27 May Beer With a Hundred Friends: The Latest Indiana On Tap Bottle Share at Moontown Brewing
Indiana On Tap holds several events each year for those people who have joined the Tasting Society Marketplace, and there are even more planned in the future – special preview nights at breweries that are opening, meet ups for special activities, and of course, bottle shares. There may be no more quintessential craft beer activity than a bottle share (or a can share these days). Bottle shares involve the two greatest parts of craft beer – joining together in a social activity with different people, and tasting beer so you can talk about it. What could be better?
Yet there are varying experience levels for bottle sharers. Some people have done many and a bottle share is just one of the several ways they enjoy craft beer. For others, the occasional bottle share is on their schedule, but they may feel unaccustomed to it and wonder about how things work. Then there are the people who either don’t know about the bottle shares, are intimidated by them, or don’t care to partake.
Moontown Brewing bottle share. For those who have done a bottle share or two, they know that there is no reason to apprehensive, but for those who haven’t heard of them or participated, here’s a short description of the event Indiana On Tap held at Moontown Brewing last Friday evening (May 24). It was a great time, but it isn’t the only way bottle shares can be run – for example, this bottle share had about a hundred people and over 200 bottles!
The 1915 Room at Moontown Brewing was awash with cans and bottles as Tasting Society Marketplace members gathered to share what they love. Containers of ice were set up around the space for dividing up beers loosely by style so that people could start to find what they might like to try over the three-hour period.
As the attendees showed up and started distributing beers to various ice containers, glasses were passed out and nametags were forged and stuck on clothes. I’m sure some people used their real names, but I went with “I’m with Walter.” And then the tops started to pop and the drinking began. This second iteration of the Moontown Brewing/Indiana On Tap bottle share and it grew in size from the first, more people understood how things ran and just got down to business. I expect the next one will be even larger.
People were obviously enjoying the company and the beer, so I wandered around trying a few things and getting people’s impression of the beers. Tyler Simmons came up for the share from Vincennes just a week after his successful running of the First City BrewFest, he was impressed by the selection and the location, and he was very interested in having Indiana On Tap extend the bottle shares to other cities in the state. Jennifer said, “What a great event! Got to try so many good beers…I can’t wait for the next one!” Person after person would check out the bottles in one of the five stations and remark on all the beer that was new to them.
As for Walter, her favorites of the evening included Apple Brandy Struedel Cake from Deviate, and (of course) the Imperial Breakfast Magpie from New Day. Our daughter, Lil’ Walter, was a fan of the Mas Agave from Founders and the Peanut Butter Cup from Karl Strauss. For me, the winners of the evening was hands down the Sahalie from The Ale Apothecary and Apple Brandy Barrel Aged GBS from Hardywood, although I also really enjoyed the home brew meads from Bard & Blossom Meadery. It was nice because there were bottles and cans of every style, rarity, and reputation. People that are newer to craft beer or are a bit less adventurous or knowledgeable about what might constitute a very coveted beer had national and local brands to try. At the same time, there were some real whales on hand, beer from breweries near and far, and probably 40 beers that are Untappd legends (4.2+ stars).
Other types of bottle shares. This was one example of a larger bottle share, but often times they are smaller. Someone’s home is a common place for a share; less often it is a public place. I personally am not a fan of shares done in a public taprooms because it can cost the brewery beer sales, leaves other patrons out, and is illegal in some places (like Indiana). But people still do it – the share at Moontown was nice because it took place in a private event room so it didn’t disturb other patrons, and because the host brewery was an enthusiastic partner in the event. Heck, it was Moontown’s idea to do these shares! Plus, Bobby and Cody always bring interesting stuff.
Home brew clubs often have bottle shares to sample, comment on, and critique each other’s products, and just like festivals, I like it when home brew is involved in a beer event. The only downside is that home brews are often less well marked as to what they are and what the brewer was going for, so they have to marshal their beer more closely and then they miss out on some other things. For most home brew you can’t just look it up on Untappd and get a description.
