It was about this time last year that I made a realization about my craft beer passion: If I wanted to try some of the most “highly touted” beers not regularly available to me in Ohio, I needed to venture into the world of trading. For those unfamiliar with the idea, beer trading involves the exchanging of beers, usually between parties with access to different offerings. It is certainly not cheap, and naturally, can become slightly “addictive”. However, without trading, I personally would have never been able to try some of the most unique and outstanding beers that I have ever had. Favorite trade spoils from the past year include: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Midnight Sun TREAT, New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper (and the bourbon barrel-aged version), and one that I will be opening soon with friends, Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Stout. There is one beer, however, that, up until very recently, I have been unable to land. That beer is Black Tuesday, from The Bruery in Orange County, California. Why has this beer been so elusive, not just for me, but for many? Well, this sparks up a whole other conversation.
Let us consider what makes a beer so popular and sought after. Is it the hype? Is it the fact that the beer is produced in extremely limited quantities? Is it because many times the beer is only available at the brewery, sometimes for just one day? The answer to all of these questions is “Yes”, in most cases. However, does this make me want to try the beer any less? No, it does not. I do my best to not buy into hype, as I carefully research the backgrounds and reviews of these beers before deciding to go after them. Often though, the positive buzz surrounding these beers is often so overwhelming that I simply must try them so that I can form my own opinion. Little do many know that we here in Cleveland have access to our own “hyped” beers that folks around the country are antsy to trade for. Examples of these include: Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout (brewery-only release in October; trust me when I say that this is GREAT trade bait), Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout), Bell’s Hopslam, Troegs Nugget Nectar, and some of the limited Hoppin’ Frog releases. However, why Bruery Black Tuesday for me? Why do I want this beer so badly? Allow me to give you a brief background regarding this sought-after gem.
From The Bruery:
Our infamous Black Tuesday is an Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for over a year. Rich caramel, toasted malt, vanilla, burnt wood, anise are just a few of the many flavors of this rich, decadent imperial stout.
ABV on Black Tuesday varies, as it was 19.5% in 2009 and 18.2% in 2010. Some of you may be thinking, “WOW!”, and with good reason. However, from the many reviews I have read, the smoothness of this beer is one of its highly-regarded characteristics. In terms of accessibility, it is released in extremely limited quantities only on Bruery premises on the last Tuesday in October. As someone who absolutely loves bourbon barrel-aged stouts, this is a beer that I cannot simply ignore, despite the difficulties in obtaining it. My all-time favorite bourbon barrel-aged stout is Founders KBS, a beer mentioned earlier. You are about to find out how something related to KBS helped me to land a bottle of Black Tuesday.
Why had I never been able to previously land a Black Tuesday? Well, for one, many of the folks who have it command far too much in return. I am not willing to part with $80-$100 worth of beer just to try it, especially when that beer likely consists of offerings that are accessible, yet very limited, to me. On “that auction site” a single bottle of Black Tuesday usually commands at least $100, depending on the vintage (2009 commands more at this time). This does not mean, however, that my sights have not been set on it. On Beer Advocate, traders post what they are in search of (using the acronym ISO) and what they are putting up for trade (using the acronym FT). I check the site daily, in hopes that I will see an offer that will appeal to me.
Well, on a fateful Friday a few weeks back, I saw the following thread posted: “ISO Founders KBS glass, FT: Black Tuesday”. My stomach just about dropped. The reason? It was because I knew that this Founders KBS glass was sitting safely in a cupboard at home. I have this Founders KBS glass. In the summer of 2009, my parents went to visit some relatives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the location of Founders Brewery. I was unable to make this trip due to a previous commitment (I actually had a date, which ended up not going very well. The lesson? Should have went to Founders instead!). On this trip, my dad picked up a KBS t-shirt and glass for me. Little did he know that he just happened to be there at the right time, as this glass was very limited. Little did he also know that he would be getting me what I needed to land my Black Tuesday. Now I must confess that Founders KBS is in my all-time top 3 favorite beers, making this glass have special meaning to me. However, in the scheme of things, it is just a glass; Black Tuesday, on the other hand, is the opportunity for an experience with friends. I immediately sent the original poster a “Beer Mail”, and was told that I was second in line. The guy requested that I send him a picture of the glass to make sure that it was the one that he wanted; fortunately, it was. He told me that he would let me know later that night, as he had not yet received a picture of the glass from the guy who contacted him first. Hours came and went, and I finally received an e-mail telling me that the Black Tuesday was mine. I am not sure what happened to the first person who contacted the trader, but I was not about to ask, as I came to the realization that I would finally get to try Black Tuesday. For his generous offer, I sent this kind gentleman not only the glass, but also some KBS, Short’s PB&J, and Goose Island Night Stalker (none of which he has regular access to). He was very happy with what he received, and now, as I sit here knowing that a Black Tuesday is in my cellar, I am very happy as well.
Will I enjoy Black Tuesday as much as I hope to? Will I find “the chase” to be worth it? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I have an exciting night with good friends in my future, as four of us plan to share this bottle sometime in February. I truly wish that I could share this beer with more folks, but the chances of landing another bottle anytime soon are slim. While the hype behind this beer may or may not disappoint me, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the chase and also the unique way that the bottle was obtained (who would have thought that glassware would do it?!). What I will enjoy the most, though, is a night of tasting a handcrafted, highly regarded, bourbon barrel-aged stout with friends.
On a related note, at this year’s Bruery Reserve Society Initiation, each member received 1 bottle of Chocolate Rain, which is Black Tuesday with vanilla beans and cocoa nibs (previously only available as a super limited draft-only offering). I do not plan to chase this beer, as less than 1,000 bottles were released. I have seen many folks trying to trade for this beer in the past couple of weeks, but with no success. A recent posting on “that auction site” yielded over $300 for just one bottle of this beer. Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to pass on Chocolate Rain.