is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
Just call me the slickster from now on. On second thought my super slick slickness should earn me the title of Sir
Slickster. I just crushed a most savvy fermented beverage aficionado and cross state beer smuggler in a staggering
display of dipsy-doo now you see it, now you don’t beer trade. It started with a soliciting email detailing the beers this
long time buddy who just returned from a Boston area vacation had available for exchange. All were from Trillium
and Treehouse. Yes we’re talking that Trillium with a 4.47 / 5 rating on BeerAdvocate and that Treehouse with a
4.49 rating. It doesn’t get much better than those scores. Of course we’re not counting my last home brew which got
a 5.95 / 5 rating (by me).
After some online negotiation we settled on a two for two trade. His legendary, near perfect Treehouse
Doppelganger and the very high rated Hurricane for two of my modest local ones. I was able to get my beers by
driving less than 30 minutes. You can even deduct 7 minutes from that if you get all green lights and no bozos are
driving in front of you. That beats a 6 hour drive to Boston, which is admittedly a great beer and wine town. Of all
their many offerings my favorite Boston whine is “we can’t ever beat the Yankees.”
My not so famous beers were Magnify’s (Fairfield NJ) Velvet Rope and Equilibrium’s (Middletown, NY) Wavelength.
Two of the four beers in the trade were double IPAs, one a Tripe IPA, and one a regular IPA making this literally a
double double triple (transaction) single trade. Reducing this to a mathematical equation (finally proving my 8th
grade teacher Miss Brady was right when she said arithmetic would come in handy one day) will show you just how
great my trading victory was. If we take the double beers plus the single that were each traded one for one we get
2+2+2+3+1 (are you still with me?). That’s a Comaneci or perfect 10. If we then multiple the 10 by the individual beer’
s rating on a scale that includes price, freshness, hops, location, and label design we get a value of 98.6.
Fortunately that means you don’t have a Corona virus fever so the deal can continue. Note please that if we were
trading Belgium Doubles you’d have to again multiple by 2 unless the bottle specifically said it was a Belgium Dubbel.
In that case you’d multiple by deux. Now I’m starting to confuse myself. Good thing I didn’t accept that math
professorship at the Sorbonne.
Speaking of Dubbels, does the name Quasimodo ring da bell? Trust me; it’s funnier when you say it than when you
just read it..
I really like both of the beers I brought but they’re not household names to most any self respecting member of the
International We Never Drive Less Than Seventy-Five Miles To Get Beer Since We Know What’s Seriously Good And
You Don’t Club. It’s hard to disagree with those folks. After all, my beers were from local breweries that you can just
walk into, get a friendly hello (albeit mumbled though a mask), and then simply buy beer. Unlike the House of Trees
and the Trilli of Um no appointment, special ordering app, secret handshake, or password only discoverable with an
official Craft Brewers Association decoder ring is needed.
Magnify’s Velvet Rope is a 10.5% Triple IPA from their “Luxury Series”. It’s an apt name since it really is luxurious. It is
admittedly not on the same luxury level as, say a Maserati . While those two are easily confused the key difference is
that one goes fast while the other goes down fast. A bit too fast judging from my last hangover. If you like mandarin
oranges, guava, pineapple, apricot, and grapefruit you’ll love it. That’s the beer not the car.
Equilibrium’s Wavelength is a simply wonderful 6.5% IPA made with oats and white wheat for a base before they add
Simcoe and Mosaic to the whirlpool. It’s then dry hopped with Mosaic and Citra at a 2:1 ratio. It’s a citrus, tropical
fruit, peach, berry and melon flavor medley. It’s refreshing and surprisingly intriguing considering its relatively
modest ABV. It’s so good I’d say it explodes the premise that it’s impossible to make a great tasting beer at less than
7% ABV. I’d say it but I don’t really believe it except for this beer..
My buddy’s beers obviously speak for themselves. Right, he’s an amateur ventriloquist. If you know beer you know
they’re great but how much greater than mine? At what point is a beer so good that it’s worth spending large
amounts of time, money, and effort to obtain it? Even more, if you’re getting it on the secondary market you will likely
not know how it has been handled or how fresh it is. The provenance of my local beers is much easier to determine.
