High Stakes Beer Buying Gone Wrong

Eno Sarris, April 13, 2015

I bought a bad 375 mL beer for $27.

I almost don't know what to say. 

It'll happen eventually if you like sours, and if you like stouts, and if you sometimes stand in line for special releases, and if you sometimes send boxes to people you don't know, hoping for a good return. If you chase whales, if you drive or fly to places for beer, if you enter lotteries, if you order beer from overseas, this will happen to you eventually. It might even be worse when it happens to you. 

The specifics here might not be so important, but they are tempting to dissect. It was a Golden Doesjel by Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, and normally you'd leap at the chance to buy a 3 Fonteinen. Makers of great Belgian sours, they usually don't miss. Only three of their 37 beers rates as below average, and they have 11 beers that are rated as 30% better than style average. Their Oude Gueze is great.

So it was a surprise to me when the Doesjel was a bust. It was flat, and though the smell was nice and oaky, and there was a decent thickness to the taste, it couldn't help the beer recover. There was even an off taste at the end, some faintly chemical waft of a problem. All together, it was just... not good. And hovering over the entire experience was the price. 

I bought a bad 375 mL beer for $27. 

But the specifics are actually less important, maybe. How sad should I be about this experience? How angry should I be at the brewery in question, or at the store in question? The guy at the front mentioned that the Doesjel "would still be around" the next time I came in, was he trying to tell me something? Should I be angry at myself?

These questions are still too specific. The real question is: should I change my habits because of this Big Miss? Should I spend less on sours? Should I meticulously research every beer I purchase over $10? Should I let this get in my head?

I was tempted by all of these ideas. $27 is not, by itself, the most amazing sum, but put next to the $16 I dropped on the Lost Abbey Red Poppy next to it, or put with it, it's a bit much. It's a shot to the crotch. Maybe one that could be equalled by a half-decent night in a New York City Bar, but still, a shot in my baseball-writer crotch.

So maybe I will step back for a bit. Maybe I will spend some time buying more accessible IPAs. After all, it's baseball season and I'll be near City Beer Store and Cellarmaker and so on. 

But I don't think I'll let this change the fact that I like great beers and am willing to shell out just a little for them. Almanac has some great things planned for this summer, I'm going to have to jump in that pool. I want to go back to the Rare Barrel and get some more sours (allbeit they cost $25 or so for a 750 mL). I still love sours and I still appreciate that it takes a lot of time, effort, and materials to make them. 

And, really, if I was in the same situation, I don't think I could restrain myself. Say I was looking at a nice seasonal sour from The Bruery, and something from Cantillon I hadn't had before. Would I really balk at the price?

(Well, maybe a little if one of them was $27 for a 375 mL.)