red or Raspberry Tart, make sure you move them to the top of your list.  Big, fruity flavors that are appreciated even by non-beer lovers.  Drink it straight or get crafty and pour it over vanilla bean ice cream or mix it with some Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout.  Fun, tasty beers.

At this point, I’ll e-mail our trader to thank them and let them know that I got everything in one piece.   I’ll also ask if they got the package I sent.  If something breaks, it’s typically the responsibility of the shipper to replace the beer(s) or do something to make up for the loss.  Just another good reason to take the extra time to pack things up safely the first time.

After checking with our trader, Kody, he told me that our package arrived safely with no issues.  At this point, the trade is done.  Now all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy your beers.

I keep a list of people I’ve traded with and will generally trade with the same people over and over again.  For example, after trading with Kody, I know that in addition to New Glarus, he’s got pretty good access to beers from Goose Island and Three Floyds among others.  We’re already working on setting up our next trade.  It doesn’t take long to develop a network of contacts and beer traders around the country.  It’s that easy.

Hope this little trading guide answered some questions and encouraged you to take the plunge.  If anything’s unclear or you’ve got questions, by all means, let me know.  It’s a great hobby.  Hope you enjoy it!

Big shout out to all of the brewers that won awards over the weekend at the World Beer Cup in San Diego, CA!  The complete list of winners can be found HERE.  I’m really excited to see so many Colorado brewers bring home medals, including Oskar Blues, Dry Dock, Rockyard, Odell and many more.  Bull & Bush brought home a whopping 4 awards!  Congrats to all  the breweries!

The next World Beer Cup is scheduled for Denver in 2014!  Yeah, it’s two years away, but it’s coming.  It’s almost like Denver was picked to host the Olympics.  Brewers from all over the world will be in town for a long weekend of seminars, tastings, beer dinners and more.  They couldn’t have picked a better location.

Don’t look now, but Colorado Beer Week is right around the corner.  More details to come later this week.  Stay tuned and check the Facebook page for all the latest info.

Cheers!

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Beer Trading Part Three: Packing and Shipping

So I’ve had an ongoing project where I’ve been walking you guys through a beer trade.  In case you missed it, part 1 is HERE and part 2 is HERE

At this point, we’ve agreed on what beers we’re going to send and receive.  I’ve also responded to all of the people who sent me a message looking to trade.  It’s good to respond, even if it’s just to say “thanks, but no thanks”.  Kody (our trader out in IL) and I have agreed on a shipping date and we’re ready to pack up and send. 

There are several ways to wrap and pack and there’s plenty of different materials you can pick from.  I typically just go with the basic bubble wrap, but I’ve done so many trades at this point and recycle most of the material I receive, so as long as the packing material is still in good condition, I’ll just reuse it on a future trade. 

Wrap each bottle individually.  Don’t skimp here.  Make sure everything is covered with packing material and taped up so nothing slips out. 

Wrapping the bottles in bubble wrap.

After wrapping, it’s not a bad idea to slip each beer into a ziploc bag.  That way, if something breaks, your box won’t be dripping wet.  Most shipping companies won’t deliver a box that is leaking and it will only cause problems for you down the road.  If something does break, it’s typically the responsibility of the shipper to make good and replace the beer.  Take your time and do a good job on packing the beers.  There’s nothing worse than having a shipment out there in “beer purgatory” because something leaked out or busted during delivery. 

For your box, make sure it’s sturdy and can take a beating if necessary.  Don’t go with some flimsy shoe box or thin-walled cardboard box.  Moving boxes work, double-walled boxes are the best.  Use your best judgement here, but realize your box will be going on a long journey across the country, so pick a good one.  If you’re shipping a lot of beers, don’t be afraid to split it between two boxes. 

So you’ve wrapped your beers and picked your box, now line the box with bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts or whatever padded material you’ve got and start packing your beers.  I try to leave a little space in between each beer and fill it up with styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap.  Again, don’t skimp. 

Packing the box.

