Last Saturday, I held what I billed as an “Overstuffed Refrigerator Emptying Beer Tasting Party” in order to clean out mt refrigerators of beer that’s been in there for a while now, and also to make room for many more beers languishing in the Marin heat of my garage. I have three refrigerators, and two of them are dedicated to only beer. I managed to fill five coolers of beer for the tasting, and invited people I thought would most appreciate the beers. The beers had been brought back from recent trips to England, Germany, Belgium and even New Zealand. There were also many others, both foreign and domestic, from still more trips around the country. Some were recent acquisitions while others had been aging for quite some time, longer than ten years in a few cases. I limited the number of guests to a dozen, because many of the beers I had were only a single 12 oz. bottle, or less. Even on short notice, I managed to pull together enough people to come and help me empty the fridge. Happily, I don’t have to do a detailed listing of what we opened, because JJ, The Thirsty Hopster, did a wonderful job herself of writing up the tasting. So all I can add is few photos and little extra commentary.
The assembled group in my front room.
Arne Johnson, from Marin Brewing, opening the cork on an AleSmith Golden Strong Ale, from before Skip sold the brewery.
Sean Paxton — The Homebrew Chef — with his first choice of the day, the Old Habit Strong Rye Ale from Ithaca Brewing.
Brewer Jeff O’Neil gave me this bottle a little over a year ago, and it was an early favorite, but then I love rye beers.
The faux beer caviar Sean made with IPA tapioca balls. Yum.
Sadly, we only managed to open fifty beers. I had been hoping for more, but alas it was not to be. As JJ correctly predicts, I’m already contemplating an OREBTP 2 sometime later this year. For the final beer of the evening, I took a chance on an old bottle I’ve been dragging around with me for almost a decade; the Samuel Adams Millennium Ale, ale brewed with maple syrup.
My memory is that Boston Beer had 2,000 bottles which were available for sale at retail, but also made another 1,000 for promotional use. One of these made its way into my hands — bottle number 2052 of 3000 (signed by Jim Koch) — and I opened it during a Christmas party, most likely in 1999. After that party, there was an inch or two left in the bottom of the bottle, and so I put the cork back in the bottle, slid it into its blue cloth sleeping bag and placed it back inside the wooden box it came in. It remained there through two moves and I took no great pains to keep it under ideal conditions. Of course, I didn’t do anything horrible to it, either. At 20.9% abv, I was certainly curious what it tasted like now. I remember at the time of its release, Jim Koch said that he thought it would age for another 1,000 years, but that they really had no idea. I still have another full unopened bottle — number 1639 of 3000 — so perhaps I should hand it down to my son, who in turn can do the same down through successive generations.
Anyway, what really surprised me about what remained of the beer was how good it still was, despite my having taken no great pains to protect it. It tasted remarkably similar to my nine-year-old memory of it, though who knows how accurate that might be. Whether it has gained any complexity remains an open question, but it was still certainly very tasty.