is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|Sheltering in place gives one time to think about the really important things in life. Yes, like many of you I’ve spent
this Coronavirus imposed isolation doing one thing - trying to figure out just where are some of the world’s biggest
lost treasures. Think of it, find just one and you’ll have riches beyond comprehension; enough to even buy a case of
hand sanitizers. Maybe two.
Montezuma’s Treasure would certainly let you do that plus make you the biggest fin on Shark Tank. It seems that
when Cortes and his army arrested Montezuma after brutally massacring his people, the Aztecs rose in rebellion.
In a mad rush to escape, the Spaniards were forced to dump all their looted riches in the waters of Lake Texcoco,
Mexico. To this day the so-called Montezuma’s Treasure remains lost, perhaps still resting on the bottom of that
lake. I’d go and search for it but a lake means water. And that means I’d have to start working out so as not to
embarrass myself in swimming trunks. Scratch that one.
No aquatic skills or physique would be needed if I went after the fabulous treasure buried by history’s most famous
pirate: Blackbeard. One little known fact about Mr. Beard was that in addition to having renown pirating skills he was
also a home brewer or more accurately in this case, a ship brewer. Some say he started the tradition of all brewers
having beards, black or any other color.
Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach which explains why he changed it. Let’s be honest, Eddie Teach doesn’t
have much of a bone chilling, spine tingling, blood curdling effect on would be victims. Under his pseudonym, Eddie
achieved fame preying on ships heading back to Spain laden with gold, silver and other treasures from Mexico and
South America. In late 1718, a British naval force caught Blackbeard and had him decapitated. To cover up the deed
they placed Blackbeard’s remains in a nearby gentleman’s club which caused the local newspaper to title their report
"Headless Body In Topless Bar".
Before his demise Blackbeard claimed to have buried his massive treasure but he never told anyone its location.
Treasure hunters have been searching everywhere from Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean and Cayman
Islands. I can almost feel the doubloons in my hands now. Yo ho ho and another bottle of rum for me.
Then there’s the legendary Faberge eggs. The House of Faberge was once the largest jeweler in Russia, employing
500 designers and craftsmen. Their most famous achievement was a series of jewel-drenched Easter eggs produced
for Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II. Out of the 50 eggs created for the czars seven are still missing, each of which
is worth nearly 40 million dollars. By the way the last egg known was found in New Yolk (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Pondering such wealth can produce a thirst that shouts one word: beer. The problem in this time of forced closings
and shutdowns is that not a single bar I know is open. The taps that provided fermented elixirs of joyful substance are
all shut down. Even worse, every liquor and beer store in the state is closed to public traffic. Deliveries and curb side
pickups are allowed but allowed does not necessarily mean it’s an easy, smooth process.
Many liquor stores near me have simply stopped taking orders for delivery or curb side pickup because they already
have too many of them. The business man’s dream of insatiable demand has turned into a nightmare. Beer drinkers,
forged into grizzled consumer warriors by their ongoing quest for toilet paper, have been wizened to buy as much
beer as possible as often as they can then they buy some more. Let’s face it, having an ample supply of toilet paper
and beer ensures that at least the two most important things in life are completely taken care of. It’s comforting to the
heart, soul, and other places.
Here are some statistics to prove my point. And yes, I know that 84.6% of all statistics online are made up but mine
are in that remaining 15.4% category. Overall alcohol sales in the past 30 days are up 79%over the same period last
year spurred by online purchases which are up 243 %. Yes, that number is correct; no decimal is needed. Wine sales
shot up 86% and beer and cider grew 62%. In terms of dollars American shoppers spent 58% more on all types of
alcoholic beverages this month compared to last year. One of the biggest delivery apps, Drizly, which covers 26
states, the District of Columbia, and Alberta, Canada, reported that the Coronavirus pandemic has driven a 300%
uptick in sales. If only I still had that little red wagon I used to ride in as a kid I could go door to door selling my
homebrew. With that kind of demand even my swill would be a hot commodity.
I was elated the other day when after hours of searching online I found a liquor store accepting orders for delivery.
Clicking the button that said “beer” I was brought to a page with pictures and glowing descriptions of four versions of
Bud, five of Coors, and three of Miller. Whoever wrote the copy was so good I actually thought about buying some. If
the Coronavirus hired them a lot of people would be persuaded to donate their masks to indigent bank robbers and
save their gloves for the next snowball fight.
