Two years ago I hosted a little gathering at my house that I called Beer Elephant. The idea was to have everyone buy a unique beer, wrap it up (paper bag accepted), and exchange the beer with others when they arrived at the party. The nice thing about beer elephant is that no stealing of gifts is necessary. We open them all up and share them with everyone else. Basically its an excuse to get together and share some good beer with friends. Well this year, after some prompting from friends, beer elephant was reborn.
Saturday night myself and eight other friends got together to pop some bottles, taste some beers, and enjoy some good old conversation together. This year we did things a little different. The entire idea of wrapping the beer broke down well before we even got started; however, it allowed us to really assess what beer we wanted to start with. Attempting to really focus on drinking the beers in the correct order, at least at the start, had us considering what beer would least affect our palates for the later beers. Thanks to a guy with connections, we were able to start with a beer I didn’t even realize existed.
Our first beer was a collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sam Adams called Savor Flowers. This beer was a limited release and actually given out as a gift at a Savor event here in Washington DC. Although sounding rather unappetizing to me, I was really glad that I got to taste this one without having to actually drink the entire bottle myself. The reason I really wasn’t terribly interested in this one was that it is brewed with rose-water instead of your standard normal water. Of course, as a beer geek, I was definitely interested to try this one. The type of water you use in your beer isn’t something that I normally consider as a huge part of the brewing process; however, this beer just shows how doing something different with something as simple as water can really affect the taste of the brew. It had a really sweet and light taste to it. It was clear that due to the water choice, the brewers decided to use a much lighter hand with the rest of the ingredients as well. It had a really smooth and clean finish that helped display the delicate quality of this beer.
I was definitely a little meticulous about what beers I chose for the event personally. I wanted to make sure that I had good quality hard to find beers, but I also wanted to try to introduce some styles that I thought many people may not have had before. Therefore, the first beer I brought to the event was the Schlafly Reserve Barleywine 2008. I had purchased this bottle a month or two ago, and I simple could not decide on a time that I would actually want to sit down and drink this entire beer myself. Therefore, I thought this was the perfect event to break this one out for. I can’t say it went over well with every person who got a taste of it, but there definitely were some people who enjoyed their small portion.
My second beer hit a pretty similar note. Rauchbier is certainly a style of beer that isn’t necessarily for every person. I, however,have actually come to like the style. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to pick up a bottle of, what I think to be the most intense version of it, and see what others thought. Therefore I picked up a bottle of Aecht Ochlenferla. Once again, not everyone got a taste of it; however, I found it funny to see some people dumping their portion into other people’s glasses. I personally really enjoy the very rich smoked and meaty aspect that this beer has to it. It really makes you feel like your not just enjoying your typical style of beer. It has a rich heaviness that isn’t found in a lot of other beers.
There were definitely some other varying style of beers that were brought out to the event. Being a big fan or stouts and porters, I was happy to see a few bottles of Avery – New World Porter, Flying Dog – Gonzo Imperial Porter, and Brooklyn – Black Chocolate Stout. One of the beers that I was really into in this style was from Laughing Dog Brewing Co. Their Dogfather Imperial Stout was something that was on tasting earlier that day at the store I frequent: Rick’s Wine and Gourmet in Va. However, due to buying other things for this party, I was unable to rationalize buying a bottle for myself. Therefore, I was really happy to see this bottle show up in the tasting.
The striking thing about their imperial stout is that it is aged for 11 months in bourbon barrels. This really ups the heavy boozy taste that is a product of this aging; however, the rich chocolate, coffee, and roasted notes are also increased by this process. The aging really helps to have them invade the entire palate with a rich roasted quality. Weighing in at 11% abv; it also contains 7 different types of malts and 4 different types of hops. This beer really can’t be enjoyed without a hefty appreciation for the stout style.
There were some other great beers that were brought as well, but if I devote all the time I really could to each beer, everyone would lose interest. So here are the remaining beers that have not been mentioned that we had at the beer elephant event.
21st Amendment/Ninkasi – Allies Win the War (future review coming), Dogfish Head – My Antonia, Dogfish Head – Burton Baton, Ommegang – Three Philosophers, Victory – Summer Love Ale, Victory – Festbier, Jever – Friesland Pilsner, Tsingta
If you’re looking for a good excuse to get together with a bunch of friends and drink good beer, then you should definitely hold your own beer elephant. Forget wrapping up some cheap thing you want to give away, and start wrapping up something you can’t wait to drink with your friends.