|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
|You spent $93.75 ona f------g bottle of 62 year old beer??
by Vince Capano
Please, let’s not have a knee-jerk reaction to the title of this month’s Adventure in
Beerland. I admit that, if taken out of context, the cost of this one bottle might be a
tad unnerving so perspective is needed. First consider the $93.75. It’s only .
0000000000000001 % of the Federal bailout of Wall Street; it’s .00007 of the
cost of what you’re going to pay to heat your home with oil this winter, and it’s
twenty five cents less than Bill Gates lost in loose change on his couch yesterday.
As for anything being 62 years of age, you can count 7 of our 43 Presidents when
taking office, the third oldest woman ever to give birth, 36 million Americans, and
the can of WWII rations I found in my uncle's basement. Impressive company,
we’d all agree. Now the only problem is to explain the part about the beer.
The beer is not just any beer. It’s the “holy grail” of beers. It’s the star on top of
your Christmas tree (if you have the beer bottle varietal), it’s the shangri in Shangri-
La; it’s an almost mystical icon that brings out the Indiana Jones in every beer
lover – it’s Burton Ale. Some say it was only brewed twice, once in 1934 and
again in 1946 by the late, lamented Ballantine Brewery, home of “purity, body, and
flavor”, the “three ring sign”, and XXX (not what you’re thinking) Ale.
Everyone agrees that Burton Ale was made as a very high gravity brew designed
for long periods (7 to 20 years) of maturation in oak tanks. The beer was never
sold, but was just given away by those generous souls at Ballantine. Of course,
giving beer away might just help explain why they went out of business in the first
place. This bottle conditioned strong ale would only be released to employees
and friends of the brewers as gifts for the holiday, whether Santa, a reported
teetotaler, approved or not .
Each bottle would have a special label that listed the date the beer was brewed,
bottled, and the person for who the gift was intended. The label was festooned
with Christmas holly and wreaths and the words: "Seasons Greetings from all of
us at Ballantine”. The only thing missing was the word FREE and the warning “Do
not to drink this beer because decades later you could sell it to some beer nut for
$93.75”. That’s the same warning that was also missing on all those comic books
my Mom threw out when I was a kid.
The "gift list" for Burton Ale was said to have been made up of New Jersey and
national political figures (the White House was always on the list), distributorship
owners, NY Yankee personnel (Ballantine was a long time sponsor- “It’s a
Ballantine Blast” –home run) and other "good customers". Even unused blank
labels were used as gifts. Officially, employees weren’t on the list but many in-
house retirement/holiday parties featured the brew obtained in, to be polite,
Somehow, several hundred bottles of this vintage elixir survived into the 21st
century and on occasion are put up on E-Bay for auction. One such occasion
happened last week. While I can proudly boast that I know a few lines from Otis
Reddings’s “Sitting On The Dock of the Bay”, have read about The Bay of Pigs
fiasco, and, on rare occasion, drink a Malibu Bay Breeze, when it comes to a Bay
preceded by an E, I know nothing. Fortunately, my investment partner and
BeerNexus colleague, Dan Hodge, was going to handle the bidding. As far as we
can tell we lost the bidding but still were able to buy the bottle. It didn’t make
sense to us either. We think it was something called “second chance”. Frankly,
we are still a bit unsure if we’ll ever see the bottle, not to mention the check we
sent to the listing party’s website, icheatu.com. To his credit Dan handled the
bidding with aplomb, even when for three days we were bidding against
ourselves. We blamed that on the case of Iron City 16 ounce cans that quickly
went from full to empty when discussing our strategy. I guess our years of
watching The Price is Right was not as good a preparation for this as we thought.
Our particular Burton Ale was “especially made for Mary Boggiano” and was
brewed on May 12, as was every Burton Ale. As to why only on May 12, it’s
probably due, as are most things about mythical items, to its being, well, mystical.
As for Mary Boggiano, no real information about her is to be found. Mr. Hodge
likes to think she was the one who came up with the idea for aging the beer in the
oak barrels; if so, it seems the only bonus they gave her for such an innovative
thought was this one single bottle, which to her credit, she refused to ever drink.
One question we wrestled for at least two or three seconds was whether to
consume our Burton Ale or hold on to the bottle to resell it for a profit. Although a
profit was guaranteed by our financial advisors Fred D. Mack and Fran E. May,
we dismissed that option. After all, this is a beer expressly made to be enjoyed by
people who love to drink beer. Furthermore, it would probably be our one and only
chance to drink a part of American brewing history. Besides, how much cooler is
it to say we drank a famous 62 year old beer than to say we sold one?
We’re now awaiting the arrival of our prized purchase, hoping that this was not
another internet scam (you’d think we’d learn after sending money to that brewery
in Nigeria). And we’re hoping that we stay the same humble beer drinkers we
were before owning a bottle of Burton Ale (despite that fact that we will then be so
much better than everyone else).
And, maybe most of all, we’re hoping that we get the last laugh on the eighty nine
people (exact count in the last 24 hours), who said to us “you spent $93.75 on a
f……g bottle of 62 year old beer??”
|You Spent $93.75 ona f-----k bottle of 62 year old beer??