The Best Beer You Never Buy

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Published on: June 5, 2013

The Best Beer You Never Buy Cause New Beer Is New

Hey. You there. Yeah, you with the beer. Yes, you, with the snifter and the Untappd account filled up from all those bottle share check-ins. The person who just drove all over town for six hours tracking down the last bottle of that new saison brewed with fermented lima beans, organic sorghum, Salvadoran dandelion seeds, and bubblegum chewed by the brew master. And you paid extra because that beer came in a burled walnut box, didn’t it.  Let me ask you a question.

Was it worth it? All the frustration, the expense? You know, you could have something so much better. So much easier. You could have driven to your local bottle shop, grabbed one off the shelf for half the price you just spent, and you could have taken home the best beer you keep forgetting to buy.

You know the beer I mean. There’s a happy looking monk in tan and maroon vestments with cream sleeves. There’s a blue and yellow background. He’s holding a frothing chalice filled with pure liquid fantastic.

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In fact you’re kicking yourself right now while you sip that $25 beer and try to tell yourself it’s not infected. No way did you just waste an entire day on that stuff. But you did. Your spent your one day off tracking down the last bottle of an overpriced beer soon to be derided all across the beer nerd community for being too reliant on gimmicky ingredients, and too prone to infection. You know, because of all that brew master spit.

Why? …Because new beer is new.

And don’t look now, but it only rates an 87 on your favorite uptight beer website that won’t let you post what you really think. Now you really feel like a failure. You won’t dare tell you friends you spent so much money on something so low-rated.

…Someone should slap that beer right out of your mouth, and knock out that attitude along with it.

That’s alright, though. We’ve all been there before. We’ve all been consumed with the desire to track down the latest hand-numbered rarity, the craziest new barrel-aged behemoth and the beer made from some brewer’s yeasty beard. ( Wash that thing, man. ) Why? Because it’s new. Its in our DNA as craft beer fans. We want to try the newest thing. We long for what we cannot have. The harder it is to find, the harder we struggle to find it anyway.

Granted, sometimes it’s worth it. We all crapped our collective pants when Firestone Walker and Founders finally showed up in DFW. And rightfully so, their beers are brain-numbingly delicious. And when KBS snuck into the area, I actually started to wonder if the infamous intertubes really could get clogged up by all the damn “I can’t find it!” posts, tweets, blogs, and whine-a-thons that littered the online landscape like annoying hipster skeletons scattered across the internet wasteland.

Yes, we get it.

New beer is new.

But you know what?

Old beer is better.

Not to deride the amazing new offerings we’re getting from some of the nation’s best breweries. Nor by any means to discount some of the equally fantastic stuff our own local breweries are kegging up these days. I’m as ecstatic about the exploding Mount Krakatau that is the local craft brewing scene as anyone else is.

Yet our increasing obsession as a craft beer culture with all things new and local means some of our old standbys are now getting criminally overlooked. I’m talking about the beers we used to buy on a weekly or monthly basis, long before DFW ever became a burgeoning craft beer Utopia. The beers we used to buy over and over without ever getting tired of them simply because they’re that damn good. We raved about these beers to our friends, brought them to parties to show the poor, misguided BMC-swilling masses what beer could really taste like…and now?

Now we just pass them by to grab that brand new wine-barrel aged Imperial Black Saison that boldly shatters the stylistic guidelines so few of us really care about anyway. And all the while, we cross our fingers as we walk to the counter, hoping it’s not as infected as we’ve heard.

But it is, isn’t it. The brewery just put out a press release. It’s okay, they’ll tell you. It adds “unexpected complexity.”

Just think. You could have bought a St Bernardus Abt 12. Ah, yes, that’s where this long and winding road has been leading. Still with me? You must be drinking. Good, so am I.

You knew the beer as soon as I described the label. Now let me ask you this. When was the last time you actually bought an Abt 12?

You rotten liar. St Bernardus has always had your back, why haven’t you got theirs?

A suggestion. Buy yourself an Abt 12 the next time you go for a beer. Skip the latest, greatest, barrel-agiest, and buy yourself a true classic. That smiling monk has been overlooked long enough.

He’s been watching you, you know. He saw you when you walked right past Abt 12 to buy that new craft brewery’s first shot at a Belgian Quad. He heard you mutter to your friends the next day that it was “too boozy” and “All sugar.” A single tear ran down his cheek because he knows Abt 12 is none of those things. He kept smiling though, because he’s got a chalice filled with Abt 12 that never goes empty.

How I envy that bald, ruddy-cheeked bastard right now. My own glass is emptying far too swiftly.

Can you blame me? The beer is damn near flawless. It’s a perfect Quad. Granted, the term “Belgian Quad” might well have been invented for the American market. Even the bottle claims Abt 12 is “in the classic Dubbel style.” But whether you call it a Quad, a Dubbel or Belgian Strong Dark Ale, ( you nerd ) it exemplifies that style. It is big, strong and sweet without ever being overwhelmingly hot or boozy no matter how fresh it is. Yes, it mellows and deepens with age but what good beer doesn’t?

Even in a fresh bottle the layers of malt flavor have a chasm-like depth. Trying to analyze all the levels of flavor in this beer makes me feel a bit like some extra nerdy geologist describing the multi-hued tiers of ancient stone in some scenic canyon wall. Only instead of spotting red sandstone, gray limestone, and mica-flecked granite I’m tasting caramel, candy sugar, toffee, date, plum, raisin, hints of clove, traces of anise, and all the way back around to caramel again. It’s sweet, yes, but the added hints of spice and a faint bittering edge of lingering hops keep it from ever being cloying.

The balance is damn near perfect. So is the beer, frankly. In fact, Abt 12 is so good it owns your face. And not just part of your face, either. Abt 12 owns your whole damn face and leases it too you on a monthly basis. It’s that good.

Truth be told, Abt 12 is my single favorite Belgian beer. More than that, it is one of my favorite beers of any style, from any place in the world. Perhaps that’s partly nostalgia speaking. Long before I’d ever even heard the term craft beer, I found Abt 12. I had tried and loved several beers from Belgium before, and the smiling monk on the bottle just seemed to promise something truly delicious. Needless to say, he was right.

My first taste of Abt 12 took my expectations of what beer should be, and made them bite the curb. Never thought a monk could be so violent, but my expectations are still paying off that dental work. So maybe I still view Abt 12 through the gauzy veil of that first “Oh My God This Is Amazing” moment. I probably always will. But nostalgia or not, this is one damn fine beer.

Odds are, Abt 12 is a better beer than some of the recent Big New Things you’ve overspent on just to be able to tell your friends and your Untappd account that yes, you did try New Beer. And yes, New Beer was new.

But Old Beer was better.

Next time, just buy yourself an Abt 12. When you sit down, and sip it, you’ll want to thank me for sending you back. But don’t thank me. Thank that smiling monk.

He’s been waiting for you to come back.

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