In the past, I’ve lined my boxes with a big garbage bag and tied it closed before closing up the box.  That way, if something happens to break, it won’t destroy the box and ruin the shipment.  I haven’t done this in a while, but would recommend it if you’re going to be shipping full growlers.  Make sure you completely fill the empty space in your box with packing material.  This will ensure your beers aren’t slipping and moving around inside during delivery.  Again, don’t skimp or cut corners when it comes to packing your beers. 

I try to visualize my box taking a 6-foot fall.  Would the beers survive?  If the answer is yes, then you should be safe to ship.  If you’re not sure, repack and don’t take the risk. 

One last layer of bubble wrap.

Ready to be sealed up.

Pack it up tight and tape it closed.  I use a lot of tape and hit each open edge a few times just to be safe.

An easier way to pack your beers, is to track down some styrofoam bottle shippers.  These are molded to hold big 750mL bottles, but with a little bubble wrap, you can fill the space to hold 22oz. bombers or 12oz. bottles.  Super easy to use and you can get them in 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 or 12 bottle sizes.  Over time, I’ve accumulated a bunch of these in the garage and I typically use them with people I trade with over and over again.  I’ll ship first and they’ll fill it up and send beers back to me.  It’s a time saver and if you have regular trading partners that you trade with multiple times, it can save you money too. 

Packing up a 6-bottle styrofoam shipping box.

Shipping made easy.

Both methods work, but it’s up to you the route you want to take. 

 

All packed up and ready to go!

 

As for shipping, don’t use U.S. Mail.  It’s illegal to ship alcohol using the USPS.  Don’t bother with them.  I use FedEx and most traders will use FedEx or UPS, but don’t advertise that you’re shipping beer.  Some shipping employees won’t care, others will tell you they won’t ship it. 

If someone hears a little sloshing around in your box, they might ask what’s inside.  Good answers are steak marinade, yeast samples or collectible bottles.  You can also mask the sounds by throwing a handful of rice in the bottom of the box.  I’ve also received boxes that had a tiny box of pennies inside.  Not necessary, but not a bad idea either.   

Make life easy on yourself and set up a free FedEx account.  It only takes a minute to do and allows you to print your own shipping labels on your home printer.  Get your box dimensions and approximate weight, enter your destination and print it out.  Then you just need to tape it to your box and schedule a pickup or drop it off at your local retailer.  Aside from saving yourself the hassle of filling out all your shipping papers at the store, you get a discount and they’ll even give you free shipping supplies.  So easy, a caveman can do it. 

You’ll get a tracking number which you’ll want give to your recipient.  That way they can track it along the way and know when to expect delivery. 

Track your shipments on the FedEx website.

It’s not a bad idea to throw in a couple of extra beers in your box.  I usually drop in a few tasty local beers that I think my recipient might enjoy.  If it’s someone I’ve traded with a few times, I might throw in something that I know they’ve been looking for or is tough to track down.  Living in Colorado, I usually go with Odell, Dry Dock or if I’m shipping east, maybe some Firestone Walker or Deschutes.  Just something that our target probably doesn’t have access to and would enjoy.  Sometimes I’ll also throw in a nice tulip glass or some brewery swag in as well.  Just a little something to say thanks for the trade.  It’s not required, but is something that most traders will do and helps spread a little good beer karma.

Now you’ve done all the work, just drop off your package and wait for yours to show up in return.  I dropped off yesterday and it’s supposed to arrive on Thursday.  See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?  I’m looking forward to getting some fresh New Glarus.  Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what we got.  Feel free to hit me up with any questions you might have.  In the meantime, sit back and have a beer. 

Plenty of great events coming up this weekend.  I should have all the details up in another day or two, so check back soon for updates.  Also, click on the Facebook page for daily updates and happenings in the world of beer. 

Cheers!


Weekend Wrap Up, New Beers and Beer News 4/22/12

The house is quiet.  The kids are in bed, Patti’s makin’ the big bucks at work and I’m sitting out back on the deck.  My cat watches me through the screen door in total jealousy.  I’m not sure if he’s jealous of the fact that I’m outside or if he’s just eyeing up the IPA I’m sipping on, but either way, he’s not happy with me.  At any rate, I’m loving this weather and I’m a little bummed that another weekend is drawing to a close.  Did you get out and enjoy it?  We sure did.

