Reflecting on the Year In Beer, it's the singular moments that stand out. Most of the days are filled with reliable choices — the go-to standbys, the seasonal must-haves (Sierra Nevada's Celebration — I found 12-packs for $11.99!! — Victory's Yakima Glory, Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Wild Ale, Mayflower's Spring Hop Ale, and moremoremore). You go to your fave beer bars, get a flight or two, work the offering on cask. The fests are always great. But what are the wow! moments that you want to share with your fellow beer enthusiasts? The unexpected pleasures, the new discoveries, and the Small yet Big Beer Moments that are worth remembering?
Ho-HO! Treat yourself to a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.
F'rinstance: It's late October, and you're jonesing for the aforementioned Celebration. You call a few of the Bigger Stores, they all say sorry, we don't have it yet. Then you see it on the Facebook page of a small store in Providence. You call to confirm that it hasn't sold out. Yep, they have it. A few hours later, you're at Madeira Liquors on Ives Street in Providence. "Do you have any cold Celebration?" "Yes, I put it in the cooler when you called." Service above and beyond! You're an instant convert! And as you soon learn that they consistently get new beers in stock before the Bigger Stores, you realize it's one of the best "little" liquor stores in the state! Huzzah! (And the liquor-related literary quotes they regularly post on their Facebook page are edifying.)
And: You settle into a booth at Boneyard Barbecue & Saloon in Seekonk and glance at the tap handles, expecting to order the usual, Berkshire Brewing Company's Lost Sailor IPA (one of those reliable pleasures) . . . and you do a triple-take when you see Tröegs' Nugget Nectar — the celebrated imperial amber — for $3.75 a pint! A genuine and rare treat — the finest kind. Huzzah!
And: You've passed the place a hundred times, the curious, sprawling farmhouse on Route 117 in Warwick with the series of lawn signs declaring the goodness to be found inside. One of the signs trumpets the beer selection. So you make a visit to the Tree House Tavern & Bistro at Ferns and Flowers, and discover the delight of the eclectic rooms, the inventive and luscious menu, the engaging staff and, yes, a beer list worth trumpeting, with five well-chosen draft offerings and dozens of bottles, big and small. You toast the find with a Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. Huzzah!
And: You're standing in the overwhelming beer aisle at Yankee Spirits, dazed by the sensory overload. You've just happened to stop in the New England section, and realize that fresh bottles of Maine Beer's Lunch are on the shelf. Lunch! Which has been bruited as a contender for the Best IPA In the World!! (Or, you know, not; potato, potahto). You grab three Lunches, savor them over the next few days, and hope to encounter Lunch again soon (yeah, it's pretty damn good; world-class, exceptional, awesome, whatever the consensus term is at this moment). Huzzah!