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What constitutes a whale?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by DocJitsu, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. DocJitsu

    DocJitsu Savant (440) California Dec 28, 2009

    In the artisan beer culture, particularly in discussions on Beeradvocate, the word whale is often used to describe certain beers. At times, whale even seems to carry a negative connotation. But, what does it really mean? Rarity? World ranking? Some combination of a variety of factors?
  2. jaIsPoAn

    jaIsPoAn Savant (400) New York Aug 1, 2012 Verified

    I'll take a stab and say non- shelf, very rare, highly rated, and sought after
    mcrago and jglowe77 like this.
  3. Dennoman

    Dennoman Advocate (525) Belgium Aug 20, 2011

    - Lambic or lambic blend/imperial stout/generic "old/strong ale"
    - Product from a hyped brewery
    - One-time or seasonal release
    - Released at special release party
    - Exclusive to some pub/bar, preferrably in the furthest possible remote corner of the globe
    - Never officially sold, only "given to friends"
    - Wax seal
    - Hand numbered
    - Brewery only release
    - Reserve society only release
    - Bottle limit at brewery release
    - Aged on a non-descript barrel
    - Crazy novelty ingredient (maple syrup, peanut butter, pages from Moby Dick, ...)
    - Outrageously expensive beyond justifiable packaging/ingredient cost
    - Weird random story/rumors and related hype

    1/2 of these: gray whale
    2/5 of these: white whale
    More than 5 of these: diamond-encrusted platinum shining white whale
    All of these: God tier HOTD/Cantillon/3 Fonteinen/Bruery lovechild.
  4. krl2112

    krl2112 Advocate (680) Illinois Nov 10, 2012 Beer Trader

    And possibly not even highly rated. Take PiaPT for instance. Not that it has a poor rating but an 89 is not extremely high, however it is rare and extremely sought after. I have been trying to get one for 3 months in trade.
  5. It also depends on if you're in the trading game. If you live on the East Coast and don't trade, then Pliny is a whale. If you do trade, Pliny isn't.
    Photekut likes this.
  6. claaark13

    claaark13 Advocate (725) Indiana Nov 29, 2007 Beer Trader

    Needs to be at least 9" long, or have the girth of an aluminum can.
  7. Hanzo

    Hanzo Champion (975) Virginia Feb 27, 2012

    There is no set definition. It all comes down to opinion.
  8. vurt

    vurt Advocate (715) Oregon Apr 11, 2004 Beer Trader

    PiaPT qualifies as a whale because it is the first release in a popular series from a highly-regarded brewery. Perhaps this falls under the "Product from a hyped brewery" line in Dennoman's list.

    (Edit: Was meant to be a reply to krl2112.)
  9. seeswo

    seeswo Advocate (535) Ohio Jan 10, 2010 Beer Trader

    The most important elements are supply and demand. Whales are beers that are in high demand for whatever legitimate (see: one-off Euro sours, Ann, etc.) or stupid reason (see: PiaPT), for which people have trouble getting because of low supply (see: Ann), one-each bottle counts (see: BA Huna), time (see: Wooden Hell, Rare?), lack of BAs in a remote area (like HF/Lawsons/Midnight Sun), overseas releases (see: Blauw), etc.

    It's also why BA is good for the Lulz when you get to watch people complain that some beer has become MORE accessible (see: 750 mL BN holders). Those folks should heed the financial advice of the GZA and 'diversify their bonds'.
  10. Opinion and perspective.

    I'm relatively new to all this so hyped and highly rated beers no available to my distro area I consider whale-ish.
    If I can trade for it or not doesn't change the fact its still a whale to me.
    Just slayed a personal one yesterday. Highly ranked, not available in MI, hard to land even in its home area. :)
  11. BobZ

    BobZ Advocate (600) Massachusetts Jun 24, 2009

    I'll take a stab at this one as it's an often asked question especially by people new to either BA or Beer Trading.

    Whale or Wale or Walez, etc. Refer to beers that are considered significantly rare and are not produced in huge quantity (which is somewhat redundant given scarcity and its correlation with rarity).

