Beer trading might be the dorkiest-sounding part of a being a beer lover, but if you want to try some of the more interesting beers that aren’t distributed to your city of residence, it’s the most effective way to obtain them. Beer Advocate’s trade forum provides the most active beer trading community that I’ve found on the Interwebs, so that’s where I’d recommend starting if you’re going to get into this addictive hobby. Here are a few tips for how to get started and how to get the most bang for your buck out of trades:
1) Buy a few extra of whatever highly regarded seasonals/limited releases are available in your area. Beers like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Troegs Nugget Nectar and Bell’s Hopslam are in very high demand in states where these breweries don’t distribute and can be picked up at your local liquor store fairly easily. These are great choices for getting started with trading.
2) Brewery-only limited releases can carry their weight in gold! The hype machine for these types of beers tends to run wild and the demand is usually insane immediately before and after the release. If you can get to a release or have a friend pick you up something from one, you can get on your way to trading for some great beers.
3) Be specific about what you’re looking for when posting on trade forums. One of the biggest rookie mistakes is to post a message stating what you have and not asking for anything specific in return - these posts are often ignored. Make it clear what you want and what you have to trade and if no one gets back to you, that just means you aimed a little too high.
4) Follow the trade forums prior to just diving in to get a sense of the trade value of certain beers and to see what beers are in demand.
5) Use FedEx or UPS when shipping. It’s actually illegal to ship alcohol with the USPS, and while people still use it because it’s cheaper, I’d advise against it. You could find yourself facing a fine if you’re caught.
6) Always throw in something a little extra, even if it’s just 1 or 2 12oz bottles. People like to get beer that they can’t buy in stores, so something you see in stores every day could be extremely exciting to someone else across the country.
Hopefully that can be of some use to you. Below is a complete list of my trades made to-date. I should warn you though, trading can get expensive, so don’t go too crazy!
Trade #4: 1 750 ml. of Mother Earth Silent Night, 1 12 oz. of Founders Red’s Rye PA & 1 12 oz. of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter FOR 1 375 ml. of Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme (2009 vintage) & 1 22 oz. of Alpine Duet IPA
Trade #5: 9 12 oz. Bell’s Hopslams, 2 12 oz. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stouts and 1 12 oz. Red’s Rye PA FOR 1 375 of Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa, 1 375 of Lost Abbey Red Poppy, 1 375 of Russian River Consecration and 1 500 ml. of Russian River Pliny the Elder
Trade #6: 1 375 ml. of Russian River Temptation, 1 12 oz. of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (2010) & 1 12 oz. of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (2009) FOR 1 375 ml. of Cantillon Blabaer Lambik (2010 vintage) - note: this was an international trade and shipping costs were HIGH
Trade #8: 1 750 ml. of Jester King Black Metal FOR 1 375 ml. Lost Abbey Sinners Ale 2010
It had been a little too long (two months or so) since I’d last been to ChurchKey (http://www.churchkeydc.com/), so I figured having an old friend in town was a great reason to head on over there for some delicious beer on a Thursday night. ChurchKey, which opened about a year and a half ago, has single-handedly transformed the DC craft beer scene. Its unexpected massive popularity has caused other bars around the city to also start paying attention to the craft beers they carry, and it’s been great for beer fans like myself. I’ve always been a beer fan, but ChurchKey really helped me open my eyes to the huge world of beer out there, and got me out of the comfort zone I had fallen into. I can say definitively that without ChurchKey, I would not have this blog.
I started out the night with Mikkeller’s It’s Alive (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13307/43080) a Belgian Pale Ale with some wild yeast added in at the end of fermentation. It wasn’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped, but it was still a very tasty, easy-to-drink, somewhat sweet Belgian ale. Next I ordered a couple of the 4 oz. sampler pours that I love so much: another Mikkeller, the Big Worst Barleywine (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13307/56831), and Stillwater’s 25 to One Belgian Stout (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/22150/66512). Flat-out, the Big Worst was horrendous. Yes I know that it’s 18.5% alcohol, but I thought it was undrinkable. It was way too sweet and boozy and the other flavors in there just got buried by the cloying sweetness. I couldn’t even finish 4 ounces of it and gave it to my friend. The 25 to One was better, but nothing special. It was a fairly easy-drinking stout with a nice balance, but there was nothing about it that made it stand out.
After some disappointing beers, I went to an old favorite to try to right the ship, but maybe my taste buds were just off that night because even Founders Dirty Bastard (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1199/7463) didn’t taste up to its normal level of awesomeness. This beer was the first Scotch Ale that ever stood out to me with some great maltiness and a little bit of sweetness, but I think after having such strong-tasting beers early on, it couldn’t keep up. Finally, I finished the night with a 4 oz. glass of Westoek Belgian Blonde (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/3464/64116), a beer brewed in collaboration with the world-famous Struise brewery in Belgium. This was a great-tasting light Belgian ale and definitely the highlight of the night. While there were a few disappointments, it was nice to finish the evening on a high note.
Grades: Mikkeller’s It’s Alive: B+, Mikkeller Big Worst: D, Stillwater 25 to One: B, Founders Dirty Bastard: A-, Westoek: A-
I took my first trip ever to the Quarry House in Silver Spring tonight (http://www.quarryhousetavern.com/). It’s a great dive bar with a fantastic beer list, something we could use more of in DC proper. The burgers were excellent (and 1/2 price tonight, hooray for good fortune there), and even the craft beer was pretty affordable. I started out with a Dogfish Head Red & White (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/10099/32435), a big, boozy Belgian-style ale fermented with pinot noir juice. It definitely had a little bit of wine characteristic to it, but ultimately it was a little too sweet and boozy for my tastes, and the other flavors weren’t enough to support it. Still a solid beer, but one I wouldn’t go out of my way for in the future. Next I had a Tripel Karmeliet from Bosteels (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/202/656), a delicious, well-balanced Belgian Tripel that went down very smoothly. It had some nice spice and fruit flavors without being overly sweet as some tripels can be. Finally, I closed my night with an Orkney SkullSplitter (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/118/402), a Scotch Ale that I’ve seen around for years and eventually just had to try. This beer was very malty and a little sweet, but I was expecting a bit more from it. It wasn’t nearly as flavorful as I expected, and while it was definitely a solid beer, I had hoped for more from one of the top-rated Scotch ales in the world.
Grades: Dogfish Head Red & White: B, Tripel Karmeliet: A-, Orkney SkullSplitter: B
Made it over to @ThBlackSquirrel tonight for 1/2 price burger night and a few beers. They had Port City Optimal Wit, a beer from the DC area’s newest brewery - Port City Brewing (http://www.portcitybrewing.com/), on tap, so I felt obligated to try it out and support local beer. Witbiers are not typically my favorite style, and this beer definitely didn’t blow me away, but it was tasty and well-balanced and a nice introduction to a new brewery. I’m looking forward to trying more from them in the future. I also grabbed a Founders Double Trouble Double IPA, a beer I haven’t had in a long time and one that I was really looking forward to trying to compare to all of the other DIPAs I’ve been drinking lately. It’s a very solid beer, but it’s not a standout in the style, unfortunately. Still, Founders’ beers are always well above average, and this was no exception. Double Trouble just isn’t an outstanding DIPA, but it’s definitely worth trying if you see it around.
Port City Optimal Wit: B; Founders Double Trouble: B+
In addition to this blog, I’ve also started writing for DCBeer.com, an already-established blog that focuses almost exclusively on local bars, breweries and events. My first post, about the upcoming Barleywine Festival at Mad Fox Brewing Company is up at http://dcbeer.com/2011/02/15/mad-fox-to-host-barleywine-festival/