Look What’s In the Beer Aisle This Past Holiday Season

For BeerNexus.com

Whenever I hit the liquor store I usually am going for something specific, but when I
hit the craft beer aisles I always walk through to see what may be new or different or
on sale. One change that has been taking place and would appear to be continuing
is the increasing selection of NJ craft beers in the refrigerated section. In my local
Bottle King it’s up to two full doors and the selection is different every time so this is
one area I’m always interested in checking out.

But its Christmas time and that means there will holiday special items so always good
to keep the eyes open and see what appears. There are always many liquor holiday
gift packs, usually with glasses in them. There are also a lot of holiday beers
available and sometimes there might be a special size or package. So here I am at
the end of an aisle and I see a wooden box with a clear front and a 22 oz. bottle in it.
Okay so let’s check this out and see what it is. Luckily whatever I was buying was in
my cart and not in my hand as I would have dropped them all; it was a bottle of
Crudweiser Copper Lager. Is ABI joking; this must be a prank! One of my beer buds
gave me a 12 oz. bottle and I tried it and it was terrible. Seems obvious to me they’re
just hoping to ride along on the continuing success of the craft industry’s barrel aging
which increases in profile and volume every year. And I guess if you regularly drink
Crud, then maybe you like this. I have no clue what the price was as I wouldn’t buy it
unless they paid me and then of course I could use it as a great gag gift. Jim Beam
should be really upset that their name is prominently displayed on the label as it
certainly didn’t do anything to improve the taste. Just for laughs I searched online.
Looks like it retailed in the $14-16 range and I see there are already lots of these on
eBay from $20 to $50! At least the one who wants $50 had the decency to empty it

So my first holiday special siting wasn’t all that special, but I’m sure they’ll be more.
And here we go, those ABI guys are really cooking with gas this year as another day
I’m in my local store and there again at the end of the aisle is a display of boxes. Not
sure what they are I look closer at the approximate 6” x 6” x 8” box and based on the
picture and word Crudweiser this must be their holiday stein. I open the box and sure
enough that’s what it is. I haven’t seen these in years.

At this point I should probably go full disclosure so it doesn’t come back to bite me.
Yes I have one of these steins from 1987 that was given to me as a gift. It’s packed
away with our Christmas decorations so it does come out every year.  

Years ago AB used to do a lot more than just Christmas/holiday steins and they
were good quality. Being an Olympics fan I have three from the Atlanta-96, Nagano-
98 and Salt Lake-02 Olympics. They would make them for each Olympic Games,
nicely designed with the specific Olympics logo, a pewter lid and the best of all the
only place you could find their name was on the bottom so they’re really nice Olympic
steins as opposed to Crudweiser steins.  Back in 2012 I had searched for a stein for
the London Olympics and they weren’t making them.  I thought I read at that time
that they’d stopped making commemorative steins completely, but obviously they’re
back at it.

I check the new 2018 out online and Amazon says they’ll have them in stock on
January 4th for $25, so I guess we know what they’re doing with the ones that don’t
sell in the stores and they need to take back. Much to my surprise Amazon is also
showing a 2017 edition for $22.25 and a 2016 edition for $9.99. So if you’re a smart
shopper you wait. And then there’s the eBay ads; wow I can get the 2018 edition that
I can easily buy in the store for a mere $68…that’s got to be a special deal of some
sort, maybe it comes with a six of Copper Lager… I see Replacements Ltd. has a
bunch of them also; a 1981 for $219, a 1983 for $52.76 and wait a second, the one I
have, a 1987 for $45.99. Well maybe I was smart to keep this one; maybe I’ll put it on
eBay and see if I can make a few bucks on this and downsize as well. The new one
doesn’t appear to be the same quality appearance as the older ones, I think they’re
using a different company to manufacture them, but I’m not that interested that I’m
going to research it.

The end of the aisle is the place to really pay attention although this one would be
hard to miss even in the aisle; it’s a big green label magnum. Ah, and the dead
giveaway is the red star, so no it’s not a red and green label designed for Christmas,
it’s the limited edition holiday packaging Heineken; now if that doesn’t stop you in
your tracks. Maybe it’s just me but why would anyone what a magnum of Heineken,
the original skunk beer, is beyond me. Brings new meaning to gag gift!

Luckily there’s another large green magnum available and it’s a true Christmas
favorite, the 2018 Anchor Christmas Ale; what a site. Obviously way too much to
drink in a sitting but I’m headed to New Year’s Day party and like to bring something
different and there will be plenty of others there who I’m sure will be hoppy, err sorry
happy, to assist in its consumption; into my cart it goes.

I’ve been told that Cyprus Brewing delivers to Wegmans every Friday. I haven’t had
their delicious 17 Mile IPA in quite a while so I head over to see if they have any. As I’
m headed to the refrigerated section in the back of the store I pass a display of all
holiday beers and see Bell’s Christmas Ale. Bell’s has finally made it to NJ and I’m
pretty hoppy, opps there I go again, about it. Every beer I’ve tasted of theirs I like,
which is no surprise as they’ve been one of the top craft breweries for decades.

In early 2018 I tried to get a PA friend to get me some Bell's Hopslam, which is a
seasonal always rated very highly, but he couldn’t find it. I’d like to try their Christmas
Ale. I also see the Two Roads, another great brewery, Holiday Jam, which I haven’t
had yet either. I proceed to the frig but don’t find the Cyprus I want, bummer.

The thought of the Bell’s Christmas Ale percolates in my head and I decided to
propose to my beer buds that we each buy a different holiday beer and then do a
bottle swap. When we have some different/interesting brews we set a time to get
together and do some semi-professional taste testing. But it’s the holidays so who
has time and this would be a way to get to try some beers we hadn’t had without the
problem of buying a six pack and finding out you don’t like it. Next time we’re out I
mention it to a couple of them and they agree it sounds like a good idea. So I send
an email to the four of them proposing a bottle swap, we’ll all get to try beers we
haven’t, we’ll just need to coordinate and let each other know what we’re bringing so
they’re all different. Everyone’s in so we set a date to do our swap.

Here’s where it gets interesting and we find out that all craft beer language has not
been created equal. I decide to go with the Bell’s as that’s what spurred this idea and
event. The others chime in with their selection. Three of us show up with our four
bottles to give to the others. The other two show up with one bottle each, what?!? So
the term “bottle swap” in the craft beer world is most closely associated with people
trading beers; I’ll give you this bottle, or now more often can, for that one; and that’s
what each of them thought, that we would all bring one bottle and we each pick one.
Now that can be fun also, but not what I described. Unfortunately I didn’t expressly
say to buy a six pack and give four of them to the others, but I did say we’d all get to
try five different beers… Oh well next time I’ll need to try to be explicit so there’s no
misunderstanding. And of course you realize this was before we were drinking the
beers so you’d think a little less chance of miscommunication…

And I was not disappointed in the Bell’s Christmas Ale, which is a Scotch Ale; very

So it will be interesting to see if there are any further reductions or clearance items
after the holidays as we begin another hopefully great year of craft beer in 2019. My
only suggestion would be to pass on the Pumpkin beer, that’s a bargain that’s not
really a bargain…

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

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