City Paper is not for tourists
The coveted beer is Mikkeller, the brainchild of two Danish homebrewers who joined forces in 2006 and within a few short years were producing some of the best tipples in the world. On Ratebeer, the Internet’s largest beer site, all of the brewery’s current batches rank in the 93rd percentile or higher – an almost unequalled feat.
Just a sample of the wares: Mikkeller beers seen around town include Beer Geek Breakfast, a sturdy, black-as-night oatmeal stout with notes of milk chocolate and espresso. Newcomers might enjoy the more accessible Jackie Brown, a brown ale that goes down like Nutella on toast. And for heavyweights there’s Big Worse, a sweet, powerful barleywine whose name is a higher level of “big bad.”
But as of now, Mikkeller is only available in two D.C. stores. And it’s your fault.
Well, at least partially. For vendors, high-end brews like Mikkeller are a risk: Individual bottles retail between $10 and $17, meaning stores have to spend $90 or more on a case that could take weeks to empty. Buying a more popular brand guarantees a much quicker turnover.
Your role in all this (and mine, and anyone who buys beer) comes with purchasing power. Epicurean movements like organics and local food rely on customer demand to drive the market toward better products. If your dollars leaving the supermarket for the farmers market, in time those grocery chains will take notice.
The same happens with beer, but even faster. The population of microbrew drinkers is a fraction of the population in the produce aisle, and D.C. has far fewer good beer stores than groceries, or even farmers markets.
So it’s our responsibility as beer drinkers to encourage stores to carry the good stuff. By buying it.
If we’re talking about Mikkeller, right now you can only do that at D’Vines, in Columbia Heights, and The Wine Specialist, south of Dupont Circle. Their respective beer managers, Pat Hayes and Tim Schliftman, are taking a risk by buying a few cases of the pricy Danish brew, even if more accessible brands could offer a higher turnover.
I spoke with other beer managers at several of the area’s largest and best-regarded stores – none of whom currently stock Mikkeller – and the universal answer was, “We can order a case for you.” That is, they’ll order you some if they can guarantee a sale.
But who can blame them? Stores are businesses, and they need to respect the bottom line if they are to continue offering their services. It’s your duty as a customer to buy responsibly. When a gift beer lands at D.C.’s feet – something exceptional or new or rare – try it.
Talk to your beer vendors. Find out what new stuff they’ve got, and tell them what you thought of the last six-pack you tried. Remember that they’re working to serve you, the loyal customer; if you let them know there’s a market for your favorite microbrew, they’ll do their best to stock it.
And if you’re new to quality beers, ask for advice. Of all the good beer stores I’ve ever visited – in D.C. or anywhere – I’ve never encountered a single staffer that wasn’t completely helpful, friendly, and eager to talk shop. Good beer drinkers are a community, and that community needs more members to thrive.
So next time you’re torn between a six-pack of fizzy yellow stuff and something new and intriguing, empower yourself. Put that buying power to good use. And don’t forget to thank your vendor.
Got a question about beer? E-mail the Beerspotter.
Photo courtesy of Mikkeller