Words from Ryan Allan • Some images from @KarlStraussBeer
There has been a lot of negative beer talk infecting our media lately. News, opinion, indie vs craft vs corporate Goliath. Some of it has been fairly intelligent discourse (like the work from our friends over at ThreeBZine, SD Reader & SD Beertalk), and some has been nasty or just redundant. All in all, it has made beer drinking less fun. Less social as we post photos of our whales at home alone, and blow up Facebook or Reddit with our opinions on sellout breweries and why that other guy online is an idiot.
Thankfully, Karl Strauss Brewing stepped up with another Changing of the Barrels (COTB) event to distract from if not quell the wave of negative beer news blowing up my social media feeds. Last years COTB was epic. We rediscovered Karl Strauss, rocked out to Dead Feather Moon, and went on a brewer led tour. (Read all about last years event here.) My expectations for this one were high. So high, I brought along the whole family.
There was a pretty long line forming when our Uber pulled up right at event starting time. But it moved quick, and in minutes we had a fine commemorative glass, a slug of barrel-aged Peanut Butter Cup Porter and a plate of duck confit to snack on. The band started in with some upbeat jazz & blues. Over the next few hours we’d sample from an incredible list of barrel-aged beers, sours and IPA’s. The highlights being, of course, last years 27th Anniversary Beer and the 28th Anniversary preview. There were no tours this year, and the band was good, but they stayed more or less in the background. Later in the evening the rain began. A drizzle at first, but it picked up momentarily before giving us a respite for last call.
What Changing of the Barrels 2016 was, and was a reminder of, is that beer is about people. Karl Strauss has been around a long time. They’ve seen a lot of trends, and continue to move forward. COTB is their anniversary party. An invitation to friends, community and family to come together and celebrate years of survival & success in an industry that boomed so big, so fast it has become cutthroat. And yet, there was no anger to be seen at COTB. All we saw was people smiling, clinking glasses, hugging and communing over beer.
Tickets for the event were $50, and once again I can’t believe they made any money that night. Not only did we eat, drink & be entertained for three hours we were sent packing with a custom 27th Anniversary growler filled with the 27th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel-Aged Double Chocolate Imperial Stout. It’s name and it’s taste are a mouthful. Karl Strauss puts a lot of thought into their events, and we couldn’t be happier we live nearby.
Drinking great beers is a privilege. One that we forget to appreciate sometimes when seeing the type of corporate money & influence we keep arguing about on twitter and facebook. Drinking beer with family & friends can turn even the worst beers into great experiences. Drinking great beer, like that Peanut Butter Cup Porter, with family and friends is the delicious icing on the cake. At the end of the party, we went back and sipped a barrel-aged nightcap with visiting family continuing to catch up over beer. Later we ended up on a neighbors porch meeting some new friends, drinking lager from a can and swapping stories from our youth.
In the months ahead, I won’t remember that I sampled 11 different beers at COTB 2016. I won’t always remember the porter was aged in Elijah Craig whiskey barrels. I might not remember that the line for tacos was the longest or the band’s name. Actually, I already don’t remember the band’s name. But I will remember that my Mom came to visit. That my friend Cody was there, and we caught up over a pint. I’ll remember running into that couple I met at COTB 2015. I’ll remember my wife looked beautiful, and that the beer was better than good. I’ll remember that Karl Strauss Changing of the Barrels 2016 was epic, and I’ll start counting the days until February 2017.