    This is the best of my understanding (such as it is):

    White Wale: The rarest of beers, produced either in very short quantity or produced long ago (as in around at least 10 years or more). Basically a beer that was thought of as very good and it is pre-supposed there are very, very, few bottles remaining un-opened in the world. Those beers are included on lists like this: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AifslJZ4UhwxdE9ta0JVQ3A5bXpXa2FHQWFRQTAyWEE#gid=0
    Like many walez these beers should age extraordinarily well with only oxidation as the most dreaded threat to their reputation.

    Grey Wale: Beers that were produced in a somewhat limited quantity that are still sitting in a decent number of peoples trading cellar. Beers such as CBS, King Henry, etc.

    Shelf-walez: Limited release beers in either a region or nationally (or both) that are a royal pain-in-the-ass to get. Meaning you have to be on a list, or know the beer guy, or be the first one at the store the day the beer arrives. Although the term shelf-wale is used these beers rarely see the shelf and are most often kept in the back in most places. These are beers like Bourbon County Cherry Rye, Bourbon County Coffee, KBS, etc.

    That's my 2 cents, although I'm sure many will disagree with one point or another, that's the nature of the interwebs. :D
  12. DocJitsu

    DocJitsu Savant (440) California Dec 28, 2009

    There seems to be quite a bit of subjectivity regarding what the term really represents. Are these good examples of whales? Why or why not?
    Eclipse BA
    Black Tuesday
    Utopias 10
  13. seeswo

    seeswo Advocate (535) Ohio Jan 10, 2010 Beer Trader

    No, no, no, no, no, no. Because you can buy or trade for these with little effort. IPAs are never whales (with the possible exception of PtY and don't let anyone tell you different, including people waiting hours in the Citra line). 2007 Darkness is a whale, BT 09 is a whale, Abyss 06 is a whale.
    ridglens and pwoody11 like this.
  14. cetherid

    cetherid Savant (455) Indiana Aug 23, 2010 Beer Trader

    If its been labeled as such by the Chicago or NY crew then its a whale.
    jbuddle, cosmicevan and FEUO like this.
  15. DocJitsu

    DocJitsu Savant (440) California Dec 28, 2009

    That's a very educated answer. It makes sense to me. However, it's not only confusing for the novice BA or trader. For me, it is the repeated exposure to the term, originating from a variety of people and contexts and seemingly referring to different concepts nearly every time that confuses me. Further, does your understanding of the word not accommodate IPAs and DIPAs, or any other beer that does not lend itself to aging?
  16. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,120) Washington Sep 18, 2010 Beer Trader

    A whale is a beer that most of us have heard about but few of us have seen—let alone tasted.
    RobertColianni likes this.
  17. I'm good with this.
    I'm still working on shelf-walez and will be stuck at that level for the foreseeable future.
    RStang13 likes this.
  18. BobZ

    BobZ Advocate (600) Massachusetts Jun 24, 2009

    I have not seen the term Wale applied (by veteran traders, etc.) to any IPA or DIPA. Which in my mind makes perfect sense. The hard to get beers in this category seem to be driven more by region than production scarcity.
    As someone mentioned, Pliny the Elder is not a rare beer to many in California, as Heady Topper is not a rare beer to someone from Burlington Vermont. Same for Zombie Dust, Hop Slam, Nugget Nectar, etc. etc. etc.

    Plus many people who consider themselves experts on this site consider these beers to be "too old" seconds after they are bottled. ;) As in "You had three day old Pliny, Man that's nowhere near as good as 1 day old Pliny, etc.etc.etc." However the fact remains that intense Hop flavor does fall off over time so cellaring an IPA or DIPA never seems to be a good idea.
  19. Everything in my "gots" should be considered a whale and therefore only multiples of my "wants" should be offered for me to even consider a trade.
  20. mnguyen281

    mnguyen281 Savant (300) Texas Apr 9, 2009

    In my honest opinion, there are two different definitions for a whale. It depends on what your intentions are. If you're just looking for rarities and to trade, then the above definition is spot on. However, if you're like me' and just want to drink everything you get, then a whale is a beer you really really want to try. I want a bourbon county rare and bourbon county vanilla pretty bad. If i ever get one, I plan on popping it open right then and there and enjoy the heck out of it.
    RStang13, Cvescalante and jsm1289 like this.
  21. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poobah (1,420) Wyoming Sep 14, 2002 Beer Trader

    "Whales" are out of my league so I don't put out much effort to try to get them.

