Last year I was in Arizona for a meetup of a community of people that met through the comments section of the great (but now defunct) podcast Jack Mangan’s Deadpan. While I was searching for beer bottles at various Phoenix hot spots I heard tell that there were stores that were selling growler cans. All of the Growlers I had heard of were both glass and used exclusively at brew pubs. Growlers at stores was an unheard of thing for me. I checked a few places and could not find them anywhere. When I got back to Florida I started checking stores and came up short here as well. I did find growlers at stores, but they were glass. After that I didn’t think too much about it.
had a fantastic selection of excellent beers. I got a flight
And Mrs. UsedHair dipped her feet in the fountain.
Then, as I was perusing the growler choices I noticed a bunch of oversized-looking cans. Lo and behold, the can growler finally made its way to the wilds of central Florida. I was quite excited.
It looks just like a giant regular can of beer complete with a pull-tab to open. The only weird thing I had to clarify is just how you refill it once you have popped the pull-tab. Turns out, you don’t. They are meant to be one time use items for people that don’t want to lay out the investment for a glass growler. I’m not sure what the cost on one of these cans is, but it seems like it would be a bit much to waste. Thankfully mine will have a nice home with plenty of good buddies to hang out with. Glad to have been of service.
One of the side effects/perks/symptoms of collecting beer bottles is that I am always on the hunt for new breweries and/or new beers. So, last January when Mrs. Usedhair and I went to The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games. I was pleased to find a brewery that I had not previously heard of selling pitchers of excellent beer there.
I looked up Dunedin Brewery (pronounced like the word “done” and the word “Eden” [like the Garden of Eden])and found that (at about a 2 1/2 hour drive) they were close enough that I should go and far enough away that I would have to combine the trip with something else. Fortunately, Mrs. Usedhair and I decided that after 22 years of marriage without ever having taken a honeymoon trip (but that is another story), it was time to take one this year. We decided to drive down to Sanibel Island as we love beaches, and Mrs. Usedhair loves to collect seashells. A major perk of the trip for me was that the drive would take us more or less right past Dunedin Brewery. If there’s one thing that keeps a marriage going for 22 years, it’s knowing how to balance out a trip to keep both of us happy. Our first stop of the trip was the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. After filling our eyes with beasties for the day, we took the short drive to Dunedin, FL and stopped into Dunedin Brewery for a beer and a bite to eat. My biggest fear in going to any brewery is that they will not have bottles to sell and will only have beer on tap. My second biggest fear is that they brewery will be stocked with only the most standard of beer types (e.g., blonde, IPA, hefeweizen). Turns out Dunedin actually had some really nice bottles with impressive art work. It also helped that the bottles were filled with some really impressive beer styles.
This adventure turned out excellent because I not only got some excellent and unique bottles for the collection, but also because I got to start out a honeymoon trip in the best possible way.
It seems that there is a demand out there for tales of collecting the beer bottles. Here is one where I really had to work to get my beer.
I was in Montréal for a conference and had the day before the conference to truly explore the city. I walked from the hotel to the Olympic Stadium and Botanical Gardens. On the way back to the hotel the mission was to seek out a place that was supposed to have outstanding poutine and to find the beer store I had located on Google Maps. By the time I got to the beer store, I had walked 10 miles and had 4 more miles to walk to get back to the hotel. The plan was to stock up on an even number of beers and distribute the weight between two bags. Some in-store testing led me to believe I could get away with 8 beers on either side for a total of 16 beers. Admitted, in the best possible scenario this was way too much. But, my eyes were bigger than my stomach so to speak. I was trying to focus on Canadian beer. For some reason I was also trying to get a broad range of bottles within each brewery. Here are some of the bottles I got there from Dieu du Ciel and Brasseurs Illimités.
Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And this plan (as is often the case with me) wasn’t exactly best-laid to begin with. For starters, the owners of the store spoke only French and did not seem much impressed with my attempts at explaining in English that I wanted to evenly distribute the load across two bags. They insisted (probably rightly so) that eight bottles in a bag would clack together something fierce and they would likely break. So, they very nicely packed 12 bottles into an empty 12 pack box and left their other 4 bottles loose in a bag. So much for my evenly distributed load.
Next up was the 4 mile hike back to the hotel. It doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal considering I walk almost 2 miles every morning with my dogs. However, keep in mind that I had already walked 10 miles that day. The extra mileage combined with a full 12 pack proved to be quite the trial. I tried carying the box on my shoulder. I tried shifting from shoulder to shoulder. In the long run I found that my right arm was better able to handle the load and I mostly carried the 12 pack with the right arm and the bag of 4 bottles with my left.