We hit the Copper Kettle 1-year Anniversary Party on both Friday and Saturday.  It gave us a chance to try some of their special releases like the Belgian Golden Strong, Belgian Black Quad and American Barleywine, among others.  If you missed it, you need to kick yourself…  hard.  It was a great, 4-day long celebration, with different beer releases each day, along with food trucks and live music on-site.  I’m not sure if they staff got any sleep over the weekend or not, but they were having fun and kept things running smoothly.

Copper Kettle beer list on Friday.

Gary V was there broadcasting his American Craft Beer Radio program on Saturday morning.  He had Jeremy Gobien and Kristin Kozik from Copper Kettle on the show, along with Bill Eye talking about the upcoming opening of Prost Brewing, Firkin Master Walt Chleva from Dry Dock and Tim Myers from Strange Brewing.  Great show and thanks Gary for the shout out!

American Craft Beer Radio live from Copper Kettle Brewing.

After the past weekend, I’m really digging Copper Kettle and their great beers.  I’ll be stopping by more and more to try their different releases and get growlers to go.  Congrats on a great first year guys!

We also hit up the Avery Tap Takeover out at Parry’s Pizza in Highlands Ranch, CO.  This was an awesome event, featuring 21 Avery beers on tap, plus a handful in bottles.  They brought some heavy hitters for this event, including ’11 Beast Grand Cru, Tweak, Uncle Jacob’s Stout and a ton more.  Very, very impressed with the lineup.  The standout for me was the Boulder Weiss.  A (not over the top) German sour, that was served with a touch of either cherry or peach.  The peach was delish!

They also had Avery giveaways every hour throughout the day.  We couldn’t resist the food.  Dude, their food is seriously good.  We got a pizza that was dripping with tasty meat.  It couldn’t have been better.  Really good food, great beer.  If you haven’t been yet, move Parry’s to the top of your list.  Stay tuned for more Tap Takeovers in the coming weeks.

Alright, so you get the idea, the weekend rocked.  Hope you were able to get away from the yard work and enjoy it at some point.

Got plenty of new beers on the way to keep your beer hunting skills finely tuned.  First up is Stone Ruination.  Seems the gargoyle has been working out and has pumped up from 7.7% ABV to 10% ABV for his birthday.  Come on now, who doesn’t like Stone?  This classic Double IPA should be pretty easy to track down, so keep an eye out for it in upcoming weeks.

   Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA

For the sour beer and funk lovers out there, Chad Yakobson up at Crooked Stave has bottled his Petite Sour.  You might recognize the name from last year’s Pure Guava Petite Sour release, but this is a completely different beer.  It’s being described as a “tart, farmhouse, table beer”.  I know last year’s Pure Guava had a, well, uhm, interesting (?) aroma when it was released, that wasn’t necessarily well received by the funksters.  Settle down people, Chad knows his beer.  If you like wild yeast, sours and funky things, this should be on your radar.  Oh, and pick up two if you can.  One for now and one to try in a year or two, after the yeast has really gone to town and worked its’ magic.

While we’re laying down the funk, Jason Yester down at Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs just got label approval for his upcoming Oh Face Saison.  Another tribute to the movie Office Space, this was brewed with pumpkin, lavender and spices and fermented with Brettanomyces.  He’s putting that new brew system to good use.  They don’t call him Saison Man for nothing.  Jason is a master at what he does and this will definitely warrant a trip to the brewery to pick up a bottle or three.

 

Right about now you might be thinking, damn man, can’t you just tell me about a good beer that I can go to the store and buy today!  Sorry, I just get excited about all the new beers coming our way.  But yes, you’re right.  There are plenty of new, tasty beers that have found their way to your local shelves in the last week that you can easily track down and enjoy right now.

