While the idea of hunting to find good beer may seem a bit strange to the casual beer drinker, for craft beer fanatics, it is simply par for the course. The craft beer revolution has given rise to this phenomenon, with many beers developing a cult-like following with very limited distribution, thus making some beer very hard to find, but with an ever-increasing demand.
Names such as KBS, Pliny the Elder, Zombie Dust, Hopslam, and Heady Topper give craft beer fanatics a dual reaction of both drooling and anger at the limited availability of such beers in the market. These are just some of the beers for which many beer hunters are on the lookout.
The beer hunting craze has stemmed directly from the beer rating trend that occurs on the Internet (Rate Beer and Beer Advocate) and in many beer related magazines (Draft and All About Beer). The rating system has given exposure to many small local breweries without a national footprint. This exposure, through a high rating of a beer, has gained the brewery popularity and demand that many of these breweries simply cannot meet.
The Alchemist brewery is located in Waterbury, Connecticut and had many issues with neighbors complaining due to the ridiculously high demand for its beer, specifically a Double IPA called Heady Topper. These issues led the brewery to close to the public and its beer is now only available at a variety of locations in Vermont. However, Heady Topper is consistently listed on Top 10 beer lists throughout the country.
How does someone get beer in an area that the brewery does not currently distribute to? Typically through a means frowned upon by most breweries: the Internet. A huge upswing in beer trading and even selling on sites such as eBay has some consumers paying up to 10 times the standard amount for some of these beers. The breweries are unhappy with this, as they do not want any potential customers getting ripped off. Also, the freshness of the beer is questionable, let alone any potential legal issues with shipping.
The beer hunter is determined, though, and many hunters have must-try lists of any number of beers. Many true hunters take pilgrimages to areas such as Vermont, Northern California, or any number of destinations to try these beers fresh from the source.
Don’t worry, though, as not all highly sought-after beers are hard to find. If you are a newbie looking to get into beer hunting, there are a number of great beers to try that are easier to find and cross off your list, building up energy for the big hunt.
Stone Brewing Co. has been releasing its fantastic Double IPA Enjoy By IPA to rave reviews; the limited release to limited markets each time makes this a great starting point for beer hunters. More of a Belgian beer fan? Try grabbing some bottles of Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beers. There are three different ones currently out, with more to come. While Founders KBS may get all the glory and press, its Breakfast Stout is another one to seek out and try. Also hunt down Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA or Victory at Sea.
If you are ready for the big game hunting, then these are some absolute must try beers, but be warned – they aren’t easy to find: Odell Brewing Company, Myrcenary; The Alchemist, Heady Topper; Russian River, Pliny the Elder; Three Floyds Brewing Co., Zombie Dust; Deschutes Brewery, The Abyss; Firestone Walker, Parabola; Trappist Westvleteren, Westvleteren 12; and Sierra Nevada, Hoptimum.
The beer hunt itself will consume you, though when you bag that big game, you not only don’t have to wait to cook it, it’s also far less messy. Just be ready for many friends to be filled with anger and jealousy when you don’t share – but to the victor go the spoils!