Bling Advocate: How Being a Shameless Spendthrift Can Enhance Your Enjoyment of Better Beer

Feature by | Apr 2007 | Issue #4

Sail with the Ales: an ingenious combination of beer and sailing. | Photo by Brian Falconer

Beer is Everyman’s beverage. But sometimes it helps if you’re the kind of Everyman with one of those slick, black AmEx Centurion cards. A $219 six-pack? A $35 beer opener? A $1,700 beer run? No sweat.

Beer is changing. At its most extreme, it is emerging as a gourmet, hand-crafted luxury item. No, it hasn’t reached the heights of wine, but did you ever think there would be a day when you could spend $100 for a single beer? If you’ve ever dreamed of utter beer extravagance, keep drooling: Here’s the ultimate beer wish list.

Assemble the World’s Most Expensive Mixed Six-Pack
Tough to find, but you can do it if you’ve got some time, and a fat wallet. Total price: $219, on the low end.

Utopias
Boston Beer Company’s record-setting 25.6 percent-alcohol ale, packaged in a 24-ounce copper bottle shaped like a mash tun. Produced in 2003 and 2005, the next batch will be released later this year. Original price: $100, though they’re now fetching up to $250 online.

Westvleteren 12
This Belgian Trappist Ale is not particularly expensive—unless you buy it in America. With no formal exporter, the abbey’s beers make it across the Atlantic through the gray market, pumping up the price of a single 330 ml bottle of this delicious, malty ale to $25.

Scaldis Prestige
Belgium’s Dubuisson brewery is known for its big beers, and this one’s the biggest, at 13 percent ABV. The 750 ml bottle is packed in its own box. Crack open this Strong Ale for an explosion of caramel and nutty notes. $40.

DeuS Brut des Flandres
Brewed in Belgium, then bottled in France, it’s the Champagne of beers. Crisp, sparkly and full of spicy aroma. $25.

John Courage Russian Imperial Stout
It hasn’t been brewed since 1993, but you can still find bottles of the chocolaty monster floating around. $17.

Avery Mephistopheles
A 12-ounce bottle of this 15 percent ABV Stout from Colorado will surely put you in the red. $12.

Stock Your Cellar
If you have the patience, collecting expensive beer can be an investment in your future.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale
This big, strong, sherry-like ale proclaims it’s the world’s most expensive beer. It’s not, but it’s still in pretty heady company. Packaged in its own wooden box, it’ll set you back about $10.

Innis & Gunn Limited Edition IPA
Everything from this Scottish brewery is hyper-expensive, but you’ll really shell out the bucks for this oak-aged ale. Only 64,000 bottles were produced in ’06, and they’re available only in the trendy Sainsbury and Waitrose markets, and Systembolaget, the Swedish booze monopoly. $10.

Arrogant Bastard Gift Box
Get this for a blowhard buddy (but make sure he invites you over when he finally cracks it open). Six Arrogant Bastard bombers, a T-shirt, two glasses and other treats. $75.95 at BeerontheWall.com.

Chimay Grand Reserve
Sure, you’ve popped the cork on a 750 ml, but how about guzzling from a bottle that’s eight times that size? It’s the Chimay jeroboam, intended for long-term cellaring. $160.

Tutankhamen Ale
No bottle has been sold for 10 years, but you know some rich bastard’s estate will be auctioning one off some day. Based on a recipe developed by archaeologists digging around Queen Nefertiti’s Temple of the Sun in Egypt, only 1,000 bottles were made in 1996 and sold at $50 each. Today, a bottle would run you at least $1,000.

Thomas Hardy’s Ale
The Eldridge Pope brewery produced annual vintages of this Barley Wine-like Ale from 1968 ’til it shut down the line in 1999. Though it was revived in 2003, collectors are still seeking the really old stuff. A bottle from the ’80s goes for about $20-$30. But you’ll want the entire set, so search your cushions for loose change—about $6,000 worth.

Clipper Pale
Forget the actual beer. What you need is an empty can from this California brewery, circa 1935. The last time one of these sold on eBay, it brought in $19,299.

Photos by Michael T. Regan

Photos by Michael T. Regan

Make the ultimate beer run

Par-tay
You don’t even need to dash into the deli for a cold one on the Party Ride. This firm’s fleet of buses and limos is famous for luxury rides and cold draft beer. Its Queen Maria is a full-sized coach bus outfitted with hardwood floors, karaoke, strobe lights, smoke machine, mirrored ceiling, flat-screen TVs and a full-service bar. Available in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and Baltimore. Prices start at about $275/hour. partyride.com.