How about Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack.  This is the latest release in their Reserve Series and is listed as a Black Rye IPA.  Wookey Jack is double dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops, which should give a big grapefruit or citrusy aroma.  It’s unfiltered and I’m guessing the rye will make it pretty easy drinking.  At only $5.99 / 22-oz bomber, it’s worth trying.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack 22oz Label

Quick teaser, FW fans, Parabola will be back in mid-May.  I believe this will be the third batch.  More details as I get ’em, but if you like imperial stouts, this is a winner.  Stay tuned.

One more beer that’s out and about now is Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout.  I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this beer about 6 times in the last two weeks, but it’s THAT good.  Plus, I know you’re going to be really mad at yourself when all the other little Colorado beer nerds have bought them up and you missed out.  Yep, it’s $10.00 / 12-oz bottle.  I get it, it’s expensive, but it’s also 17% ABV.  Split a bottle with someone and put on a long movie.  You’re evening is set.  It’s a nice, nice beer that is very drinkable right now and will continue to evolve and change over time.  Avery plans to release this beer again next year, so start building your vertical now.  Pick up some today.  It’s still around at a few places, but won’t be there for long.  If you don’t grab one, I don’t want to hear any whining later.  Just sayin’.

 

That’s it for now.  Again, hope you had a great weekend and hope I could add some beers to your shopping list.  Oh, almost forgot, our beer trade is going along swimmingly.  (Swimmingly???  I don’t know, just liked the sound of it)  Our beers are getting shipped out tomorrow.  Stay tuned and I’ll walk you through the whole packing process and get us one step closer to some tasty, sweet New Glarus morsels.

Happy Earth Day!  Cheers!


Beer Trading Part Two, Uncle Jacob’s Release and Opening Day

So a few days ago I gave you a little tease about getting into the delicious world of beer trading.  We were going to walk through a trade, along with Tony, one of our readers and track down some tasty New Glarus in exchange for some Colorado locals.  Did you miss out?  If so, click HERE to catch up and come back when you’re ready.  (insert Jeopardy theme song…)

Good?  Good! 

So we set up our free account on beeradvocate.com; we made our simple ISO (In Search Of): FT (For Trade) post; we raked in a bunch of responses (about 15 in 24 hours).  Now what??? 

So now you’re wondering, how do I pick a trader to go with?  Like I said, we got about 15 responses the first day of our ISO:FT post.  I’ve got a few ways to narrow down the trader we’re going to work with.  The first way is to go with the first response.  Kind of seems fair that the early bird gets the worm.  Another way is to go with someone you’ve already traded with. 

For me, trading is all about establishing good, friendly relationships with traders from around the country.  That way, when a beer comes along in a certain area of the U.S. that I’m looking for, I’ve got someone that might be able to help me out and vice versa.  There are several traders that I’ve known for years and we hook each other up with local fav’s, brewery only releases and so on, to share the loot.  In this case though, I wanted to start fresh and not fall back on past experiences.  I wanted to play the “rookie” and show you that it’s still easy to lock in a trade without knowing someone ahead of time. 

So I decided on a response from Kody, who actually lives in Chicago, IL, but makes frequent trips to Wisconsin.  Kody’s initial response was simple and to the point.  He just stated that he had New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart and was looking for Odell and Lost Abbey.  We swapped a few more messages and came to the realization that we both had access to the same Lost Abbey beers, but I suggested some beers from Dry Dock, Avery and Funkwerks that he hadn’t heard of and might be interested in. 

In the past week, we’ve exchanged about a dozen more messages, narrowing down specific beers to swap and our favorite styles.  Turns out, Kody is going to be obtaining bottles of Three Floyd’s Dark Lord later this month, which is considered to be one of the best beers on the planet.  I love me some Dark Lord and am always on the hunt for more.  So we’re already talking about future trades! 

Like I said, beer trading for me, is about making those friendships that will continue for years to come.  I enjoy making connections with people like Kody who have the same passion for beer as I do.  In the future, I can get beers exclusive to my area that he will enjoy and swap for beers in his area that I will enjoy.  This is what makes the beer geek community so cool and unique.  Granted, it’s not always this way.  I’ve done many “one and done” trades, but more often than not, I trade with the same people, over and over again.  Hell, there’s even a guy in Boston, MA that I traded with so many times that I flew him out for the Great American Beer Festival a few years ago. 

