Last night, I drank one of the best beers I’ve had in a really long time. It was made by Mikkeller, the brewery owned by the other twin—not Jeppe of Evil Twin and Torst fame, but Mikkel, who’s kept his operation based largely in his native Copenhagen. The beer was called Spontan Cherry Frederiksdal, a sour ale brewed with real cherries and aged in oak barrels. It poured a dark, beautiful red with a big, surprisingly sudsy pink head; it looked like a glass of red wine with a dollop of raspberry sherbet sitting on top. It was unbelievably rich and exceedingly pleasant: a mix of sour and sweet cherries with hints of warming spices and a touch of vinegar. It was unique, extremely complex, and an absolute joy to drink.
A 12.7-oz bottle of it also happens to cost $17.50 plus tax and deposit.
I’m well aware that this is an absurd amount of money to spend on a beer. Or at least I’m well aware that this will seem to most people like an absurd amount of money to spend on beer. You could, after all, head to Whole Foods or Fairway and, for just a couple bucks more, buy a 12-pack of something perfectly respectable–a Seierra Nevada seasonal, maybe a Brooklyn Brewery variety pack. One of the nice things about drinking at home is that you can do it in a reasonably cost-effective manner.
But for people who spend any amount of time drinking in bars? Well, when you start doing the math, my $17.50 bottle doesn’t seem quite so absurd. Think about it: two $7 beers plus the minimum acceptable tip, and you’re right there with me–and chances are the two beers you drank were far less exciting than the one I drank. I enjoy a Lagunitas IPA as much as the next guy–would welcome it in a cooler at a barbecue, even–but I’d be lying if I said the roughly 400% markup it gets at the average bar doesn’t occasionally get to me. And speaking of markups. Should we talk about brunch? You know, where you guys go out and spend $12 on some fucking eggs and toast, and then another $12 on a Bloody Mary?
I realize (because my wife just pointed it out to me) that in these other scenarios, you’re spending money for the social aspect of it–being out in the world and interacting with friends, maybe even making new ones–and I realize that those experiences can’t be overvalued.
Every now and then, though, it’s nice to set up shop at home and commit to spending the same money you’d have spent out at a bar. And you don’t even have to go it alone! Invite some friends over and ask everyone to bring a couple bottles. One of the other things you’ll soon realize about the pricier beers out there is that they’re often super high-alcohol, so you probably won’t want to drink eight of them anyway. My Mikkeller from last night was a substantial 8.2%, but there’s no shortage of options well over 10%, so they’re perfect for splitting.
Some options to consider:
Mikkeller Spontan Cherry Frederiksdal: The wonderful beer I wrote about/photographed above. (Available at Covenhoven; $17.50 for a 12.7oz bottle.)
The Bruery Sucre 6th Anniversary Ale: An old ale aged in bourbon barrels and clocking in at an insane 16.9% abv. (Available at Beer Boutique; $39.99 for a 750mL bottle)
Brooklyn Brewery Cuvee Noire: A strong dark ale made with a Belgian yeast strain and aged in bourbon barrels with orange peel. 10.6% ABV. (Available pretty much everywhere; $24 for a 750mL bottle)
Dogfish Head World Wide Stout: An imperial stout that you’ll definitely want to split with someone. 18% (Avaailable at Bed Stuy Beer Works; $11.99 for a 12oz bottle.)
Allagash Odyssey 2013: Another Belgian Strong Dark Ale aged in bourbon barrels, from our friends to the north (in Maine). (Available at Stnky Bklyn; $27 for a 750mL bottle.)
Follow Mike Conklin on Twitter @MikeConklin.