Recently, I was invited by my friend Dave to attend his beer exchange/blind tasting. I eagerly accepted the invite without necessarily understanding what I was getting myself into. What I was participating in was the sixteenth iteration of what is easily the most impressive beer exchange I have ever joined.
Couple things about Dave: 1. He knows his beer and has an impressive nose for quality. 2. He is a huge Tom Brady fan and is hysterically obnoxious about it. 3. As obnoxious as he is about Tom Brady, he is even more committed to throwing a great beer exchange.
I have done a number of beer exchanges over the years. All were pretty basic: a number of guys easily divisible into 24 each buy a case of beer and everyone swaps. It’s a fun and easy way to get a bunch of different beers. Only a few years ago before the ubiquity of mix-a-six and high end bottle shops, it was the only way to get a bunch of different craft beers in what was then case only beer distribution in backwards Pennsylvania.
This specific beer exchange was different. Guys were bringing big beers, and there was incentive to impress. Everyone starts with bringing a case of beer, expectation is that you are bringing a beer of acceptable pedigree and quality and it can’t be something that has been brought to the party before (there is a running list on Google docs). So no Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, great beers but… Been there. Drank that.
The way it works is each of the twelve participant brings one case and deposits ten bucks into the pool. Each case has two beers brought to the collective and each is part of a blind tasting. The beers are listed on a scoring sheet and as you taste each you make notes and after you all beers are done you attempt to match them up, giving you best guess as to which beers you tried from the provided list. You also do a ranking, listing your top three beers from the twelve.
The $120 gathered by the group provides two “awards” one is for the most beers correctly identified (harder than you might think even with some obvious ones) wins a $60 bottle of beer. The other $60 was for some general gambling purposes.
The lineup for this year’s Blind Tasting Beer Exchange was as follows:
Daisy Cutter by Half Acre
Fruitbasket by Champion Brewing Company (The Highest Rated Beer)
Hotbox Coffee Porter by Oskar Blues Brewery
Manor Hill IPA by Manor Hill Brewing
CLINK! by SØLE Artisan Ales
Allie’s Donuts Double Chocolate Porter by Narragansett Brewing Company (My contribution)
Watermelon Dorado by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
Pineapple Sculpin by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
Tropical Bitch by Flying Dog Brewery
Big Daddy IPA by Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Oak Barrel Stout by Dominion Brewing Company
Duet by Alpine Beer Company
All the beers were well received but for the Big Daddy IPA. The Big Daddy was a year old and the time sitting on the beer distributor’s shelf imparted a wet cardboard, Saint Bernard breath finish that was widely mocked. Always check the dates on your beers people… especially those hoppy beers.
The quality of the beer selection was top notch. The beers were all very good (well except for Big Daddy) and everyone appeared equally impressed. The one part of the night that might be most critical to control, and this is totally to Dave’s credit, is the quality of the company. We had a dozen guys each with an impressive knowledge of craft beers and none of them were dicks about it. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find craft beer people that appreciate the craft and the beer. More than once that night I heard “It’s just beer.” That is right… it is “just beer” and this was an incredibly fun way to enjoy and celebrate “just beer.”
The lasting privilege was each participant left the exchange with two of every beer sipped that night; even the year old Big Daddy.
Post Script: My favorite beer from the evening was Tropical Bitch by Flying Dog. It’s an impressive brew.
Some guys brought a couple whales to share before starting the blind tasting. I had Trickery by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and Xibalba by Wicked Weed; both great beers.
Lacto Calrissian Sour Double IPA by Pizza Boy Brewing was the best thing I had all night and might be my favorite beer in a long, long time; yeah it was that good. The taste is even better than the name.
I brought a growler of OH Mad Hops, an unfiltered Imperial IPA by Mad Chef in East Petersburg; it was well received. I was very impressed with the quality of their beer after only six months of brewing. Mad Chef is a brewery to watch.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are dirty rotten cheats and everyone knows it. F those guys.
Special Thanks to Dave for inviting me to this Beer Exchange. He was a phenomenal host and did a great job. Its just goes to show that you can root for Tom Brady and still be a decent person… Who knew?