Friday, July 6, 2012

White Whales...that don't breath

In the craft beer world, residing in the Geekdom area, there is a category of beers called "white whales".  Borrowed (or taken) from Moby Dick, a white whale in the beer world is a beer that is elusive, rare, and pretty darn delicious...if caught.  At least, it used to be.  Today, the last factor of the white whale equation, deliciousness, seems to be fading in its salience.

This can be seen on trading forums online (BeerAdvocate and RateBeer for example).  Some beer geeks will trade (beer or $$) for un-sampled, hard to find, limited released beers.  Take AC Golden's Hidden Barrel Apricot and Peche beers.  These were severely limited releases and some beer geeks offered other rare (and widely appreciated) beers in trade. But this raises a question.  Why would someone trade a known great, rare beer for an unknown beer?  I think the answer resides in the "rareness".

Which brings us back to Moby Dick.  That white whale was unique. The story was in the hunt for the, mammal, and what it took to carry out this necessity. Same here with beer white whales.  Increasingly it's more about the hunt...the rarity...than the beer itself:  The achievement of capturing such elusive brews.  I don't mean to say that white whale beers aren't good.  Most likely, there are fantastic.  But who knows until they are sampled?

While the AC Golden Hidden Barrel Apricot was a good beer, to me the white whale status should not be applied.  Yes, it's very rare. Yes, it's good. No, it's not fantastic; which means it wasn't worth the $20+ price tag, or a trade for other, established whales.  For me, I don't hunt the whales any more...not that I did so with rampant fury yesteryear.  My thrill is traveling to places where a beer is made, sipping on it in its 'native environment', and chatting with the locals.  In 2 weeks I'm going to Portland, OR and get me some Hair of the Dog goodness.  That's my whale, but it's more like a Blue than white.

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