Anyway, so we’ve locked in our trader, made small talk, locked in the beers we’re going to trade and we’re one step closer to having some delicious New Glarus for our glass.  Our next step is to buy our beers, pack, ship and wait for our box o’ goodies to arrive.  Questions????  Comments????  I’m going to try and pack our beers this week, so stay tuned! 

In other news, I hit the Uncle Jacob’s Stout release at Avery last night.  Uncle Who?  Click HERE for the details.  I got there late, but avoided the line and still got my allocation.  The reviews so far have been great.  For anybody that went and popped open a bottle, what did you think?  Looks like they flipped the line around and ran it into the barrel room and back through the keg room.  After attending various Avery releases for the past few years, it seems like Avery has gotten better and better about their small batch releases.  They continue to improve the customer experience and that’s a GREAT thing.  Big shout-out to Adam, Phil and everyone else over there for their awesome efforts in making these releases run smoother each and every time.  I hope to open a bottle soon and will try to share with you when I do. 

Lastly, tomorrow is Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies.  As a huge baseball fan, I’m really, really looking forward to this.  The weather should be perfect and the beer scene will be in full effect.  Falling Rock Tap House will be rockin’ with tents set up out front representing your favorite breweries.  Freshcraft, Denver Beer Company, Great Divide and the new kid on the block, River North, will be open and ready for the baseball crowd.  Rumor has it, Sandlot, at Coors Field, will even be pouring a sour for Opening Day!  Patti and I will be there and hope to see you downtown!  Drop us a line if you’re going.  We’d love to meet up and share a brew with you.


An Introduction to Beer Trading

Quite often in this blog, I write about new beers coming out around the country.  Last month, I wrote about Cascade’s Sour Blueberry and Russian River’s Beatification.  Coming up in April is Three Floyd’s Dark Lord and Ithaca’s LeBleu.   Unfortunately, you can’t just walk to your local liquor store and pick up a bottle.  Many of these beers will only be sold at the brewery or will see very limited distribution.  What’s a beer nerd to do?  Relax, grab a beer and let me introduce you to the world of Beer Trading. 

Beer trading is a great way to track down limited release beers like the ones mentioned above or maybe track down old favorites that don’t distribute to Colorado.  My first trade was nearly 5 years ago when I traded for bottles of New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart.  Basically, I had tried these beers at the Great American Beer Festival and wanted some bottles for my fridge. 

If you’ve ever been to GABF, you’re probably familiar with New Glarus and their never-ending line of 50+ people all waiting patiently for a 2 oz. pour of beer.  They have a line at their table from the time the doors open on Thursday evening until the beer stops flowing late on Saturday night.  And for good reason, they make some amazing beers and their fruit beers in particular are highly respected and sought after.  Other than 3 days during GABF, New Glarus beers don’t make it to Colorado.  In fact, New Glarus doesn’t distribute outside their home state of Wisconsin.  No distribution to Colorado is bad news for us, but the good news is that New Glarus is really easy to find in Wisconsin. 

Brewers and press lining up for New Glarus, before the festival doors even opened up.

So, we either need to make a road trip up to visit those cheese heads (approx. 30 hours round trip from Denver) or we can swap a few e-mails with a Wisconsin local and set up a trade.  I’m going to be munchin’ on marshmallow peeps and hiding easter eggs for the kids this weekend, so I can’t make a road trip anytime soon, but I can probably spend a few minutes in front of the computer and arrange a beer trade. 

One of our readers, we’ll just call him “Tony”, (mainly because that’s his name) has volunteered to let me walk him through a beer trade and share with you his experiences along the way.  One of the first things I asked Tony was whether or not he had an account on beeradvocate.com.  If you’re not familiar with beeradvocate, it’s a website where you can share reviews and learn about beer, but they have an area with forums that allow beer geeks to interact with each other.  One of the forums is set up specifically for trading. 

