You Won’t Catch Me in One of Those Lines!

By Glenn DeLuca


We all know about the popularity of Heady Topper brewed by The Alchemist in
Waterbury, VT. They had been brewing it for eight years at their brewpub and finally
went to canning in 2011 due to its popularity.  As an American DIPA it is not just a
highly rated brew, but the top rated brew in Beer Advocate. Since can availability it’s
been a highly coveted beer and many have made the trek and stood online at the
brewery to obtain a case of this golden nectar. In November 2013 they closed their
retail shop at the brewery citing traffic and public access issues. Now it’s distributed
to numerous establishments where it sells out quickly. That’s changed it to a cat and
mouse game of check the website for which store on which day and camp out till the
truck gets there or for those more ambitious you follow the truck from store to store.

My friend sends me an article about a year and a half old brewery in Portland ME,
Bissell Brewing (guess making brooms lost out to making suds), where something
similar is happening. People are lining up on a Saturday morning (although the
brewery doesn’t open till Noon) to buy a limited number of their limited release beer,
Swish. Again this is an American DIPA, sold in cans for $17 a four- pack, that is
considered world class. The Bissell brothers, like The Alchemist, seem to have
struck a chord with a specific set of beer geeks. Like the guy from Jersey, who was
up for a funeral, so stood in line for hours to buy beer and said “I had a great time in
Maine.” So maybe Uncle Bill or Aunt Sally wasn’t your favorite relative, but guess the
rest of the family should take note that if there isn’t beer he won’t be attending their

The article also mentions Maine Beer Company’s limited release of Dinner. With its
fifth release wait times have gone from a couple of hours to SIX hours! Then there’s
iconic brewer Tod Mott, who created the recipe for Harpoon IPA in the early 1990’s.
He moved to ME and created Kate the Great Imperial Stout, which when it was
recognized by Beer Advocate in 2007 created what might have been one of the first
of this phenomenon of beer geeks standing in long lines. Last summer he opened
his new Tributary brewery and again long lines for his releases.

I do see some similarities here; beer, beer geeks, Beer Advocate, limited release,
New England, oh and yes EXPENSIVE. I can’t say I’ve heard of this in CA or CO or
MI, but it could be. But is this a monkey see monkey do type of phenomenon? You
see someone in line so figure you better get in line so you can get some also. I
guess with smart phones now it’s not such a big deal since you can talk, do e-mails,
read the paper, look up stuff or just play games while you wile away the hours  
waiting for your four-pack or case. I consider myself a beer geek, I love it; go to tap
takeovers, always looking for something different, working on my MBA at the
Cloverleaf and yes even spend my time writing about it. But I guess I haven’t
reached obsessive as you’re not going to catch me standing in lines for hours for
the honor of giving someone $17 a four-pack or $102/case, even if they are 16oz
cans. I’m not knocking these beers, I’ve had Heady and it is very good (although
sometimes when something is built up so much it’s difficult to meet those
expectations) and I’m sure the others are also, but why would I stand in line for
hours when I could actually be doing something? I have a t-shirt that says “So many
beers, so little time” which is unbelievably true today.  There are an incredible
number of craft breweries open and those numbers continue to increase at an
amazing rate. Even if only 10-15% are making really great beers, that’s more than I’ll
ever have a chance to taste!

It does harken one back to decades ago when the golden amber of the day was
then Coors, which because it wasn’t pasteurized needed to be kept cold and you
couldn’t get it east of the Mississippi River. Back then, for what was available, it was
a good beer, but the mystique of not being able to get it made it that much more
desirable…history does have a way of repeating itself.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

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Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
Big G's Beer Beat
by Glenn DeLuca
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Big G" DeLuca
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