Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)
Without a doubt the event of the week in our area was the yearly release of Bell’s HopSlam. We received our 25 cases at Arrowine on Monday and they sold out in under an hour, way faster than I had anticipated. Considering the madness surrounding its release, I thought of making this week’s column more an open forum where folks could discuss it, as it seems to be all anyone wants to talk about right now — but I thought that would be lazy even by my standards.
So instead I’m going to take a moment to talk about perception, trends, and realities. Because while trophy hunters have been calling incessantly about HopSlam, I’ve had to restock classic, more balanced brews from Bell’s itself, along with some from Devils Backbone, Great Lakes, and more. In my retail experience it seems as if there is always at least one Great Contradiction at play no matter what the business might be: currently the greatest of these in craft beer is between the amount of hype and media attention the big rare beers garner, and the maturing palates of craft beer drinkers, many of whom are looking for less volume and more subtlety.
Great Lakes in particular has been on the upswing lately: coming up on the first anniversary of its entering the Virginia market, the Cleveland brewery has built a following in our area by offering flavorful, well-made beers that stay true to their styles without bowing to the pressures so many breweries face in terms of making high-ABV, in-your-face, stupid rare offerings. Yes, their Christmas Ale was in very short supply this past holiday season, but I think that had more to do with demand in Ohio and other, more tenured markets than anything. The point is that even the biggest of the Great Lakes beer that I’ve had — the ‘Imperial’ beers that from most brewers tend to cut your evening short after a bottle — are enjoyable in feel while providing the depth of flavor that is expected from bigger beers.
It is easy to think being a beer geek is all about finding the rarest of the rare, the biggest of the big, and flaunting one’s finds in the faces of those mere mortals who missed out. When craft beer gets big media coverage, it tends to be related to something like a HopSlam or Founder’s KBS — so I understand the perception. What is more interesting to me is the shift toward great everyday beer, and the broader audience that can be gained through such beers. Neither can exist without the other, nor should one overshadow the other; the everyday and the extraordinary reaching out to a world still only beginning to wake up from the bland stupor that the big conglomerate breweries had kept them under for decades.
Don’t worry if you miss out on the crazy-rare beer that’s just been released; the next one’s right around the corner, and in the meantime there are more truly great beers available than ever before. Until next time.
Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.