Reflecting on ROY-G-BIV Day and the Current State of Craft Beer

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The Good

This past Sunday, we hit up the Crooked Stave ROY-G-BIV Day / Wild Wild Brett Violet (WWBV) Release Party.  I gotta say, we had a blast.  Great people, perfect weather and a plethora of fantastic beer.

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We had a ton of fun sharing bottles in the parking lot and sampling the Crooked Stave Rainbow, all while waiting for our chance to take home the final piece of the puzzle: Wild Wild Brett Violet.

Personally, I was loving life all day long.  The generosity of the Craft Beer Community never ceases to amaze me.  The pre-game bottle share had everything from a cooler full of Hill Farmstead to a 3L bottle of Supplication to vintage Bourbon County Bottles and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  (A lineup with most of the bottles can be viewed at the bottom of this post.)

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The Bad

Others however, might not agree with my above statements, which makes me a little sad.  For the past 24-48 hours, people have been blowing up the forums on BeerAdvocate.com crying foul about the way the event was handled.  They’re upset about the long lines in the tap room, “high bottle limits” and most importantly, getting shut out from WWBV bottles.  I’ve been biting my tongue, but I want to share a few thoughts on the direction the beer scene is headed.

I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to learn that the beer scene, not just in Colorado, but across the nation, has grown exploded over the past few years.  The number of craft beer drinkers has sharply increased and with that, we’ve seen new breweries, new tap rooms, new homebrew shops and so on and so on, along with the support to make it work.  This is obviously a great thing and something we should be proud of and excited about.

However, all these new craft drinkers has led to huge crowds dropping in on these brewery-only releases and in the long run, it’s made things pretty tough for a beer hunter to track down the newest releases.  The days of Cantillon bottles sitting on a shelf for months at a time are long gone.   Hell, most bottles don’t even make it to a shelf anymore.  My main man “Hip Hops” said it best in this video mocking the “new” beer scene.

Apparently, “You gots to know somebody!!!”.  Clearly, this is just a tongue in cheek interpretation on the current state of craft beer, but there’s also a lot of truth to it.  Sad, but true.

It should come as no surprise to hear that a hyped up, limited beer release WILL Sell Out!  For better or worse, times have changed and I’m pretty sure those “good ol’ days” of walking up to Avery, days after a release party and walking away with a 6-pack of their latest Barrel-Aged beauty, are gone for good.

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It’s gotten to the point that some of us don’t even enjoy talking or posting publicly about what’s coming out in the beer world or what bottle shares we’re attending.  Scott Steigerwald, who writes The Beer Whisperer is even considering turning his site into an exclusive “Members Only” group.

In the past year, I’ve joined more than one “underground” beer tasting group, with the idea being that new members are “invited in” and no one talks about it outside of the group.  Fight Club Style.  Otherwise, the only thing that seems to come out of it are people getting shut out of beer releases, name calling and hurt feelings.

Personally, I try to share all the news, events, festivals, releases, etc., with you guys through this site, but at times, it’s been quite hard.  I want to keep Zwanze Day small, but I also feel obligated to keep you guys in the loop.  I have very mixed emotions about sharing some of this stuff, but we do our best to strike a balance and keep everyone happy.

The Ugly

So here it is, the current state of craft beer has left us with more enthusiasts than bottles and festival tickets to go around.  If you want that hyped, brewery only release, you’re gonna have to go early.  And as crazy as it sounds, that’s really when the fun begins.  I’m the father of two kids and hanging out at a brewery all afternoon isn’t always an option.  I get it.  But when it is, Mrs. Insane and I usually make a day of it.  We don’t look at it as just a trip to the brewery to grab a new bottle or three, but instead, it’s a chance to hang out with our beer geek friends and catch up with everyone while sharing some of the finest beers in the land.  Everyone pulls out some interesting or aged bottles to bring and share and we might grab some snacks to pass around too.  Load up the cooler with bottles of water and grab the camp chairs, because “It’s on!”.  And that, to us anyways, is what the Craft Beer Community is all about.

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Like it or not, if you really want to enjoy yourself and not worry about getting shut out, go early, as that’s the only “safe” way to approach these events.  If not, maybe it’s best to skip it and try for the next one. And Yes, there will always be “the next one”.  Trust me.  It’s only beer and it seems like “the next great thing” is just on the horizon.  (Avery, cough, cough, June, cough, cough.  Excuse me…)

I got a text yesterday, from a friend summing up his thoughts about the scene at Crooked Stave over the weekend.  It read, “This isn’t the BK drive through, son!!!  This is beer geek gangsta!!”. In other words, this is next level beer geek stuff.  I admit it, I hate it.  But I also embrace it, because I’ve made so many great friends in this community through the Avery Releases, Zwanze Day, Sour Fest and on and on and on.

