First, I love all the Russian River beers that I have tried. No doubt, they are trend setters and way ahead of the curve in regard to stretching boundaries compared to most breweries. A flat out pilgrimage to their brewery is a must do for all beer lovers. I would love to experience the full line up, and fresh, in their natural habitat.
BUT, I have to admit, while both the Pliny’s are very good, I just can’t buy into the hype.
Is Pliny the Younger really sooooo incredible, tasting / unique / different, that it basically requires people to stand in line and be issued a ticket for the privilege of purchasing one 8oz portion? There are, most definitely, a few local products that we all enjoy more. It’s just that we have ready access to them most of the time. Even the special, seasonal, limited release stuff that get’s to the market is fairly easy to obtain, and then horde if it is something that you really enjoy. You might have to do a little research and planning, but, you would actually be able to purchase an amount that you might actually enjoy.
My thought is scarcity, hype, and the social aspect of the tasting event are the real drivers of this phenomenon. The product is very limited, scarcity: check. That scarcity combined with the quality (did not say unbelievable greatness) has driven the hype: check. The sampling events are created by the other two drivers being accentuated with the “collector” mentality of most beer conisseurs.
We simply love to say “I’ve had it.”
Let’s be honest, those events are great because of the combined energy generated by the people attending. Like an extremely small and focused GABF. Everyone is there for one reason: love of great beer.
Basically, thinking in musical / band / concert terms, it’s like a Grateful Dead, Phish, or Widespread Panic show (just identify with a band depending on your age). The sets at every concert are not that different, throw in a rarity or a tease here and there, and the requisite always talked about covers. So is it the show or the people?
It’s the people, and in an event there are more opportunities to re-connect with old friends and make new ones. Alcohol is THE social lubricant, that is why there are bars, pubs, taverns, saloons, etc. We all have a pretty good idea of who we are going to see when we go to one of these events, so the randomness of just stoping by for a beer is taken out of the equation.
Specifically focused social driver: check.
Every brewery and bar can do a much better job about promoting the fantastic products that they offer, especially in terms specialty products. It’s just about building up the hype and gathering the tribe, and throwing a party.
I hope to see you all at a party in the very near future.