Turns out, Tony already has a beeradvocate.com account.  If you don’t have one, they’re free and will give you access to the forums.  The trading forum is called “ISO:FT”.  “ISO”, means “In Search Of” and “FT”, means “For Trade”.  So our post will look something along the lines of ISO: New Glarus, FT: Colorado Locals.  Simple and to the point. 

Head’s up, if you’re going to post on beeradvocate.com, read the rules first.  The Bros. that run the site can be a little strict at times, but they mean well.  Just make sure you don’t offer anything other than beer for beer trades.  No trading your wife for beer, tickets for beer, pet goldfish for beer and definitely don’t offer to buy or sell any beer.  It’s a no-no and will only get your post deleted. 

There are other sites out there, but I think Beeradvocate has a pretty wide audience and I’ve been using it for nearly 6 years.  I’ve met a lot of great people through the site, have made some good friendships and have a regular network of people around the country that I trade with, so I’m a little partial to it.  Like I said, there are other sites that will allow you to meet other beer traders, but Beeradvocate is the one I prefer. 

So we want New Glarus, specifically Belgian Red, maybe Raspberry Tart and Tony mentioned he also wanted to track down some Spotted Cow, which is their Cream Ale.  These are fairly easy to find in Wisconsin and wouldn’t be hard for a local to pick up.  In return, we’re going to offer beers that are local to us here in Colorado. 

In simple trades like this, I will typically offer some of my favorite locals that don’t get distributed very far.  For me, I’m leaning towards Odell, Dry Dock, Funkwerks and Crooked Stave.  These are good breweries, making good beers that are fairly easy for me to find and will be enjoyed by the recipient.  It wouldn’t make sense to offer beers from breweries like Avery, New Belgium and Great Divide, mainly because they have a huge distribution footprint.  The vast majority of their lineup can be found across the U.S. and our recipient is going to want to trade for beers that he can go to a store and buy.  There are still small batch releases and brewery exclusives that we can trade, but that’s a little advanced at this point.  Let’s keep it simple for now.  We can also offer breweries that distribute to Colorado, but might not distribute to Wisconsin.  Maybe Russian River or Firestone Walker from California or Deschutes from Oregon. 

When trading locals for locals, your best bet is to try to keep it dollar-for-dollar.  In other words, if your recipient is spending $25 for your beer, expect to send $25 worth of beer to them. 

I think we’re about ready to make our ISO:FT post.  Click HERE to check it out.  Now we sit back and wait for a response.  I’ll keep you updated along the way.  Warning, trading can become an addicting habit.  In the meantime, enjoy the pic below.  Cheers! 


New Beers and Beer News 03/28/2012

It’s a great time to be a beer trader.  Spring is shaping up nicely with so many great beers getting ready to pop up around the country.  Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA is about to drop another batch of Beatification for your drinking pleasure.  This is a much, much bigger batch when compared to last month’s release.  That’s good news, but it’s still going to be a brewery only release.  Vinnie and the gang are going to start selling bottles on Friday, March 30th at 9AM, with a 6 bottle limit.  Beatification is sour turned up to 11!  It’s delish and should be on your radar if that’s your thing.  Highly recommended.

Glorious spontaneous fermentation!

Last week I mentioned Cascade up in Oregon and their Sour Blueberry release.  They’ve got another tasty beer coming out on March 29, (yeah, tomorrow!), called The Vine.  The Vine is a blend of soured triple, blonde quad and golden ale, refermented with white wine grapes.  It then undergoes lactic fermentation, while spending more than 6 months in a barrel.  I found some old notes from a bottle I opened back in 2010.  I rated it very well and wrote down “notes of lemon, apples, grapes, grass and wood.”  The good news about Cascade and their bottles is that they’ll ship directly to many states.  Just check their website for an order form with all the details.  I believe they still have bottles of Sour Blueberry, Apricot and Kriek for sale as well. 

