Don't ask me when it happened, but at some point I crossed the line separating well-stocked beer enthusiast from full-on beer hoarder.
I don't consider myself a collector of beer — in fact, the thought is somewhat absurd — and, as I don't regularly trade beers, I don't intentionally keep an inventory of rare bottles as currency for future trades. No, I simply buy or otherwise obtain more beer than I drink, and it's finally gotten out of hand.
I have four refrigerators containing beer, and that's not even counting the wine chiller. The first is my regular kitchen fridge, which generally sports a half-shelf or more of beer at any given time. In the garage is a fridge for controlling the temperature of fermenting homebrew and a full-size fridge converted into a four-tap kegerator, capable of holding 20 gallons of beer at any given time.
The fourth refrigerator is another full-sizer, this one a dedicated beer cellar. At one point it was home to a modest selection of beers worthy of aging — big barleywines, barrel-aged stouts, lambics and other wild ales — but now it's stacked to the top with everything from leftover beers from a pool party to fresh cans from a recent trip that are awaiting a spot in the kitchen fridge.
So how did this happen? First — and this may come as a surprise to readers of this column — I simply don't drink a ton of beer. When I do, it's often while researching subjects and rarely just sitting at home. That doesn't stop me from buying an interesting bottle or two when I see them, and those tend to build up over time.
The second reason, which is directly related to that last bit, is that I've acquired quite a selection of "special occasion" beers. You know the type: a limited release or otherwise scarce beer that you've decided to save for a big occasion. When they go on sale, you have to buy them, but you can never seem to find the right time to actually open them.
Lately, the local brewing scene has been putting out a lot of these special occasion beers. Cycle Brewing recently released bottles of RareR DOS and the latest batch of Nooner, both of which sold out within hours. Rapp Brewing released a limited quantity of its barrel-aged imperial stout, and the bottles were gone almost instantly. Cigar City tried selling bottles of rum-barrel aged Caffé Americano and Grandmule Bourbon-barrel aged imperial porter online, but the resulting overload of traffic crashed the servers and sales were postponed until further notice.
When releases like these pop up, I nearly always pick up a bottle or two. But with the amount of sheer mania that tends to surround these kind of releases, how can one possibly be expected to sit back and casually drink a glass of the stuff?
That's precisely the problem: when certain beers becomes so precious that you can't even bring yourself to enjoy them, you need to take a step back and think about what that really means. Beer is meant to be enjoyed, and while having a few good bottles in your cellar is never a bad idea, having something resembling a serious collection just might be.
An abundance of great beer may seem like a good problem to have, but there's much to be said about enjoying nice things now, instead of waiting for just the right moment. I have more special-occasion beers than I realistically have special occasions to look forward to in the next five years or so (and I suspect I'll buy a few beers in that timespan, as well).
I'm going to start working on this issue tonight, by sharing a bottle of Forgotten Island — a rum-barrel aged quad released to members of Cigar City's El Catador Club a full year ago — with my girlfriend. After all, isn't that why I got the beer in the first place?