Written by Soonah
RateBeer Archives > Craft Beer Introduction
Trading from a Beer Wasteland
A quick overviewFebruary 26, 2009
Tulsa, OKLAHOMA -
I joined this site in March of 2006. I had been talking with a coworker who was better versed in the ways of hops and grains about what the world of craft beer had to offer. I was used to drinking mostly BMC type products and thought Sam Adams Lager was high end. I was truly ignorant as to just how expansive this movement was. He introduced me to Chimay Red and I discovered Boulevardís Dry Stout was on tap at our local happy hour spot. It was after I started drinking those two beers that I found Ratebeer.com and started doing some research about what was available where I live, Tulsa, Oklahoma. After a brief search I bought a bottle of Rochefort 8 and a bomber of Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide. Those two beers pushed me over the edge, I had to start trying everything I could get my hands on. I quickly realized that when one compares the Rate Beer Top 50 against the list of beers distributed to Oklahoma that there is quite a chasm. Sure I could rate everything I found in my local shops, but I feared it would quickly become repetitive and almost sad, knowing what great beer was out there, beyond the reach of the Sooner state and some of its arcane laws in terms of what can and canít be sold here in terms of alcohol. Ever notice the little OK+ on your bottles? Take a look, if itís distributed in Oklahoma, it has that stamped on it somewhere. Itís a preventative measure by our state legislature to prevent our residents from purchasing anything other than 3.2 ABW anywhere but in a licensed liquor store.
I decided that I couldnít just accept the status quo, I was bound and determined to get my hands on some of this high end beer that wasnít making its way to the shelves of the bottle shops in my town. I had two things to help me in my task, the first was the Beer Trade Forum on RateBeer, the second was the fact that I traveled for work on average once a month. Via the trade forum, I posted a pathetic thread in the trade forum practically begging some kind soul to show pity on my poor self. I got a response from a gentleman in Virginia who had the handle of ďImmyĒ. He agreed to do a trade with me. A simple trade in which we swapped mixed six packs of products only available in our areas. When I got Timís box and opened it up my life was literally changed. Those of you who trade, even infrequently know what itís like to open a box of new beers. We all act like Ralphie in A Christmas Story as we tear through boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts and newspaper to see what gifts have been bestowed upon us. My first ever trade landed me things like The Duck Rabbitís Baltic Porter, Victoryís Storm King and Brooklynís Black Chocolate Stout. I couldnít believe it. This was so cool. What an amazing network of people just like me were out there! I didnít have to accept that the beers that were on the shelves were all I had to choose from, I could trade beers and get some of the worldís best beers. I realized quickly however that the products that were available in Oklahoma were either widely distributed (like Rogue, Great Divide and Flying Dog) or they were beers people werenít clamoring to get. If I was going to trade on even a semi-serious level I was going to have to get beers from somewhere not called Oklahoma.
It just so happens that I travel for work. Once a month I head out to destinations all over the United States; from Long Beach to Orlando and Baltimore to San Francisco, Iím continually on the road and have learned how to incorporate my beer hobby into my work travel. I could scout out the locations of both bottle shops and pubs in the vicinity of the hotel Iíd be staying at and in doing so, increase my exposure to more beers and Iíd also have the opportunity to acquire beers that I could use in trades upon my return home. Long Beach is a city I visit three times a year. Iíve been staying at the same hotel for a decade now (which is located across the street from the Rock Bottom Long Beach, which is why this Okie is the top rater of that particular location) and it turns out there is a quaint little bottle shop only three blocks away the front entrance of my hotel. In the evening after Iím done working Iíll walk down to the shop, pick up 8 or 10 bottles of things I just canít get at home, load them in a box and head back to my hotel, walking down the streets of Long Beach looking like, well a crazy guy carrying a box I suppose. Iíve even gone so far as to buy beer and have the shop owner drop ship bottles straight to my trade recipients.
OK, itís great that Iíve got it, but how the hell am I going to get this stuff home? I canít carry it on, Iím gonna have to pack it in my suitcase, roll it up in my clothes and hope it doesnít break. It didnít. It hasnít. Knock on wood it never does. I quickly realize that my trusty black Samsonite garment bag didnít offer me the protection against the possibility of broken bottles. I ditched it in favor of a standard, deeper suitcase that gave me more room to pack bottles into. Then I added the beer pillow. I am embarrassed to admit that somewhere along the road I ďborrowedĒ a pillow from a hotel I was staying at and put in on top of my clothes and beer, zipped up the suitcase and had some nice added insulation. The beer pillow has been in my bag for over a year now. There have also been more than a few times when I slightly overbought while at a shop and had to enslave my coworkers into my tangled web of beer as I couldnít fit it all in my bag or the added weight put me over the airlinesí 50 lb. per bag limit.
If a bottle shop is too far to walk to, Iíve been known to just hail a cab, give him the address and head out for a ride. Iíve gone from downtown St. Louis to a slightly shady shop so I could purchase some OíFallon Whiskey Barrel Smoked Porter and Goose Islandís Bourbon County Stout. Iíve borrowed a rental car in Milwaukee to make it over to Discount Liquor; which turned into a nice trade with acertain as I got a hold of some Tyranena products he was on the lookout for. Once I even offered a friend that I work with a steak dinner in exchange for him taking me to Knightly Spirits in Orlando in his rental car. The shop was nowhere near my hotel, but I was glad I made it as I got to meet Solan, a true ambassador of the craft beer movement. I also picked up some great bottles while I was there which I turned into a trade with another great member, IrishBoy. Richard turned loose of what is one of my all time favorite beers, Firestone Walker 10 in exchange for several of the bottles I picked up while in Florida.
Another town I acquire bottles in is Baltimore, Maryland, which I visit two to three times a year. Iím a big fan of Maxís; if youíre in the area or will be visiting soon itís definitely worth a visit. Although their prices are beyond retail levels, theyíre really cool about letting me take bottles with me and I just canít resist it when I see rarities from Mikkeller, Nogne O, Nils Oscar and countless other imports that Iím never going to see at my shops back home. Yeah thereís nothing like walking out of a bar with an armload of beers, diving into a cab and heading back to my hotel to pack up my new trade bait, carry it home and start working on the next trade.
One person I also need to say thank you to is my Mom. Thanks Mom! She lives just outside of Ft. Worth, Texas, and even though Texas is by no means a beer Mecca, it definitely has plenty of things not available here that I often con her into bringing with her when she drives up. She often shows up with beers from bigger brewers like Dogfish Head and Stone as well as smaller, regional breweries like Rahr and St. Arnold.
While I donít rate as fast as some and donít trade as frequently as others, Iíve never gotten discouraged over the fact that the beers in my home state are only average. I just decided to take advantage of the fact that if I have to be on the road I might as well make the most of it.
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