Mine were made by a guy with a beard in a nearby brewery, were bottled by people with beards in the same facility,
and was sold to me over a counter by a guy with a beard. Finally, to ensure customer safety and to complete the
chain when you walk into the brewery to buy it they even provide a face mask with an attached faux beard. Just how
many beards, if any,were involved on my trading partner’s side is unknown.
For security reasons we picked a public parking lot for the trade. The fact that half the lot was under a big tent that
offered table service from a great beer bar was purely coincidental. After the obligatory air elbow bump we each took
out our beers and sanitizing cloths. It was a simple matter to rub each can down and slide it over with our personal
church key (that’s bottle opener for the non-historians). It was a touchless, germ free exchange. At that each of our
support team members relaxed. The chance for skullduggery was over. By the way my formidable and intimidating
team was led by Zane Lamprey, creator and host of the famed Three Sheets TV series. To be honest Zane wasn’t
actually there but I got around that by saying he was in the restroom. Zane’s counterpart was a slight fella who
ordered Bud Light on ice so I didn’t bother to get his name.
I was eminently satisfied with the trade and so too was my friend. When it was over we each went our separate ways
both quietly smirking that we got the best of the deal. Knowing the reality of what went down I deservedly had the
To celebrate my coup I decided to taste all four beers involved. For no reason other than I found it in the back of my
refrigerator I added another local beer to the lineup, Czig Meister’s Oblivion's Embrace. It’s a DIPA featuring Citra
and Amarillo hops that give the beer notes of candied orange and strawberry, over a juicy dankness. Actually I didn’t
expect much since Czig Meister is a hit or miss brewery. Plus they always have some sort of fish on their cans'
labels. I don’t like fish. It’s that simple.
To be fair I decided on a blind taste test. I put each can in a brown paper bag then mixed the bags up. If anyone was
going to fool me it would be me. Pouring a modest but sufficient amount of each into small, clear, plastic cups I
started. The best beer of the day was Doppelganger followed in order by the Hurricane, Wavelength, Velvet Rope,
and Oblivion’s Embrace. Based on that it seems my trading victory clearly proved that big hyped beers are worthy of
their renown and local, small brewery beers simply can’t compete. Sorry, that conclusion is an illusion worthy of Penn
& Teller at their best.
Each of the beers belonged in the taste test. The scoring was very close. My local ones did themselves proud. They
actually could easily have won with a better judge. The small differences tell me that breweries like Magnify and
Equilibrium can, on many occasions, be a good as anyone in the country. I’m leaving out Cizg Meister because as
explained earlier, I don’t like fish. Just because your local brewer is just that, local, doesn’t mean he can’t be great.
Don’t let the search for the big hot beer let you miss out on what’s under your nose (and we’re not talking about your
mustache). All of which means when someone says support you local brewery you should because they just might
make world class beer.
Note to local breweries – you can use that last phrase on your advertising for no charge though a case of beer would
be most welcome unless you are one of the not so good local breweries that caused me to use the word “might”. You
know who you are and so do I.
My theories were proven true again a week later when I went to a round table beer tasting under a tree in a far
corner of a hotel parking lot. It’s a long story. Anyway, several people brought heavy hitters you only read about
and rarely see. Some brought new releases touted on trendy beer websites. One guy brought Seltzer (he sat by
himself). I brought more local beer. This time it was another offering from Magnify called R & R, a lemonade inspired
imperial sour (yes, there are such things. At least now there are), and Fred, an excellent IPA from a small, make that
very small,brewery called Flounder’s. It’s a 6% ABV beer made with triple cryo that’s been pellet dry hopped. It
features citrus and pine notes with a light dankness. I almost didn't buy it because I thought the beer was named
Flounder and the brewer was Fred. I need new glasses.
When the cans were empty and a group vote was taken the top brew was R & R. Once again hype, advertising, and
mainstream beer media took a tumble thanks to a beer from Fairfield (where?) NJ. Just how good is this beer? I
never buy the same beer twice if something new is readily available. That what puts the adventure in Beerland. After
the tasting I went back to Magnify and purchased another 4-pack. The beer was that good. For those who say the
big part of my motivation was the 11.2 ABV notice printed on the can all I can say is, well, support your local brewery
and I don't like fish.
So what does it all mean? Dorothy said it best. “Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home – home! And this is my favorite
brewery – and great beers are here – and I'm not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love local beer!
And... oh, there's no place like home!”
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