It’s almost 2 am in the beer cave. Last call. The cave is closing. (One of them anyway.) These are the last three bottles left, and by the time we finish writing this, well, and then there were two.
It all goes back to one Saturday afternoon in 2007. We biked 40 miles with a motley crew on a single mission: gather 99 bottles of beer and drink them all. We failed (at the drinking part). Whatever was left in the ice bucket made its way to the fridge, and then when there wasn’t room in the fridge it got shoved in the pantry — eventually it all had to go in the bedroom closet and a cabinet in the living room. But that wasn’t dark enough. So we ended up investing in a couple of trunks. Project Beer Cave was born. Our new goal was to slowly rebuild the arsenal and never fall below 99 bottles again. You drink a bottle, buy a bottle. Goals are important.
Hoarding beer is the adult equivalent of trading baseball cards. Doggie Claws is Frank Thomas. Hardy’s Ale is Barry Bonds. Trader Joe’s Unibrou series is Jose Conseco. (What’s Cal Ripken?) What happens is you stop thinking like a consumer and you start thinking like a collector. We knew we were in deep when we found ourselves going to the store on a Wednesday afternoon and coming back with a dozen bottles in tow. One time a 7-11 beer run cost more than $100. That was a good beer run…
The thing about our beer hoarding that you have to understand is that in 2006 and 2007 Los Angeles was a very different place. There was no Eagle Rock Brewery or Smog City or Golden Road. The Bruery didn’t exist. Ryan Sweeney was getting ready to open the Verdugo Bar, but there was little else between Father’s Office in Santa Monica and the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel.
So we had to look to the horizon. Our only allegiance was to San Diego; and our fascination was Belgium. Our beer caves were the one way we knew how to ensure that if we felt like a decent 750 ml, we had one at our disposal. And since our beer tastes were moving ever darker, heavier and sludgier with the same ferocity as the 1990’s catalogue of Ministry albums, the beers we were drinking just happened to be perfect for cellaring.
By 2009, we had a full-blown problem. We were getting invited to man caves around town to oggle mini fridges stocked with bottles of Black Tuesday. Financially speaking, we were out of our element. So, we did what one does when one can no longer viably compete. We watched and took notes. We printed their secrets in the newspaper.
Alen Mirzakhanyan, a Raytheon engineer from Glendale, doesn’t have a cellar, so he re-wired two kitchen fridges to keep his beer at 55 degrees and installed beams to support the shelves from buckling under the weight of 400 bottles. Some of them, such as Cantillon’s Blabaer, made once a year for a cafe in Denmark, are impossible to find except by trading over the Internet with European collectors.
But a funny thing has happened over the last few years. There’s more space in the trunk. We’ve stopped buying beers like collectors and started drinking like consumers again. We go to the store for a bomber or stop by for a growler fill. We’ll snap up special bottles but it’s more likely to be on the dining room table within 24 hours than in the sock drawer for 24 months. And that’s OK. We still like the sludgy shit, but we’re more apt to be sipping a Unionist Belgian-style ale from Glassel Park straight from the tap than lickin’ up yeasty Euro floaters that traveled 3 months by ship.
So where does that leave us? With a couple bottles that are older than the Obama presidency… We’ll let you know how they taste.
Beer Cave Countdown
2x Firestone Robust Porter (Oct. 2008)
2x Port Santa’s Little Helper (March 2008)
2x Paradox Glen Grant (Aug. 2008)
2x Stone imperial Russian stout (Nov. 2008)
2x Traquair House Ale, (Feb. 2008)
2x Bourbon County Brand Stout (Dec. 2008)
De Proef’s Signature Ale (Feb. 2007)
Drakes Imperial Ale (Feb. 2008)
Coniston Brewing Old Man Ale (Feb. 2008)
Russian River Supplication (April 2008)
Barbar Ale (2008)
Westvletteren 12 (June 2008)
Westvleterren 8 (June 2008)
Harvieston Ola Dubh 12 (March 2008)
Malheur Ale (2008)
Abbaye d’aulne (March 2008)
Alba Scots Pine Ale (Feb. 2008)
Kemelbier (June 2008)
Allagash Curieux, (Feb. 2008)
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Feb. 2008)
Echigo Stout (March 2008)
Port Older Viscosity (Feb. 2008)
Konings Hoeven Quadruple Ale (Feb. 2008)
Ebulum Elderberry Black (Feb. 2008)
Hardy’s Ale (Feb. 2008)
St. Bernardus ABT 12 (Nov. 2007)
Firestone Walker XII (Dec. 2008)
Lagunitas Gnarleywine (Aug. 2008)
Duchess de Bourgogne (March 2008)
De dolle Oerbier (Oct 2008)
Hitachino nest (Oct. 2008)
Harvieston Ola Dubh 16 (Dec. 2008)
Avery Fifteen (Aug. 2008)
Oude Kriek Boon (Oct. 2008)
Black Albert (Oct. 2008)
Unibrou Quelque Chose (March 2008)
Avery Kaiser (Oct. 2008)
Allagash Four Ale (Oct. 2008)
Stone Vertical Epic (July 2007)
Port’s Santas Little Helper (Oct. 2008)
Unibrou Chambly Noire (Feb. 2008)
Central Coast Brewing Scotch Ale (2008)
De Proeff Saison Impreiale Saison (March 2008)
Lost Abbey Gift of Magi (Oct. 2008)
Alesmith Old Numbskull (2007)
Bison Brewing Winter Warmer (2008)
Flemish Prim Wild Ale (Feb. 2008)
Unibrou 17 (March 2008)
Grand Cru of Emperor (April 2008)
Harvieston, Old Engine Oil (Feb. 2008)
Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws (March 2008)