I’m back from a long stretch of business and distraction with a couple stories about my adventures in beer geekdom. Although you can probably substitute “Wine,” “Cheese,” even “Cigars” for “Beer,” and there’s a similar story out there.
Back in November, my homebrew club, BOSS, held its usual meeting with samplings of various beers. We popped open one bottle from a brewer with a good reputation for strong, over-the-top beers that age very well. We lifted our sampling glasses and were immediately hit by the smell of—a dirty diaper. Somehow, we had gotten hold of a contaminated bottle, or one that had simply gone stale.
These kinds of things with microbrewed beers. Despite scrupulous attention to sanitation, many of these beers are not pasteurized so they can be “bottle-conditioned:” some active yeast is left in or added to the bottle to continue working on the beer over time, which means a beer like this should improve with age. But the odds are that at some point a bottle will be contaminated or staled.
I said as such when I posted my opinion of the beer at RateBeer.com. I give it a low rating, yet explaining that this was likely a single bottle that had gone bad.
Probably not more than five minutes after posting the rating, I had a message in my account from the beer’s brewer. He wrote asking for more information on the bottle, what the date stamp was, so he could find out why there was a bad beer out there. After finding the bottle (which I took home because it could be reused for homebrew), I wrote back that it was dated for last December; and whether it had sat on a store shelf under flourescent lights all that time, or in someone’s fridge, could not be determined for certain.
He wrote back asking for my address so he could send some new bottles as soon as they came off the line. Five weeks later, a UPS package arrived with the two new bottles, plus two more of another beer they only have on draft at their tap house.
So first off, I haven’t mentioned the name of the beer involved, so moochers don’t start posting bad reviews in hopes of scoring free brew. But it just goes to show ya that when you’re really interested in someone else’s work, be it beer, or what have you, and you demonstrate your interest with complementary comments (or helpful comments if something goes wrong); then if the people on the other side of the counter also care about what they do, they will sometimes reciprocate that appreciation.
Update, 2020: Okay, it’s been long enough. The beer in question was Dogfish Head Immort Ale. It was Sam Calagione himself who PM’d me within a few minutes, back when the beer geek world was small enough to let you do that.
Gotta go now, but I’m also adding some thoughts about the second half of this title. For now, here’s a preview at Pubcrawler.com (dead site).