About 40 members of Beer Advocate, a website and discussion group devoted to the promotion and sharing of beer knowledge, gathered at the Brick Store Pub Saturday to sample beers smuggled into Georgia from around the country by its members, either by trade, plane or automobile. Despite the flood of beer brands and styles that followed the lifting of the alcohol cap on beer nearly four years ago, there are hundreds of beers that are still not available in Georgia. This is mostly because production capacity at local and regional breweries limits distribution, but also because the breweries cannot find a distributor in Georgia, or because the alcohol content of specific beers is above the new limit of 14 percent. Proving the adage that we most desire what we cannot have, these beers are some of the most coveted among Georgia beer aficionados. Participants came from South Carolina, Alabama and the farthest suburbs to share their acquisitions with an appreciative audience.
Given the difficulty of finding a Troeg's Troegenator Dopplebock or a Westvleteren 8, not to mention the expense, the generosity of the participants was evident in the 80 some varieties on the sampling table, almost all of them unavailable in Georgia. Perhaps the most generous donation was a partial bottle of Samuel Adams Utopia 2007 (thanks, Tim!). This aged, blended, noncarbonated beer with an alcohol content of more than 25 percent is more like a cognac than beer, and at more than $100 for a bottle, it's priced higher than many of the best varieties of that specialty liqueur.
A collective "ooh" could be heard periodically when Robert Thomas, serving as unofficial master of corkage, brought out an especially sought-after bottle. No less than eight bottles from Lost Abbey in California were served, as well as vintages and oak-aged offerings from Dogfish Head, Stone, Rogue and Real Ale. Among the most interesting and satisfying beers I tried were: the Green Flash Imperial IPA (California) with its terrific floral and fruit aroma and supersoft mouthfeel; the Alaskan Barleywine (Alaska, natch), which was amazingly well-balanced and mellow; the Smuttynose Wheat Wine (New Hampshire), a fruity, spicy barleywine-style wheat with a 10.7 percent ABV and the prettiest bottle of the bunch; and the Weyerbacher Heresy Russian Imperial Stout (Pennsylvania), a bourbon barrel-aged stunner loaded with oaky vanilla, bourbon notes, a peaty smokiness, and a nice alcohol warmth that isn't too hot.
I got a small taste of two of the highest-rated Russian imperial stouts on Beer Advocate, Surly Darkness and Three Floyds Dark Lord, both from the Midwest. Despite my general skepticism for the hype surrounding beers like this, I found them both to be amazingly complex and transcendent, even in such a small amount. If you are in Minnesota or northern Indiana, pick some up for me. I'll pay you back.
If you're interested in expanding your beer knowledge beyond Georgia's borders, you can try to get in on some beer trading. Go to www.beeradvocate.com or www.ratebeer.com to get started. Be courteous and follow the rules, or your first trade may be your last. Another way to try these out-of-state treasures is to bring them back from your next trip. Remember that the post office is not supposed to ship alcohol, so if they ask about the contents, tell them it's apple cider. If you're flying, use a large mailing tube and wrap the bottles in bubble wrap inside. Hey, if it weren't risky, it wouldn't be worth doing.
Beer Events of Note
South City Kitchen in Vinings hosts a beer dinner on Thurs., April 10, starting at 6:30 p.m. featuring beers from Terrapin Beer Co. in Athens. Four courses will be paired with four Terrapin beers, including this year's recently released Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale. The cost is $40 per person plus tax and tip. Click here for a full menu. Call 770-435-0700 for reservations.
To "celebrate" Tax Day, Brick Store Pub will tap a special cask of Ola Dubh Special 30 Reserve, an imperial-style porter aged in barrels used for Highland Park's 30-year-old single-malt whisky. An earlier version of this knocked my socks off, so I expect this one to be amazing. Stop by Tues., April 15, after you drop off your taxes.
Despite 50,000 signatures on an online petition and overwhelming support in opinion polls for Sunday alcohol sales, Gov. Sonny Perdue's entrenched religious views killed Senate Bill 454, which would have provided for local referenda on the issue. A last-minute political maneuver to attach the Sunday sales language to the Gwinnett stadium bill failed, with the latter provision tacked on to the "Merlot To Go" bill allowing patrons to carry out unfinished bottles of wine from restaurants. With Perdue promising a veto, legislators were unwilling to bring the Sunday Sales bill to the floor for a vote. Mark my words, this is not over, Sonny.
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