Firkin Around....
The Blog of King of Prussia Beer Outlet

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

$150 for a Case of Beer?

I review Russian River Damnation

by Joe Elia

One of the hardest things for many craft beers drinkers to…ummm…swallow, is the price of quality beer.  It is hard to justify to others who don’t enjoy craft beers why we pay $40 or $50 for a case of beer when a 30 pack of Bud costs twenty five bucks and change.  As we progress through new and interesting offerings we constantly push the price barrier.  Most of us started on low to mid $30 cases of Sierra Nevada , Sam Adams, and Magic Hat, or perhaps Heineken, Amstel, or Becks.  We were looking for any beer that was a departure from Bud, Miller, Coors, or any of their seemingly countless offspring.  Those $30 cases were a price push from what we were drinking previously and the same quest for something new to drink lead us to $40 cases and those eventually lead to $50 cases.  If you are married or financially solvent or both and you hope to stay so, $50 a case is usually the point where most craft beer fans will stop. 

And while I respect this logic, I am going to ask you to throw all that out the window and spring for a case of Russian River Damnation.

I had the privilege of trying Russian River Damnation the other day.  The cost for the case is $150.  I will say it’s worth it.
Yes, $150 a case.  Not ten dollars more than what you normally splurge on a case of beer, but $100 more.  Here is what you might automatically say; “That’s way too much for beer.”  I will answer by saying, “Yes.  Yes it is.”  You might also think, “I can’t afford that.”  I will respond, “You probably can’t.”  You might protest, “For $150 a case it better (insert preferred sexual act)!”  And I will reply, “It doesn’t, otherwise I would have two.”

Yet I can defend this seemingly extravagant purchase in light of all the arguments one could conjure besides those above.  First, however I must set some expectations.  This is not a hop bomb.  So if you need to be kicked in the privates with a palate assaulting overload of hoppiness, this might not be the beer for you.  Do not buy this beer to brag about how much it costs.  The cost is not the point, it’s just an obstacle.  If you want bling to maintain your rap star persona, Crystal seems to be working fine.  This is not a beer you bring to a party or offer at a party.  This would be like Don Corleone conducting business at a picnic table in the center of Connie’s wedding.   This is not a beer you drink six of in one night.  That would be like having sextuplets.  The first is joyful, the sixth might seem like too much of a good thing. 

So what do you get for a $150?--an inexplicable tasting experience that is hard to replicate and harder to describe.  I write for the common man, so I avoid fancy, snobby words.  So much like like Hunter S.Thompson’s coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign, my review of Damnation will the least factual but most accurate. 

Factually, I can tell you it pours a hazy golden brown.  I poured it slowly to let the head develop and also to keep the sediment in the bottle.  (Factually, Damnation is bottled fermented so there will varying degrees of sediment in the bottle.)  I broke all the rules and poured it into a coffee mug I got for father’s day that reads “I ‘heart’ to fart”, because that’s how I roll (plus I didn’t want to empty the dishwasher).  Factually, you, not being a barbarian, may want to try an actual pint or tulip glass. 
Here’s where the facts end.

Vessel be damned, the aroma was engaging.  Citrus, yeast, carbonation, fruit—a street brawl odor of unpicked, orchards of varying fruits on a sunny autumn day.  It had the earthy qualities of Springsteen lyrics—separately the smells would not make sense, strung together however they were lyrical.  Mad men drummers bummers…you get the point.

 With the first sip all the flavors announced by the aroma were present individually yet somehow wedded together seamlessly.  It was like listening to music stoned, except it was happening in my mouth.  Each sip evolved, changed, moved along fluidly to finish so clean it left me wondering what the hell just happened.  And each subsequent swallow had the same motion but was slightly different, a continuation of the previous mouthful but a different experience all in its own.  And that pattern followed itself until the last sip, which by then was the great, great grandson of the first—genetically similar but completely different.  I realized I didn’t just drink a beer, I had an experience.
And that is what $150 a case buys you--experience not beer.  This is not an “in-law beer”. Enjoy Damnation with friends, close ones, the ones who know all your secrets.  Buy the case together and split it amongst yourselves.  Drink a few together, but save some for yourselves individually.  Save it for those times when life needs a Springsteen song.  When the whole gives weight to the pieces, drink a Damnation to celebrate, good or bad. 

Russian River Brewing Company is located in Santa Rosa, California.  Owned and operated by Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo since 2003, Russian River is considered among the best brewery in the United States.  Besides Damnation, their other year round offerings include Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.