This column has been dedicated to sharing information about the places to find craft beer, whether that’s at one of the growing number of local craft breweries, a local restaurant or bar, or the neighborhood retail outlet. Those are the obvious choices, but perhaps the best way to get a sampling of great craft brews is at a bottle share.
These are typically small gatherings of people who appreciate great brews and have something they believe will be unique to share with the other “beer geeks.” There even is a little bit of snobbery and one-ups-manship. However, most of the participants I’ve experienced are in it for the camaraderie and to truly share outstanding beverages with others who have the same interest. There really is such a thing as the beer community, and it extends beyond brewery personnel and home brewers.
My first experience attending a bottle share came by accident. Because my son had to work a shift at his San Diego County-based brewery on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago, I decided to drive back and forth with him and just hang out. Sure, I wanted to sample a few beers, but I was more interested in spending time with him on the holiday. After the brewery closed at 5 p.m. and the crew had cleaned the place for the night, the taproom manager broke out a couple of bottles from his private stash. Before long, others on the staff began sharing brews they brought along. I was unprepared and empty-handed, but gladly and gratefully enjoyed some remarkable beverages.
The next time, armed with some extraordinary beers from the time both of my sons worked in the industry, I assumed I’d be ready. Browsing through my own reserve, I was sure my 2008 Lost Abbey Angel’s Share would win the night. While it mellowed a bit over the years, it fared well. However, there’s a simple rule I learned that night. A single 12.7 oz. bottle might not be enough for everybody. A second bottle is a good idea; there were guys at the recent event who brought four or five beers to pass around.
I’ve learned that there is definitely a bottle-share etiquette. Beer drinkers don’t go to bottle shares to be impressed (even if some are there to impress the others). They go for the joy of tasting and talking about unordinary and wonderful brews. In the process, they make new friends, who really don’t care about the unbelievable beer you had at some other place or some other time. They want your opinions about the bottles that are in front of you. Taste them all, but don’t take more than your share, which should be no more than a couple of ounces, tops. I know that I’m not going to show up with the most hard-to-find selections in the room, but I will make a respectable contribution. That means bringing something really good, even if it’s not especially rare. All in the name of sharing. After all, these are folks who may soon become your friends (if they aren’t already), and there’s nothing better than sharing a good beverage with a friend.
It’s not particularly hard to find a bottle share if you know where to look. The events have evolved from spontaneous private gatherings in a living room to organized meetings of serious beer drinkers in a public place. That opens it up to people who may have beers they’ve collected from their travels around the country and who want to share with like-minded beer drinkers. Word spreads among visitors to craft breweries or local watering holes specializing in craft beers. Some are posted on websites or through social media. It’s not hard to find other beer lovers online, and there are more in your own neighborhood than you probably realize.
My advice is to go ahead and dig out that special brew you’ve kept hidden for a special occasion, and bring it to a bottle share. Nobody else will appreciate it more than a room full of beer geeks who will undoubtedly have brought something even more deserving to the party.
Articles from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene also appear in 9-0-9 Magazine. This story will be featured in the June magazine.