    Personal "Whales"...., that's another thing. I'd love to get my hands and palate on some Reality Czech. ;)
    cway2031 likes this.
  22. krl2112

    krl2112 Advocate (680) Illinois Nov 10, 2012 Beer Trader

  23. krl2112

    krl2112 Advocate (680) Illinois Nov 10, 2012 Beer Trader

    Then you get the nickname, "Pringles",cuz it's as big as a pringles can. ;)
  24. DocJitsu

    DocJitsu Savant (440) California Dec 28, 2009

    So perhaps some of my confusion is borne of different people referring to personal whales and actual whales and thinking they're meaning the same thing?
  25. BILF

    BILF Advocate (725) Israel Jan 9, 2010

    For me a whale is a beer style that i cannot access and must research in order to brew it myself. IIPA
    Imperial Stout, APA, pretty much any US style. So I must say access and desire determine what a whale is for me because i can't buy 'em.
    afrokaze and RobertColianni like this.
  26. Protect ya neck
    seeswo and afrokaze like this.
  27. MichPaul

    MichPaul Champion (780) Michigan Jan 28, 2012 Beer Trader

    To me it all depends on the person... whales to me change from time to time. If I finally land one, it's no longer a whale but may be to someone else. To me, PtE is no longer a whale because I have had it a couple of times. It all depends on what you desire the most. Hopslam might be a whale to many, but easy to obtain for me and is not a whale at all.
    RobertColianni likes this.
  28. RobertColianni

    RobertColianni Advocate (700) Pennsylvania Nov 4, 2008 Verified

    Doesn't the term actually come from Moby Dick? Wasn't the word "elude" used over and over throughout the pages? A "whale" in the hobby signifies an item of desire that eludes the hunter. It's ridiculous to say that has anything to do with rarity, but more the roll of the dice.
    BeerKangaroo likes this.
  29. BILF

    BILF Advocate (725) Israel Jan 9, 2010

  30. RobertColianni

    RobertColianni Advocate (700) Pennsylvania Nov 4, 2008 Verified

    The term "white whale" is a whole different ball game.
  31. BILF

    BILF Advocate (725) Israel Jan 9, 2010

    Dude - Moby Dick was a "white whale".
    franklinn and lurchingbeast like this.
  32. cleeze

    cleeze Savant (300) Maine Nov 24, 2008

    I use to call my ex girlfriend's mom a whale.
    nogophers and Cvescalante like this.
  33. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Advocate (550) Oregon Aug 17, 2005 Beer Trader

    It's a combination of release quantity and location where it was brewed. 15,000 bottles released from a brewery in the midwest? Whale. 1,000 bottles released from a brewery in Washington or Oregon? Not a whale.
  34. shahn

    shahn Aficionado (150) Maryland Jan 13, 2010

    Wow, a lot of thought put into it

    I guess I've enjoyed some "Whales" by definition at the DFH Bewpub pre 2000's
    Lantern likes this.
  35. ThirstyFace

    ThirstyFace Initiate (0) New York Jan 11, 2013

    and the cockhog steps out with a flag
    RobertColianni likes this.
  36. zstef99

    zstef99 Aficionado (215) New York Dec 25, 2008

    A whale is a beer that people overrate due to its rarity.
  37. RobertColianni

    RobertColianni Advocate (700) Pennsylvania Nov 4, 2008 Verified

    I know. I'm not saying that the definition I wrote above is directly because of Moby Dick, thus it must be a White Whale. What I was saying about Moby Dick was more about the elusiveness and the hunt. Thus, whale. It's visible, there, but never in your grasp. Almost like fate is against you. A white whale is more like a write off; M is a write off. "I'll never see this...but if I do, I hope I'm ready."
  38. Photekut

    Photekut Advocate (655) Tennessee Mar 31, 2006

    Walez are the beers many traders are looking for when they have just been to their first limited release and post in the FT forum.

    Shelf turds are what many traders offer for the same limited release beer that has just came out if they are looking for it.
  39. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poobah (1,420) Wyoming Sep 14, 2002 Beer Trader

    It's okay to be confused when there's talk aboot Whales. ;)
    Some peeps' whales are actual whales and good luck to them. I have enough trouble finding personal whales...
  40. OneBeertoRTA

    OneBeertoRTA Advocate (660) California Jan 2, 2010 Beer Trader

    If from California, the vintage must ≤ 2009