As glowing as those macro beer descriptions were I remained steadfast in my purist of good craft beer. My
desperation led to closer scrutiny of the page. There it was. In a pull down menu at the top left I saw what I came for -
a button that said “Beer: / Craft. Gleefully I clicked and waited as the page slowly loaded. As it plodded along I
imagined myself sitting back drinking some great brews while listening to the Mayor, the Governor, and the President
telling everyone to do their duty, to fight the virus by staying home and not venturing out into the lands of medical
jeopardy. I would soon be lifting a glass to toast them with a “right on guys” knowing I was doing my part. Who knew
drinking a lot of beer could be so patriotic.
The page finally appeared. In big bold letters at the top it said "Available Craft". Under that it listed a bevy of ciders
and varieties of Blue Moon. And that was all. My beer buying opportunity was simply a favorable occasion for
grasping a crushing disappointment. Disappointment quickly gave way to depression. It seems the difference
between the two is one’s level of commitment and when it comes to craft beer count me committed.
As I had done often before in tough times, I turned to the one place I’ve found comfort,solace, and the beer that
brought them - the refrigerator. I looked in. Crowding the front were a leaky carton of oat milk, an almost empty jar
of Shoprite pickles, three different kinds of Tofukey Deli Slices, what looked to be a half eaten bagel from last year’s
beer club trip to the TAP-NY festival (it has sentimental value), and two containers of leftover white rice from the
House of Wuhan Chinese Food Emporium. Behind that wall of high cuisine I saw bottles and tall cans. That could
mean only one thing. The fates were smiling on me. I had inadvertently come upon a beer treasure. Forget
Montezuma, Faberge,and Blackbeard, this was real treasure, Woo-hoo! There be beer here!
Somehow I had planned for this Coronavirus induced beer shortage without knowing it. You may call it pure dumb
luck. I slightly prefer to call it inadvertent genius.
I blindly reached back and pulled out the first thing I touched. It was a can of Von Trapp Double IPL. If you’ve never
tired a Von Trap beer you at least know the story of the family behind the brewery. Yes, it’s the one from the Sound
of Music, where the hills are alive with the sound of brewing. Their version is my all time favorite DIPL,made even
more so since it’s from celebrity brewer Julie Andrews. The beer is nicely balanced, with a hop rush of fresh orange
citrus,over a soft malt body. Its clean, fruity finish, featuring a crisp pine bite, never fails to bring a smile to my taste
buds. Its 8% ABV is well hidden which means you can drink a lot of them just like a session beer. Hey, sheltering in
place means you aren’t driving so why not?
Next I blindly pulled a can from Lost Rhino Brewing called Plant Face. Lost Rhino is located in Ashburn Va. I knew
that because it was printed on the label. I either got the can at the who knew it would our last one for a while meeting
of my beer club or it had been thrown at me for heckling members of the local Bring Back Prohibition Association who
were using it as an example of the devil's handiwork. Either one is quite possible. And for the record I do feel sorry for
the members of that Association and anyone else who doesn't drink beer. When they get up in the morning that's as
good as they'll feel all day.
Since there were quite a few cans and bottles left I figured one more wouldn’t put too big a dent in the stash so I
reached back in. This time I had pulled out a bottle of Guinness Stock Ale Aged in Bulleit Bourbon barrels. It was
made in Baltimore. Hey if Guinness Extra Stout is made in Canada why can't they make this in Baltimore? According
to Guinness it's a “fulsome, high gravity barleywine style stout aged in bourbon barrels for several months”. All I know
is that anything described as “fulsome” has got to be good. And it was. Of course it’s 10% ABV was an added bonus.
It was incredibly tasty. I especially loved the flavors from the aging in Bulleit. Maybe that’s why I drank it faster than a
The lesson of my tale is clear. You don't have to go to far flung places to find hidden treasures. Sometimes the best
gems are found right under your nose. As the Wizard of Brew said to Dorothy, just clink your glasses together three
times and keep saying there's no beer like craft beer, there’s no beer like craft beer, there’s no beer like craft beer
then wait for the magic to happen.
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