Variety in the craft beer world is both a gift and a curse. My beer of choice is usually one that I haven’t tried yet. Call it FOMO – but if there is a new beer around, I will go far out of my way for a chance to taste it.
With seasonal beers coming around but once a year, the urge to sample as many varieties as possible is a natural one. The potential problem is buying a whole case of something that you’ve never tried – and getting stuck with a lot of beer that you don’t like. Enter the perfect solution: a case exchange!
At Smith Brothers, we are working day-to-day with a number food and beverage brands – and we’ve become a pretty curious bunch when it comes to sampling. So we recently decided to celebrate the holidays (and explore the world of craft beer) with our first-ever case exchange. We organized a group of 12 co-workers with a taste for barley, hops and seasonal fun. The instructions were simple: purchase a case of holiday or winter seasonal beer, and bring it in to the office before the holiday break.
Being an adventurous group, several of us waited for opportunities to take road trips and bring back beers that are not distributed locally. Others picked their favorite go-to Winter Warmer or Christmas Ale. We kept a running list of what had been purchased to ensure that no duplicates occurred. As the date of the exchange approached, the mountain of beer next to my desk grew larger and more distracting (tempting as it was, the cases survived until the swap).
On the eve of the exchange, we mixed up all of the cases. Two of each beer variety were placed in each person’s case, including the one they had purchased themselves. Our very own Tom Kirby created a menu of all of the beers included in the case, along with a short description of each.
We held the exchange during happy hour in our Left Field Meeting Space. Pretzels and beer cheese dip were enjoyed, and we even cooked up some Taylor Ham and egg sandwiches (if you have yet to experience this deli delight, I would strongly urge you to drive to the Philadelphia/New Jersey area and purchase it. Immediately.)
Rather than diving straight into our mixed cases, we decided to stop into The Beer Market downstairs and pick up a couple of holiday growlers to sample. In the spirit of trying new things, we made sure to pick beers that were not duplicates of anything in the swap cases. We sampled Full Pint Brewery’s Festivus, Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager, and Breckenridge Brewery’s Christmas Ale.
The Festivus is a brown ale with a nice subtle spice – perfect to remind you of the season without being overwhelming. The Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager is soul warming, particularly due to its uniquely high ABV at 9%. While this is not unusual for holiday ales, lagers are traditionally closer to 5%. Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale comes in with a slightly higher ABV as well, and has a nice malty backbone. Each perfectly embodied the holidays in its own way, and served as great conversation pieces for our beer exchangers.
Ultimately we parted ways, each carrying a cardboard box full of holiday joy. Everyone had their own plans for their case – sharing with a spouse, bringing it to a party, or in some cases (responsibly) enjoying the whole thing on their own. No matter the method of consumption, our holidays were definitely warmer knowing that we were connected to friends as we enjoyed these beers.