Mick Jagger sang the classic line, “You can’t always get what you want.” Nowhere is that more true than in the world of great liquor, beer and wine.
Some of you may remember the frenzy created in the 1970s, when Coors beer became a West Coast phenomenon. We Midwesterners heard the rumors of this amazing beer from the Rockies, unlike anything before. It made our Midwest stalwarts like Grain Belt, Hamm’s and Old Style seem stale and boring.
There were stories of brave souls enduring 15-hour car rides across the prairie to bring back a trunkload of the golden banquet beer. It was a special treat if you could get your hands on a can or two. The rest of us could only dream of it.
But as with many things, the anticipation was better than the payoff. When Coors finally became available in Minnesota, it sold like crazy — the shelves couldn’t be stocked fast enough! But then people realized it wasn’t that much different or better than what we already had. It settled down to be another good brand of beer with no special cachet or benefits.
The new trends, the new flavors, and the new-old things always buffet the alcoholic industry. Like any other business, there are ebbs and flows. For a while, single-malt scotches were the hot thing. Patrons were clamoring for the new peat bombs from the craggy shores of Scotland.
There were shortages and the prices skyrocketed. Brands like Macallan, Oban, Lagavulin, and Laphroig went through a period of extreme shortages and demand far exceeded supply. Scotch takes time and patience — you can’t open a spigot and create 15-year sherry-casked scotch. Patience is a virtue.
While the public waited for scotch production to catch up to demand, high-end vodka became the new scotch. Brands like Grey Goose and Absolut took the world by storm. These brands never ran into the shortages that scotch did, as you can literally open a spigot and make vodka in less than a month.
Other recent fads have included Irish whiskey, bourbons, Napa Valley cabernets, Japanese whiskey, and now craft brews and micro distilleries.
New Glarus beer, from Wisconsin, is the long-time beer that Minnesota has been clamoring for. Thousands of people go to Wisconsin and come back clamoring for Spotted Cow or Fat Squirrel. These beers are top sellers in Wisconsin, but the owners have made the conscious decision to keep their brand only in Wisconsin. They make all they can and sell all of it right in Wisconsin. The beers are good — but the inability to buy it locally makes us yearn for it on the west side of the Mississippi.
For five years, Minnesota’s own Surly beer was tantalizing our tastebuds with great beers. Started in a small warehouse district, the beers garnered a cult following.
Surly Darkness Day became the event of the season. Fans would literally camp out overnight at the brewery to be the first to procure the delicious ebony liquor gold. Each year Darkness Day would be envied by all. Now, with the opening of the new brewery, Darkness is a little more available and the frenzy has died down a little bit. Look for it the week of Halloween for the first taste of the treat.
Craft beer aficionados are always looking for the latest and greatest, but also wait with bated breath for the release of their favorites. The next few months are rife with the possibilities of procuring hard-to-get classics that are made in limited quantity and limited supply. Put your name on the lists, follow the beer trucks around and maybe you can get a little taste of the following great beers:
• Founders KBS: Kentucky Bourbon Stout — a American double/imperial stout aged in oak barrels for an entire year.
• Goose Island Bourbon County Stout—Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. Even more rare are some unique stouts aged in different barrel finishes.
• Indeed Rum King — An imperial stout aged in rum barrels, brewed in Minneapolis.
• Surly Darkness — Russian imperial stout — always highly rated.
These and more special releases will be coming (and going) soon. Great beers are hard to find — but when you see them, buy them.
But don’t get mad at your local supplier if you miss them. Local liquor stores never get what they can sell — only what the brewery will allow them to buy. Supply and demand rules the day.
You can’t always get what you want! Cheers and enjoy!