By the time I got back to the hotel I was thirsty and tired. I set the beer down in front of the door, dug out my room key and opened the door. I then shoved the box through the door with my foot and headed to the bathroom to get some water. This is where I really discovered just how tired my right arm really was. I grabbed the glass filled it with water and went to lift it to my mouth. Unfortunately, my arm had had enough at that point and would not budge towards my mouth. It just sat there with the glass of water as I stared at it desperately trying to will it towards my mouth. Ultimately I just moved my head down to the glass. Then I laid down for a while.
The Canadian bottles in my collection may not seem to special at first glance. But I really did pay for those bottles with my blood, sweat, and tears.
I recently found myself lucky enough to get sent to The Netherlands for work. I was going to find myself in The Hague for a few days and had to plan to optimize the trip to bring back as much beer as possible. I will write a follow up article on the challenges of flying with beer in a separate post. The point of the current article is about getting the beer while traveling. When I’m going to a new place, the first thing I do is look for beer stores. Typically conducting a Google search for “beer guide …” will bring up a result for BeerAdvocate. For some reason, I haven’t been able to conduct a valid search within BeerAdvocate to get to these guides, but the Google search gets me there. Go figure. As an example, here is a great beer guide for Phoenix, Arizona. This wasn’t working for The Hague, so I set about looking up other places and happened to find an article from Yelp: Best Breweries in The Hague. The article specifically calls out a beer store with a huge selection of Dutch beers (ABC Beers). Eureka!
On my first night there, I tried to go to ABC Beers. Unfortunately they were closed and the best I got was a picture of their hours of operation so I could come back another night.
The next night I trudged through the rain to get back there before they closed. The place is very unassuming from the outside, but it was absolutely worth the trip.
Too often, when I find a good place to buy beer it is a larger liquor store with a big staff and a random person that actually knows their beer. ABC Beers was completely different in all the right ways. The place is relatively small, but packed wall to wall with beer.
They have bottles for sale, they brew their own beer (Haagse Harry Pogtah Bieah) and they have beer on tap so you can drink as you browse the store. The owner, Dean, is behind the counter and they even have their own Norm from Cheers who helps you out with your beer selection even though he doesn’t work there. This is definitely a place that has it all. I talked with the owner about bottle collecting and other collectors he knew. They I purchased 24 individual bottles and trudged them back to the hotel through the rain. This is where the nature of the adventure shifts from the adventure of the hunt to the challenge of transportation. This was going to be an enormous challenge to get back home. I suppose that is as good a setup as I can get for my next topic: Transporting Beer by Plane.
The Christmas Gifts are all exchanged. My fantastic wife got me a great framed picture that is now prominently displayed on the only wall in my office that cannot support beer bottles:
I also received a $40 gift card to ABC that will surely go to new bottles. Finally, I got a secret Santa gift from work of a gift card to Publix. I used it to get a 12 pack of Samuel Adams that has at least 3 beers in it that are unique bottles:
I hope everyone else has a holiday as good as mine. Merry Christmas everyone.
For Thanksgiving I was staying with extended family at Emerald Isle, NC. My wife and I go there every year when we can. I am very much in the habit of looking for breweries/brew pubs in preparation for every trip I make. So, I was quite excited to notice this time that there were two brand new breweries in a close driving distance this year. Once we got to Emerald Isle, I started looking more seriously at going to the breweries. The first was Mill Whistle Brewing. I got worried when I couldn’t find a web page or hours of operation. I eventually messaged them on their Facebook account only to find out that they did not yet have their license to sell on site. They did, however, point out that I could get their bottles at my favorite North Carolina beer store: Harrika’s Brew Haus so I found 2 bottles.
Next up was Tight Lines Brewing. They had a web page that looked like they had been around a while and a menu that looked awesome so we decided to go there for lunch. I have to admit there was some confusion on the hours they were open. But, the owner was excellent about it and wound up giving me a growler free of charge.
Alas, they too did not yet have their license and I was not able to get any of their beer.
With all these failed attempts, one might think I was frustrated or upset. Actually it’s quite the opposite. I have some new adventures under my belt and I know that next year there will be two breweries that will have their licenses and will be waiting for me. Craft brewing is growing so much right now that I’m constantly able to find new places wherever I go. I’ve even found 2 breweries in Artesia, NM. As long as I can get to new places, there is the hope and promise of new beer. What more could anyone ask for?