Go cruisin’ I
Hold onto your dinghy and hop aboard Carnival cruise line’s Victory for a five-day trip through Canada’s eastern provinces, led by beer expert Gary Monterosso. You’ll visit Saint John, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia while enjoying vintage beers and American micros. $770 at garymonterosso.com.

Go cruisin’ II
If you’re a landlubber, you’ll love the Cruzin Cooler, a motorized beer cooler that lets you ride your beer to your destination. This baby has it all: disc brakes, trailer hitch, a top speed of 13 mph and enough room for a case of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale. $499 at cruzincooler.com.

All Sam, all the time
The Dogfish Head 360 Degree Experience is a weekend at brewer Sam Calagione’s Delaware brewery. The visit includes a stay in the Brewmaster Suite at a waterfront hotel, a personal guided tour of the brewery, a morning dolphin kayak tour, a $50 certificate toward dinner at the Dogfish Head Brewpub in nearby Rehoboth, an evening tour aboard the S.S. Dogfish, a pack of Dogfish Head accessories in your room, and a cold six-pack in the fridge. $750. dogfish.com.

Drink with the Beer Hunter
No need to even leave your living room for this one. Just sign up for a Platinum membership in Michael Jackson’s Rare Beer Club and get a half-dozen 750 ml bottles of his featured beer each month in the mail. $1,115.40 per year. beerhunter.com.

Sail with the Ales
Don’t need all that cruise-ship luxury? How about a five-day exploration of the beers and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia aboard historic tall ship Maple Leaf? You just missed this year’s cruise, but book it for ’08 at mapleleafadventures.com. $1,750.

Sleep with some monks
The accommodations at the St. Benedictus Abbey in Achel, Belgium, may not be extravagant, but they certainly are peaceful. This is the one Belgian Trappist monastery where you can be awakened by the aroma of boiling malt. $40/night at achelsekluis.org.

Soak in the suds
At the Chodovar brewery in the Tachov region of the Czech Republic, the fine Pilsner isn’t just for drinking, it’s also for bathing. At its hotel beer spa, you’ll soak in dark Bathing Beer mixed with local mineral water and presumably emerge relaxed, if not pickled. $25, chodovar.cz.

If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium
How does Brouwerij t’Ij on Saturday, Cantillon on Tuesday, and Kolsch on Thursday sound? It’s the ABCD (Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Dusseldorf) beer tour at beertrips.com, and it leaves in October. $2,445.

Relax
One of America’s most remarkable beer destinations is Edgefield Manor in Troutdale, OR, a historic former poorhouse that’s now one of McMenamin’s quirky breweries. With your choice of more than 100 turn-of-the-century rooms, you won’t even have to get out of your slippers to enjoy fresh ales for breakfast in the Black Rabbit Restaurant downstairs. The grounds include a movie theatre, gardens, golf course and several bars. Pure hedonism. Rates vary: $30-$133/night. mcmenamins.com.

Blur the line between sleeping and drinking beer
The House of Rogue Bed & Beer offers a roomy apartment above the Rogue Public House in Newport for between $90 and $130. The Brewery Creek Inn is a mid19th-century stone inn in southwest Wisconsin with unique, cozy rooms upstairs and a brewpub downstairs, all for $109-199. Main Street Station (mainstreetcasino.com) is a Victorian-themed Las Vegas casino-hotel, featuring the Triple 7 Restaurant & Brewery and packages that start at as little as $50 per night. Woodstock Inn, located in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is a country inn with a microbrewery that’ll run you $69-160. And Whittingtons Brewery is a fairly new brewery on the rolling vineyards of the Three Choirs Estate in Gloucestershire, England. Rates vary according to season.

Phew. Moving on…

Go high tech

SmartList to go
What the heck is the name of that obscure Swiss beer you tasted the other night? Oh yeah, it’s right there on your handheld, loaded with this top-of-theline database program that you use to track all the vital info about your favorite beers. $50 at dataviz.com.

USB Beverage Chiller
You don’t want a warm lager when you’re hacking into the Pentagon. Just plug this baby into the USB port on your laptop and keep that bottle of Doppelbock cool all afternoon. $29.95 at coolitsystems.com.

Beer robot
Leave it to the Japanese to turn a somewhat scary technology into pure convenience. The Asahi Beer Pouring Robot can keep a six-pack cold and open a can on demand. The only catch: it’s not for sale. You’ll need to find someone who’s tired of the gizmo the brewery gave away in a contest last year. See it in action on YouTube.

