I admit, I do have a small collection of beers stashed in my home, which I can’t quite muster up the spirit to open. That’s one of the reasons I was interested in writing the recent “Just Drink It Now” story for our current July/Aug issue. I wanted to get to the bottom of why I’m compelled to sit on those bottles, and why I should quit delaying the gratification of drinking amazing beer. I think it worked—hopefully.
There’s a lot that gets left on the proverbial editing room floor when putting together a piece like this, so here are a few extra notes surrounding what we jokingly refer to as “carpe beerum.”
1. Bottle size and opportunity
I have a bottle of Perennial Abraxas that’s been sitting in my fridge since its release last year. I absolutely love that beer. It’s easily ranked in my top five favorite stouts of all time. So why do I pass on it every time I reach in to grab a beer? Size. I don’t really want to sit down and drink 750mL of a 10%-ABV beer by myself. The solution? Create opportunity. I’m really not saving the beer for a special event—it’s just that I never recognize the opportunity to share it when the moment’s right. Maybe it’s subconscious selfishness. Maybe I’m just forgetful. Either way, bottle size is a “can’t drink” excuse that’s valid for only so long. In my case, it’s well expired.
2. Closing the account
I was really interested in what Dr. William Goldstein had to say about the psychology behind sitting on bottles for too long (he admitted that even he, an avid wine collector, has bottles that are now probably past their prime). The fear of “closing the account” (aka, drinking your last bottle) is real, and if you think about your coveted bottle, the reality of not having it any longer is probably a major factor as to why you can’t bring yourself to open it. Goldstein suggested that those interested check out Carnegie Mellon professor Dr. George Lowenstein, who’s done some research about this quirk in consumption.
3. Hoarding culture
We’ve all seen “pictures of your latest haul!” posted on beer rating threads, Facebook, Reddit, etc. The undertones of one-upmanship can be a bit exhausting. Am I, a fellow beer enthusiast, excited that you were finally able to score a few bottles of Cigar City Hunahpu? Sure! Do I think you’re massively awesome because, through trickery or other nonsense, you were able to score a case or two? No. Cellaring culture has many merits, but hoarding culture is an unfortunate offshoot.
4. Our cellar
For a brief moment, I did feel slightly hypocritical writing the article, considering we at DRAFT have a pretty large cellar of beer—and recognize there’s a lot of fat that can be trimmed. But, we don’t keep bottles out of some compulsion (at least, I don’t think we do). We do it to educate. In terms of real cellaring notes, there’s not much documentation out there for consumers. With our cellar, we hope to shed light on how specific beers evolve over time, and share those notes (whether positive or negative) with you, so you’ll be able to make an educated decision on when to open, say, that 2011 bottle of Evolution Menagerie No. 3.
5. A nice story to wrap this up
As I mentioned in my first point (and in the article), opportunity is sometimes hard for us to recognize. Opening up a special beer doesn’t always require a life-changing moment. Special moments can happen anytime, as Brad Stokley of Maryland illustrated to me. Here’s how he ended up opening a prized Goose Island Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout:
“I sat on the Prop for maybe a few months. I never really had a specific time in mind I wanted to open it, but I had convinced myself it would be for something special. To get it, I had to trade a good amount of good beer. That Monday when I opened it, I had just made a pretty big sale at work. I figured I’d reward myself. The Prop was my prized possession in my cellar, so I broke it open after my daughter went to bed. The only inner-monologue I had in my head at the time went something like “f-it”. Having one of the best beers in the world at night to top it off seemed like a fitting ending. Those days don’t come around very often. Upon opening the Prop, mostly I felt excitement. It turned out to be fantastic as advertised, but when it was gone I did have a little regret. To be honest, I really enjoyed just having it in my cellar. But I soon convinced myself that since it had coconut, I had to drink it soon before those taste notes faded into nothing.” tweet
Tonight, in celebration of the World Cup, the coming weekend, the Spurs vs. Heat finals, Stanley Cup season, a day without backache, a compliment from a co-worker, another day of living, or whatever, open up a bottle from your prized stash. Because, really, why not?