If you want these beers, you’re going to have to work for them.  You might have to go early, stand in line, share some beers and wait your turn.  Sometimes a little luck or generous beer lover comes into play as well.

The Truth

During the ROY-G-BIV Party, the line for bottles moved slowly, but that was only because Crooked Stave Owner Chad Yakobson was at the front, personally thanking and talking to everyone that was purchasing bottles.  Can you seriously get upset when the brewery owner is personally handing you the bottles you’re buying?  Chad didn’t have to do this, but he did and everyone I talked to really appreciated him taking the time to do so.

The tap room was swamped at times, but the staff busted their tails and did the best they could to keep up, all while tapping new beers every 30 minutes.  My hat goes off to all those guys.

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I’m sure they learned a few lessons, but as consumers in a growing craft beer community, we’ve got lessons to learn too.  Things haven’t always been “peachy” over at Avery’s BA releases. During the Margarete release back in 2011, there were more people in line than bottles of beer to sell and people didn’t take the news that they might get “shut out” very well.  It was a bad scene and people were angry.  But Avery’s learned from their mistakes and in my opinion, they’ve reached a point where they seem to have their events and releases dialed in.

Let’s face it, Crooked Stave didn’t expect hundreds upon hundreds of people to show up on their doorstep on Sunday morning and they did their best to make everyone happy.  People will argue that Crooked Stave should have lowered the bottle limits once they realized how big the crowd was.  I applaud the decision to keep with the 6-bottle limit for a number of reasons.  1. Stick behind whatever you advertise.  Don’t change the rules once the game begins.  2. This beer is going to change over time.  The 6-bottles allow consumers to break one out periodically and appreciate the evolution of the beer.  3. You didn’t have to get in line at an unreasonable hour to get your allotment.  Our reports have people getting in line up until just before noon (bottles sales were scheduled to begin at noon) and still securing their beers.

If you ask me, Colorado’s a bit late to the game with these brewery only releases and until recently, we’ve been dodging a bullet.  Dark Lord Day has been a crap show for at least 5 years now.  At the annual release last month in Munster, Indiana, people were lined up well before the sun came up (gates opened at 10 AM) and they already had tickets, which guaranteed bottles! We haven’t reached that point and I truly hope we never get there.  I don’t know that I’m ready to camp out overnight for beer.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

I’m no psychic, but I don’t see this growing trend going away.  Beer Festival prices will continue to rise and continue to sell out (often in record time), more new breweries will open their doors, while hyped, small batch releases will continue to draw huge crowds and will surely sell out.  We have to adapt if we’re going to survive this growth in the hobby.

As for Crooked Stave, people across the nation are drooling at the beers coming out of there. Let’s not take them for granted and certainly don’t bash them for trying to make everyone happy.  Instead, we should be thankful for having a brewery like Crooked Stave in our backyard. Appreciate what they’re doing and support them when you can.

I’d like to encourage everyone to embrace, participate and share in this amazing craft beer community of ours.  Because guess what, you may have missed out this weekend, but I know for a fact that many of us will be bringing bottles of WWBV to share at the next brewery only release.

Lastly, don’t let this get you down or scare you off.  I know many of you like craft beer, but haven’t quite reached the level of beer geekness that others have.  Trust me, there are plenty of places pouring awesome local craft beer every single night of the week.  No lines, no lawn chairs, no days off from work required.  In fact, we spent last Saturday afternoon celebrating with CAUTION at their Anniversary Party.  Again no lines, just a bunch of great people, sipping on awesome, plentiful brews, with live music and adult big wheel races.  There’s always something for a beer lover to do here in Colorado.  It’s a great state of beer my friends and the rarity of the beer you’re drinking, has absolutely no impact on the flavor.  Good Beer is still Good Beer!

That’s my two cents.  I hope this post doesn’t come off as arrogant or alienating to anyone.  It’s just a few thoughts and observations I’ve had from watching this community change and grow for nearly a decade.  I want to hear what you all think.  Did you get bottles on Sunday?  Did you get shut out?  Did you even try?  Drop us a line on our Facebook Page or send us an e-mail and let us know how you feel, not just about the Crooked Stave Release, but also the current state of craft beer in Colorado.

Whew, I need a beer!

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Cheers!

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