Also on the horizon for traders is Ithaca’s LeBleu.  All the way out in upstate New York, is a great little place, called Ithaca Beer Company.  LeBleu is part of their Excelsior series, which highlights events and special releases and has resulted in some amazing beers.  I believe this will be the third batch of LeBleu to be released.  The beer is a sour ale brewed with New York state blueberries and fermented with Brettanomyces.  It’s then barrel aged and gets a dose of Champagne yeast when it’s finally transferred into 750mL bottles.  This batch is a blend of barrels filled in 2010 and 2011.

LeBleu is another tart and super sour beer, but the Champagne yeast gives it an added dimension.  The Champagne yeast gives it a huge, bubbly head, plenty of carbonation and a very dry finish, much like a traditional gueuze.  I’ve been going on and on about how tasty this beer is, just making myself thirsty, that I didn’t even give you the release details.  So the release is set for Saturday, April 14th from 11-7 EST.  I haven’t seen a price yet, but plan on paying in the $20 range for a bottle.  The good news is that there will be a 1 case limit, so if you know a beer trader out that way, it shouldn’t be too hard to track down.

I’ve talked quite a bit about beers to track down in trades and some of you might not have a clue as to how to go about getting into the world of beer trading.  So maybe it’s about time we do a trade together.  Whaddya think?  I’ll work on putting together a trade in the next few weeks and I’ll walk you through it from start to finish.

Anybody have a suggestion on a beer they’d like to trade for?  It doesn’t have to be anything crazy rare or limited, it can just be a simple 6 pack or bomber that you have had and enjoyed, maybe something you miss from back home or something you’ve never had before, but have been wanting to try.  Here’s your chance.  I’m telling you, it’s like Christmas morning when you get a big ol’ box o’ beer from the FedEx guy.  It’s a fun and exciting way to try beers from all over the country that aren’t available in your neck of the woods.  So hit me up if there’s something you’re after and we’ll go through the entire process together, one step at a time and post it on here.

Ready for your first beer trade?

Now for something you don’t have to trade for.  Firkin Master Walt Chleva over at Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, CO, has a Bacon Maple Firkin that will be tapped on Friday, March 30th at 3PM.  I can’t make it out for this one, but would love to hear how it turns out.

MMMMMM, Bacon!!!

Also at Dry Dock this weekend is their sort of, maybe, kind of annual Chili Cookoff.  It’s being held on Sunday, April 1st from 1-3PM.  Stop by and try some really tasty entries and vote for your favorite.  They’ve got details on their Facebook page if you’d like to enter your own creation.  This is a great way to spend the afternoon and the competition is pretty fierce.

That’s it for today.  Drop me a line if you have a suggestion for a beer to track down in trade, or if you’d like to learn how it’s done.  Cheers!


Avery Strong Ale Festival 2012 Recap

I had been looking forward to the Avery Strong Ale Festival for weeks.  Unfortunately, these things always seem to come and go so quickly.  I’m a little sad that another one is in the books, but wanted to share some highlights with you.

My wife and I checked into our hotel at around 2PM on Friday and walked to a nearby restaurant for a big dinner.  We wanted something that would stick with us late into the night and the big ol’ NY style pizza we ordered really hit the spot.  After dinner, we tracked down a few bottles of water and called for a cab to pick us up.

The festival opened at 5PM and we arrived about 20 minutes after the hour.  There was no line, so we strolled right in, but were still early enough that it wasn’t packed with people just yet.  We got our glasses, tasting tickets and a beer list.  Avery was nice enough to post the list on their Facebook page on Friday morning, so atendees could get an early glimpse at what would be pouring.

They set the festival up in alphabetical order by brewery name, so it’s relatively easy to navigate.  The Avery tasting room housed the first 20 taps, from A-B.  The barrel room had an additional 35 taps, from B-G.  The remaining 69 taps, from G-V, were in the warehouse.  We figured the least amount of people would be in the back warehouse area and decided to hear there first.  Kind of like when you’re a kid going to Disney World.  You want to hit Space Mountain first to avoid the long lines later in the day.  Same principle.

Ready to roll with the first 20 beers in the Avery Tap Room.

