A popular activity in the craft beer world is whale chasing. A whale, in beer terms, is usually defined as a rare beer, or maybe a trophy beer. Releases are limited, quantities are kept under wraps, and purchases are capped, all in the effort to get such beers, theoretically, into more hands.
What's happened instead is the creation of a generation of Ahabs, my term for beer enthusiasts whose purpose seems to be collecting the finest of brews, not for the purpose of drinking, but so they can show their beer geek penis is longer and harder than that of their fellow Ahabs.
We saw it last week, with people lined up for the release of Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout, a beer that is both mythical and mocked, sought after and disdained, and which has had versions in the past both upheld as golden standards and drain poured as infected. It isn't alone in its polarizing status, as the only thing Ahabs like more than collecting rare beers is arguing over the merits of such, but it is one of the most recent releases to qualify.
This Saturday, Braxton will have their version of whales, with the third iteration of Dark Charge, a barrel aged stout that is accompanied by multiple variants. These are, to my taste buds, some of the best beers the Covington brewery have done to date. Unfortunately, I will be at work at BC's Bottle Lodge, and pouring yet another whale, the Canadian Breakfast Stout from Founder's, and thus will have to chase some Dark Charge on the secondary market.
Because these are considered local whales, I expect the trade demands to be both more Ludacris than an early 2000's rap playlist and as well received as Bernie Sanders at a Tea Party meeting. Yet, I will do what I can to get one, not so much to prove the length and rigidity of my metaphorical member, but because I have enjoyed these beers previously, and suspect I will equally enjoy this year's version. Especially the Mole - hint, hint.
Like the intrepid narrator of Moby Dick, I find my point of view evolving as I sojourn through the murky sea that is the craft beer world. Not long ago, I would have fallen into the snob category, and told you why what you were drinking was inferior. Now, I don't give a damn what's in your glass, provided we're all having a good time. In the recent past, I restricted myself to beers made within two hours of here - not myopically thinking we had the best beers in the world, just trying to support local businesses. But as the number of local breweries increased to where a fella just couldn't quite hit them all up in one night, or even one weekend, I stepped back to some old favorites, like Ommegang, and branched out to some new experiences, for me, like Crooked Stave, Cigar City, and dare I say it, Wicked Weed.
What I've found is that while standing in line for beer can be enjoyable, sharing bottles with fellow enthusiasts and getting to know them, it's hardly necessary to enjoy the craft. There are enough good beers that you don't have to obsess over one, or one a month. It's an ever-evolving business.
Someday, some of the Ahabs will come around to see things that way, and that means that all the enthusiast who have jobs and families, or simply other hobbies, may actually catch some whales - but then, would they still be whales?
In the meantime, I will quote the great Ricardo Montalban, who was quoting Melville - not Shakespeare - when, as Khan, he appropriately cursed Bill Shatner will his last breath: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."
Get in line for these beers sometime, and while those words will elude the Ahabs joining you, their palms sweaty, significant others or mothers or both in tow looking bored and embarrassed to be muling yet another beer on yet another Saturday, the slightly crazed and desperate look in their eyes, you'll remember the quote - and wonder why Melville couldn't have waited 150 years to write that damnable book.