The Quest for the Holy Grail…of Craft Beer

holy grail

I don’t think I can make it any clearer that I love beer. It has entirely permeated almost every aspect of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love trying new beers and make it a point to seek out things I haven’t had when shopping for beer and visiting bars. The problem with doing this is a phenomenon I like to call the ‘Holy Grail of Beers’ – that one beer you’ve been searching for and hunting but can’t locate to try.

For me, this became the ever elusive Founder’s KBS. Boasting high reviews on all fronts and for many a coveted beverage, I began pursuing avenues to even get a little taste of its ‘delicious goodness.’ I watched in jealousy as others sipped away on my Untappd, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter feeds. I let heavy sighs escape me as I longed to try this beer myself, reading what seemed like everyone but me enjoying this prized possession.

Then, it came to my area. One of my favorite local spots was going to have the KBS available for a very short time, and I had plans that day. I rearranged my schedule, hustled myself over there, and received my sampler. It was delicious to say the least, but at the same time I found myself let down. This beer had been put on such a pedestal for me by others that I found myself disappointed. It was nowhere near as good as all the world had raved and I found myself wondering how this whole situation even came to be.

Before you all line up with angry pitchforks at my door because I just said I was disappointed by your Holy Grail, KBS, hear me out. Like anything else in life it is easy to be swept up in the emotion of a situation. Take for example, the new movie The Avengers. You see all the reviews on your feeds, you hear people on tv and the radio raving about how great it is, you hear your friends going on and on about ‘dude it’s awesome’ and no you have to see it for yourself. You go to the overly packed theater, pay your $9 or so, and watch the movie only to find that it didn’t live up to the expectations set forth by everyone else. Now, I haven’t seen The Avengers, so this may not even be true, but this is a common scenario in our lives.

This started leading me into another thought – when did enjoying a craft beer go from a fun way to kick back with friends to a battle of epic proportions with egos and bragging rights? I’ve met many people who can sit and show you days worth of pictures of their coveted beauties boasting the most outrageous means of obtaining their…preciousssss…just to say that they have these in their possession. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these beers are delicious and I would love to try them, but begging others to send me things from across the country just so I can tell everyone else that I had it seems a bit ludicrous.

I guess where I’m heading with this rambling is that at the end of the day it’s just beer. I’ve learned better than to put beers on pedestals for fear of ruining what should be an awesome experience. There will always be beers I’m dying to try, and there will always be people wanting to share that they already have, but maybe we should take it for what it is – a drink. Some will seem better than others for different people and that’s just the way it is. Personally, I found that the Curmudgeon’s Better Half is the best thing I’ve tried from Founder’s, but I digress. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that as much as I love beer, cooking with beer, sharing beer with others, and writing about beer, I find it important to maintain that this Holy Grail of sorts isn’t as important as the community as a whole and the experiences that come with it.

holy grail ale
Tis but a flesh wound

What are your thoughts?

17 Comments on The Quest for the Holy Grail…of Craft Beer

  1. Amen Sister! I’ve experienced this as well. Rave after Rave for a beer, only to find at the end of the day, as you said, it’s just a beer. A good beer, yes. A great beer, maybe to some. The beer I absolutely had to try before I died, rarely.

    I get this feeling personified every year as I watch my Twitter feed explode with people excitingly getting their tickets for 3F’s Dark Lord day. After seeing hoards of my followers climb over themselves to get “the golden ticket” so that they can get their one bottle of yearly ambrosia…how can this beer possible stack to all of that? Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to try it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was the story behind how I got the bottle, or the people I shared it with that truly made it unforgettable.

  2. I agree!
    For me, this experienced happened with Pliny the Elder. Spent what seemed like forever tracking it down and when I finally had it.. meh. It is good, don’t get me wrong. It’s the most balanced IPA that I’ve ever had. But when I told my thoughts to everyone who put it on this pedistal, all they could say was “Well, when it came out it was the only double IPA and it was great.” Well, I think thats great, but how does it compare to all of the other double IPAs out there now? I’m sorry, it’s just not as good as Troeg’s Perpetual IPA.

    • WOW! Now THAT is a MAJOR compliment to Troegs! I haven’t had either Pliny, and for awhile I had that on a pedestal as well. Now, I’m over it. I still want to try it, but I’m not going to wait in line to buy a ticket to wait in line at a later date to try a sampler of it. Ridiculous.

      • You don’t have to wait to get Pliny the Elder (PtE, in beer trading circles, lol), you just need a good trade partner who will get you some fresh PtE and ship it properly. Of course that means you’ll have to do the same for them, and if you’re not a beer trader, don’t underestimate the effort and cost it takes to make a good trade.

        Of course the only reason to trade for beer is if you can’t get said beer where you are, and you want it bad enough to trade for it. If you have a large selection of excellent beers available to you locally, trading for one more excellent beer that has to be shipped to you will not likely be worth the effort.

        All that being said, I traded for PtE on more than one occasion. I think it deserves its ranking on beer rating sites, and deserves its reputation as one of the top beers in the world. That doesn’t mean I’d wait in line for days to get it tho. I may never get a bottle of darklord, because I’m really not into exerting the effort it would take to obtain a portion. Perhaps if I lived or was staying close, and the opportunity arose, I somehow wound up with a ticket, maybe. But there are tons of great imperial stouts available, so my motivation to trek across the country and spend tons of money to sample one more great imperial stout is low. Imperial stouts aren’t even my favorite style. And I can get Yeti here, all the varieties (those are my favorite imperial stouts, particularly the regular oak aged version. They’re consistently terrific and they’re not over the top expensive either).