In the warehouse, I grabbed my first beer, Russian River’s, Pliny the Younger.  I couldn’t resist the hoppy goodness and wanted to get a pour before the keg kicked.  I figured it wouldn’t last long.  It was the perfect start to the night, until I went to reach for my camera…  Yeah, so, uhm, no camera…  I had left it back in the hotel.  A blogger without a camera is like a stormtrooper without his blaster.  Pointless.  Oh well, I’m new to this.  Lesson learned.  Still, I wasn’t going to let this get me down.  I used my quick thinking, ninja skills and hijacked my wife’s iPhone to use the camera feature.

Anyway, moving on, I headed down a few taps to get a pour of The Bruery’s, Melange No. 3.  I’ve got a bottle of this in the cellar at home, but I’ve been been waiting to try this one for a while.  It didn’t let me down.  Melange # 3 is a blend of three different beers.  White Oak Sap, a wheatwine, their Anniversary Old Ale and Black Tuesday, their famous Imperial Stout.  Big, sweet nose, chocolate, bourbon and dark fruit flavors.  It’s a pretty special beer.  Mmm, delish!

Moving on down the line, I found what would prove to be my favorite beer of the night, Surly’s Five.  Brewed in honor their recent 5th anniversary, this is a 100% Brettanomyces fermented dark ale, aged in red wine barrels.  Sour cherries, oak, along with some tartness and bretty funk.  A beautiful brew.  I love my sours and this one was top notch.  Now for the bad news, Surly doesn’t distribute outside of Minnesota…  Sigh.  If you’re a beer trader, you’ve got to seek this one out.

Surly Five. My favorite beer of the night!

We came across plenty of other highlights along the way from all over the U.S.  Some of my other favorites were Alpine – Bad Boy DIPA, Cigar City – Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, Avery – Bourbon Barrel aged Meph Addict and Pizza Port – Nose Rider DIPA to name a few.  The lineup seems to get a little better every year.

We saw lots of familiar faces and good people from around the beer world.  Plenty of local brewery representation, bloggers and even some out of state breweries.  Avery, Great Divide, Lone Tree (Jason, please bring beers next year!), Strange, Dry Dock, Bull & Bush, Oskar Blues, Redstone Meadery and many more.  We also met the gang from COOP Aleworks out in Oklahoma City, OK.  These guys were really cool and have some interesting projects going on that they were eager to tell us about.  Well worth checking out if you’re ever out that way.

Gary V. and The Gubna. Nothing like a little friendly competition.

“What’s yours?”

They don’t call themselves Strange Brewing for nothing.

No bathroom lines, the ability to go in and out of the fest to get some fresh air, good food, even better beer and some high school kids laying down some nice jazz tunes.  Another job well done by the good folks at Avery!

As the night began winding down, we called for a cab and headed back to our hotel.  It was time to head back and grab some zzzz’s.

American Craft Beer Radio host Gary V. had asked us to help him with his show on Saturday.  He was broadcasting from the Avery lot on Saturday morning and wanted us to pull some winners from his facebook page for a few brewery prizes he had to give away.  The good people at “The Kitchen” offered their upstairs bar for us to set up shop and connect with Gary.  His show is on 102.3FM from noon-1PM on Saturday’s.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that The Kitchen people really know their beer.  If you’re ever up in the Boulder area, check them out.  They’re right on the Pearl Street Mall and have a huge beer list.  They were pouring not just tasty locals like Avery IPA, but also harder to find beers like Russian River Supplication and Firestone Walker XV.  They also host beer dinners and have a Dry Dock beer dinner scheduled this week.  The food looked good too.  Being a sucker for cheese, they had a pretty impressive selection.  Like I said, check ’em out.  The radio show went off smoothly and it’s always fun to help when we can.

The Kitchen, Boulder, CO

After we wrapped up, we cruised the Pearl Street Mall for a bit and headed back to Avery to do a little beer trading.  I had set up a trade ahead of time and just needed to make the switch.  I left with a case of Avery bombers, so be on the lookout for some upcoming reviews.  The weather was perfect and people were really digging the outside patio area.

Again, awesome weekend, great people, amazing beer and perfect weather.  Avery, you guys rock!  Let’s do it again next year.  Cheers!