Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bottle Shares: The Do's. The Do Not's. And when do you consider yourself an alcoholic?

By: Dathan K. | Jan 1, 2017
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

Do you remember that old kindergarten adage "sharing is caring" back in the day? Well, for me, let's just say it goes back many decades, but it still holds true in today's world of craft beer. It's called bottle sharing – and although it has picked up some steam over the past couple years, it seems like shares at local bottle shops aren't as popular as they use to be – as many shares now go on between friends in the confides of their own homes.

But what is "bottle sharing" you might ask yourself? It's exactly what it sounds like. Sharing craft beer with fellow friends or compatriots who enjoy craft beer as much as yourself. 

Usually people who share are ones who trade beer with people across the U.S. to get beer that's not distributed in your state. Or it's the people that go to a brewery to stand in line for 3 hours to get that rare release sour or barrel-aged stout. For others, it's driving out of town on vacation and stopping at local breweries or bottle shops and picking up stuff you know you can't find at home. Some buy enough bottles of one type of beer so they can conduct vertical flights. Whatever it might be, it's just a great way to try different craft beer.

A bottle share can be great fun for the craft beer drinker. It gives you the opportunity to share the beer you picked up in Michigan with beer that someone brought home from Vermont. In the past several years, I've added many tasty beverages to my Untapp'd list that I'd never have tried before, and I've also met many good friends from attending local bottle shares

Although there is no set rules for a bottle share, there are some unwritten laws out there. And for me, there are also some observant thoughts that I've seen while attending many different shares. Be it at a bottle shop or at someone's house, everyone has a different way  of going about the sharing. No one can really say who is right and who is wrong.

But I have put together a series of "rules" and "thoughts" that should be applied to bottle shares - the Rules of the Playground.

1. Sharing is Caring
The typical sharer is going to bring a 500mL or larger bottle format to share with the group. If you want to bring a 12-ounce bottle, it is best to bring two, if you can. But if you only have one bottle of the ultra rare Westvleteren 12 – I don't think anyone is going to complain. Some of the Veteran bottle sharers bring a few more bottles to share with the group – they've been collecting for years and don't mind sharing their "whales" with fellow beer drinkers. I typically try to bring 2 or 3 bottles when Jen and I go to shares.

2. If you can't say anything nice ... don't say anything at all 
If you go to a handful of shares, eventually someone will crack open a gusher, or something that has been contaminated, or even something that just wasn't made well. Believe me, it happens. But there's no reason to point your finger at the person who brought it and call them out for their horrible choice in beer. And there's no reason to log that in your Untapp'd application on your phone as a 1-bottle cap. Just pretend it didn't happen.

3. Moderation, Nestor!
There's two points to make under this category. The first is, you don't need to try everything that's brought to the share. Sure, you're only doing small samples of each, but eventually they add up. If you are at a share with 25 bottles of beer on the table, you'll probably be drinking 25-ounce of beer. Sure, that's not even two full pints, but most of those beers are probably high ABV barrel-aged stouts and DIPAs. And you don't need to drink that Zombie Dust that you've already had 700 times before. Again, sharing is caring – let someone else who hasn't tried it get a little more.

The second part to the moderation is ... you don't have to conduct a share almost every day of the week! I see people on Untapp'd drinking up to 20 beers a day, 3 to 4 days a week. Please for the love of God, give you poor liver a break!   

4. Line 'em Up or Free For All
This is more how bottle shares are done. I've been to shares where bottle shop owners decide the order of which beer will be poured. This is good for the "newbie" bottle sharer, but gets old after awhile. For example, Jen isn't a fan of IPAs, but if the share is on an IPA run, she'll go 20-minutes in between beers. And sometimes there's no rhyme or reason to how the beers are being poured. You can start with a 12 percent Stout and end with a 4.8 percent Berliner Weisse.

Then there is the Free For All. People place their beers on the table, pop them open, and then you help yourself to what you want. This is my type of share. I, like most experience drinkers, know what you want first and what you've already had in the past. I can go straight to 3 Floyd's Dark Lord first instead of waiting 8 beers in to get my pour. I can bypass all the sours I've had in the past. I don't need to try that flock of Virginia-based breweries that come to almost every bottle share. Give me what I want when I want it. But again, to each his own.

5. Don't be afraid to ask questions
When my friend David first introduced me to bottle shares many years ago, I asked a lot of questions. What is a share? What do I bring? I don't think my beers are good enough. I was afraid that people wouldn't like what I brought, or it wasn't hip enough for the cool kids. This was shortly after a visit through Michigan and Ohio, so I had some Jackie O's, Fat Heads, Columbus Brewing Company and Shorts Brewing to bring to the table. People liked the stuff, and the rest is history.

But if you are new to the game, and don't have any great beers to bring to the share, always talk to your local bottle shop. Any shop should be able to help you out. They can point out a new beer that just hit the shelves that not everyone has had a chance to buy yet. Heck, I've been to shares where people have brought a beer that's been sitting on shelves for weeks. Maybe you were afraid to pick it up, and now you have the opportunity to try it.

The key points to remember while at a share is to have fun, drink some beer and meet new friends who share the same interest as you. Be kind to your liver, and don't feel the need to be Joe Cool and try to go to every share in town. Be nice to others and they may be nice to you (i.e. pick up a bottle for your friend while out of town and he might do the same for you). And by all means, try to lay off your Untapp'd at these shares and enjoy the company and beer. Don't be that one person logging in every beer as soon as your tongue touches the liquid.