Lexington finally got its release. For three days, Country Boy Brewing hosted its third anniversary with a special release each day of Black Gold Porter: an orange truffle, Mexican chocolate, and espresso variant. Not only do we have release, we have variant release. Lexington can now find itself among other cities of the big release: Muenster, Tampa, Santa Rosa.
Releases bring out the best and worst of beer culture. Excitement brings attention to a local economy or local brewery, but excitement also produces consumer emotions that border on complete lunatic behavior. Beer nerd vision closes down the world outside of the allotment, the ability to purchase more than the allotment, and the allotment again if its been aged in more than one kind of barrel. Hoarding occurs. Photographs are everywhere. Boasts. Anger. Jealousy. And, of course, lines.
In Lexington, pent up beer nerd culture is proud of its four taprooms, and local beer culture has waited anxiously for its own big stout release day. When this happened this weekend, the only option was to wait in line. Locally, you can’t prevent the excitement of high quality beers offered in limited production. And, thus, you can’t prevent people from wanting to wait in line. While Lexington’s craft community has grown considerably in the last three years, the number of people who drink craft beer is still not large, and the number of people who drink local, craft beer is even smaller. Do we really need to stand in line? For some, yes, we do, it seems. We desire to stand in line. Standing in line elevates the craft experience.
Lines are communal. Lines can be spaces of sharing. Lines allow for conversation. Lines allow for memories and nostalgia and story telling about other beer lines experienced elsewhere. “Ha ha, I remember that day at Dark Lord when we were ten hours in line, someone opened a bottle of…”
I’ve long sworn off waiting in line to buy beer, and I spent some time debating whether I would come each day and wait in line to buy beer this weekend. Despite my doubts, like many others, I did wait in line. I brought my wife and kids on the second day so that we couldl eat Nashville style hot fried chicken from the Gastro Gnomes food truck parked at the brewery. I also let me daughter see just how depraved and nerdy her 45 year old father is for waiting in line to buy beer. “Do you know all these people?” she asked me as she stood in line with me. “Uh…well…that is….”
Our lines, of course, are not Black Friday Goose Island lines or camping out before Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth lines. There was a line, of about 15 people, 20 minutes before opening time. That line would extend to about 50 or so people by opening time. On Saturday, that line would buy the entire variant allotment for the day in one hour. Not bad for a little Kentucky town of 300,000 people who are not used to waiting locally in line to buy beer.
The craft beer revolution grants us the right to stand in line in order to buy goods to consume like we do elsewhere in capitalist culture. Craft beer therefore, liberates us to be like any other consumer. The most basic aspect of any liberation movement – in theory – is not to overthrow and replace, but to be accepted as the rest. In that sense, craft beer lines equate lines to buy special video game releases or to rush a Walmart cash register the day after Thanksgiving. We’re just the same as everyone else. We like waiting in line.
I have resisted taking my kids to Disney World for some time now because, among other things, I hate waiting in line. Drinking in Country Boy’s small taproom that has only one toilet in the restroom, I surprisingly seldom wait in line to pee. Outside my office door at work, there is never a line of students waiting to see me. Ours is a culture, though, dedicated to waiting in line. Waiting our turn. Being patient.
For the most part, craft beer lines are friendly places. This particular line moved quickly. By five or ten minutes after the opening time, I had my allotment and a poured beer. My son wasn’t eating his fried chicken, just like he doesn’t eat any meal. My eyes were watery from the hot chicken. The line had dwindled down to a few people. I shook the hands of some people I know. Then we left. The moment had gone. We got in our car. We drove home.
Now, please excuse me. I have to get to the brewery for the third day of this release.