        Back to Pliny… It’s very balanced, very clean, a truly wonderful beer. But then so is hop stoopid from Lagunitas, and they sell it locally in 22oz bombers for $3.99. Best beer value on the market for several years running if you ask me. The real value of PtE is the really kick ass brewery, and their support for homebrewers and beer enthusiasts. Russian River’s sours are spectacular (Temptation… to DIE for!). And Vinny (their head brewer, I think) has a Pliny the Elder homebrew clone recipe online that really makes damn excellent beer, and if you’re meticulous enough, can make a pretty spot-on clone of PtE. I’ve made it once, although I didn’t use the same hops, and used a completely different hops schedule, so mine wasn’t really a clone. The base malt recipe was just fantastic though, and my beer came out as one of my top three or four homebrews ever (and it was my first attempt at a IIPA).

        Now Lagunitas also provides a clone recipe for their hop stoopid. They even have a contest at some brewing festival to see who can most closely clone hop stoopid. I plan to make this hop stoopid clone in the fall, hopefully with the exact same hops schedule too. I buy hops in bulk tho, so I won’t be spending a ton of money on a few ounces of rare hops to clone it. Other hop schedules will also produce an excellent beer, so we’ll see what happens.. I can say that if there’s a moment of indecision when I’m shopping for commercial beer, the good stuff that lagunitas does for homebrewers will easily break the tie. I try to drink some hop stoopid every week, just because it’s that good, but also because yes, I do have some degree of brand loyalty just because the brewery kicks ass.

        I prefer the more “clean” IIPAs like hop stoopid and PtE, and Ruination (although I don’t think that’s “clean” like PtE or HS, I just think it’s awesome). Some American IPAs have started to push the description that many Europeans give our beer: “over-hopped abominations.” I prefer a bit more balance, even from my hop-bomb favorites.

        KBS IS pretty damn good. I was able to pick up a four pack of that in St Louis a couple of years running, and even got two four packs one year. Awesome beer. But expensive, so I’m truthfully more into picking up a four pack of yeti because it’s about $6 cheaper. And as for the Holy Grail… had that one too. Monty Python’s Holy Grail ale is absolutely perfect in that it’s not at all spectacular in any way, in a sort of perfect tribute to the movie, and to the non-spectacular experiences that many of us have when we finally get our hands on our own holy grail of beers.

        • I had PtE twice this year and found that I really enjoyed it, but I’m not scared to say that I loved Heady Topper more. You’re right, if I wanted it sooner I could’ve traded for it, but when I wrote this I didn’t have a west coast connection yet.

  3. People who only search out the rare beers miss out on all superb “Average” beers. Ill take a Troegs Java stout over Dark Lord any day of the week

    • WOW! ANOTHER great compliment for Troegs! I don’t think they keep up with my blog, but I’m sure they’d be glad to know they have such great support!

      • I’ve gotten various troegs beers in trades. Always a treat. I haven’t been trading much lately, since I’m more into homebrewing now, and I have a large selection of commercial beers available to me. But if I could get troegs… Hell Yeah!

  4. My love of craft beer has to do more with the great experiences ive had while drinking it than the actual beer. To use a very personal instance the first private Hangout I had with my girlfriend ( soon to be something else shhhhh ) was while I was drinking Troegs Nugget Nectar. That moment made Nugget Nectar taste like Unicorn Meat, and its why Nugget Nectar is on of my favorite beers. Hope that makes sence

    • It does. The beer tastes better because it means something more! I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who love a beer because it was their wedding beer or a beer they enjoyed the day a child was born. Oh, and Nugget Nectar is awesome on top of all that!

  5. This is the first of your posts I’ve ever read and I love it. I couldn’t agree more, as I had the same situation when I got my hands on some Heady Topper. It was good, but seeing as a lot of people were willing to sacrifice their first born for some, I was expecting SO MUCH MORE! So I’ll stick to Sculpin IPA as my favorite. Because of that I’m kind of “Meh” about trying Pliny. If someone has it and offers me some, great, awesome. But I’m certainly not going to seek it out far and wide.

    Your second to last paragraph I think sums up all of my thoughts about all of this. Since I’ve started, being active on twitter now and BA forums and the craft beer community in general, I’ve noticed this almost elitist approach to it all form a lot of people and its big turn off. I used to jokingly refer to myself as a “Beer Snob” but I cant in good mind anymore, as “Snobs” take the fun out of everything. They don’t do it for the same reason an enthusiast does it. Its just a self congratulatory kind of thing now. Yuck.

    The fact that beer is even a “thing” is silly, so people should knock the shit off and enjoy it for what it is…like you said, “a drink.”

    • That’s one of the many reasons I only use BA as a point of reference. I’ve seen way too much drama come from it out of grown men! Thanks for taking the time to read our blog 🙂

  6. And no matter how world-class any beer by any brewery might be, the beer you brewed yourself is the only one that has any chance of actually attaining holy grail status.

    I’m about to brew a citra-bomb from hell SMaSH ale (single malt, single hop), using only citra hops and vienna malt. Good luck trying to top this one with any commercial beer. No matter how much of an over-citra-hopped abomination it is, the one you brew yourself is always going to taste best.

    I’m purposely brewing a citra-bomb from hell*, just so I can experience the fullest possible citra experience from my highly coveted, expensive, and hard to get pound of citra hops.

    *5 gallons will only have 4 oz of citra, and 2 oz dry hop citra. Contrast that with my PtE clone, which had 17 total ounces of hops (6 of it dry, 3 oz bittering charge, and 8 oz late/flameout hops). The citra beer might supposedly have stronger flavor, at least according to legend and lore. We’ll see tho. No matter how citra-d this beer is, I’ll drink every last one, and it’ll be great. That’s the one thing that’s truly certain here.

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