Plug-in cooler
Next time you visit an out-of-state brewpub, keep that growler cold on the road without worrying about ice leaking all over the place. This box holds nine liters, plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and is light enough to carry over your shoulder. $47 at cetsolar.com.

Instant pub
In just 60 minutes, you can have an inflatable taproom on your front lawn. Four styles are available, each modeled after a classic Irish pub, with windows and chimneys, fitting up to 50 Guinness drinkers. $11,340-$35,100 at portablepubs.com.

Make it personal
Make sure your freeloading friends know whose beer they’re drinking.

Custom beer glasses
Design your own logo and get a set printed for your home bar. $15 each at pubglasses.com.

Custom coasters
Those old cardboard Duvel coasters you scored at Bier Circus in Brussels are nice, but how about getting a set of leather beauties that have been laser-engraved with your own face? At branders.com, a set of 25 (minimum) is $266.50.

Your own bottles
For less than $30, Matt Brewing will package a 12-pack of its award-winning Saranac Lager with your own label. mybeer.saranac.com.

Custom tap handle
Your beer isn’t generic and neither is the tap handle on your Beermeister. Design your own label and have it engrained on a tap. Available at taphandles.com for $100.

Build the den of your dreams

Franklin Leather Massage Recliner
The two-speed lumbar massage gently eases you into oblivion while you lift up one of the arms to find—voila!—a cooler stocked with a six-pack of chilled Deschutes’ The Abyss. $649 at QVC.com.

Chocolate beer bottle
You’ll also need a box of De Rochonnet Delights next to that recliner. It’s a hollow, dark French chocolate filled with beer; truffles are flavored with Guinness Stout, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Celebrator Doppelbock. $28 at derochonnetdelights.com.

Vending machine
Tired of your friends mooching from your stash? The Dixie Narco-A can handle more than 15 cases of Oskar Blues Gordon, and you get to set the price. $995 at vendingworld.com.

Americave walk-in beer cellar
Technically, this is a wine room, but screw that. This self-contained, temperature-controlled room maintains a consistent temperature of 55-58 degrees, with humidity of 50-70 percent— ideal for aging Rogue Imperial Stout. It’s crafted with oak (upgradeable to mahogany, natch) with redwood racks. Capacity: 2,540 bombers. $5,695 at winecabinets.com.

Wine-Well Microchiller
You want your lager cold, and you want it now, dammit. This baby, weighing in at $1,645, will have your Doppelbock at a cool 50 degrees in six minutes. wine-well.com.

If Martha Stewart was a brewer…

Frigidaire 16.5-cubic-foot refrigerator/freezer
That Beermeister left over from your fraternity days is a piece of junk, Homer. The exterior of this kegerator is a lustrous, all-business silver panel with a single, basic black tap handle for your favorite draft. This baby can hold up to a half barrel, but if you pack it with a sixtel, you’ll have enough room on the racks for at least two cases of those Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Ales, a few growlers and last night’s pizza. $1,029 at frigidaire.com.

Descorjet Champagne Opener
The cork in that 10-year-old bottle of Cuvée René is fused to the glass and all you’ve got is a pair of rusty pliers. This stainless steel opener with 24-karat-gold accents is good looking, and it does the job with elegance (no more hunting for the cork that just rocketed off the ceiling). Why waste this gadget on over-priced French bubbly? $35 at wineopeners.com.

Cobra-style beer faucet
If you’re pouring a five-liter keg of LaChouffe, you need the sharpest-looking beer tap in the world. The sleek, curved head on these spigots might even make that six-month-old Keystone Light you found in the yard taste better. $625 for a single, $995 for a double at micromatic.com.

Avanti Dual-Zone chiller
Light Lagers should be served at about 40 degrees, and Stouts at about 54—is that so hard to handle? This glass-door cooler does the trick with digital controls and convenient pull-out drawers that hold up to 155 large bottles. A cool grand at avantiproducts.com.

Waterford Lismore Pilsner Glasses
You’re not going to drink that Victory Prima Pils straight from the bottle, are ya? No, you need this elegantly designed, 20-ounce crystal Pilsner glass crafted in Ireland by the same world-renowned company that made the chandeliers in Westminster Abbey. Get four for $250 at waterford.com.

Würfel & Müller German beer stein
Serious collectors say the steins made by this Rhineland company may be the very best for that Augustiner Bräu. Look for the reproductions of 16th-century designs in its prized “Limitat” editions. Available for $165 and up, at mybeersteins.com