Lastly are the public bottle shares as people stand in line at releases or as part of larger events like Dark Lord Day or at the opening of a brewery (like the one they did for St. Somewhere in 2016). In these cases, the bottle isn’t the only reason for the event, but sometimes it can be the best part of the day, even better than the reason for the event. The bigger the draw the event has, the more likely you are going to find beers from outside your area and from lesser known, but excellent breweries.
The people you meet at bottle shares. First of all, the vast majority of of people at shares are great. They may have different palates and different experience with craft beer, but most all of them are there because they appreciate the craft, want to taste and learn more, and genuinely want to introduce other people to beers they love. But you will see some familiar characters as you do more bottle shares – I appreciate all types except one.
One, there is the person who always brings the best beer. It may be because they travel more, have friends with whom they trade beer from far away, or in this day and age use a service like Tavour. In the vast majority of cases, these people like to share beer and aren’t doing it for the attention of having brought the best beer. In fact, I can’t remember a single case of that. But I like that they are willing to share such great stuff. At the opposite end of the scale is the person who is at every share, but brings uninteresting or easily available beer. They know all the big beers and have had many because they rely on others to bring them. This type of person is looking to hang out with person #1 and drink their beer so they can say they’ve had it. This person often is also the type who runs around to try as many beers as possible so that they can check them all in. A clue – this is the type I am not a fan of, but luckily they are incredibly rare. In fact, I can only remember one in all of our experiences.
Three, there is the person who knows a lot about beer, has had some rare beers, and brings the best beer they can come across. Sometimes they are lesser known breweries (which can be great), and they are always high quality beers. This is person who teaches you the most at a bottle share and is a genuine fan of all levels of beers. And four, there is the person is new or fairly new to craft beer and/or bottle shares. They may not understand that person #1 is bringing whales and person #3 is bring obscure, great stuff, but they are there to learn and will become a #1 or #3 in short order. In some cases a #4 will stay a #4 and that’s just fine; not everyone has to be obsessed with beer to like it and enjoy it. I suppose there could be #5 – some just there to get a cheap drunk on, but outside of Dark Lord Day (which isn’t cheap), I don’t know that they exist.
General guidelines for bottle share etiquette. Anyone that travels a good distance to a bottle share and then brings old beer, bad beer, or something they bought locally right before the event is not the kind of bottle share mate you want to hang out with. Most people are looking to show something off – to introduce you to something they like. If they are bringing beers just because they are looking to glom off other peoples’ imagination and effort – well, that’s just poor form.
There are many internet articles about how to host a bottle share and the do’s and don’ts of bottle shares, but it basically boils down to being polite. One, show up on time so people aren’t talking about beers you didn’t taste. Two, don’t open a bottle that you didn’t bring unless the host or owner says it’s OK. Bottles that are open are generally fair game. Three, stay to a 2-4 oz. sample unless it’s your bottle or it’s time to go home.
Four, don’t crap on somebody else’s beer publicly. Chances are that someone brought it because they really like that particular beer and want other people to like it too. Keep your criticisms to yourself until the owner of the beer get’s a chance to chime in; it’s likely that your opinion is going to be just that, and opinion, and beer is subjective. Five, don’t rush through the beers just to try as many as possible. The best bottle shares usually have bottles that go back home unopened.
Larger bottle shares should still follow the above rules, but other points become less relevant or controllable. Things like who’s bringing food, who’s bringing glasses (it’s always OK to bring your own), in what order the bottles/cans will be opened, if there’s a theme to the share (IPAs, sours, etc.) – at small shares these are all set up ahead of time by the host. Some bottle share rules even prohibit the use of phones, so you can talk about the beer instead of checking everything in on Untappd and ignoring your share mates. However, huge shares usually break down into many smaller shares, with fewer ground rules.
Conclusion. This wasn’t a very hard piece to write – we had a really good time and we’re happy that this going to be a four times/year thing for Indiana On Tap. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening and no one got out of hand, which is more than you can say for most festivals. Thanks again to Moontown Brewing as host, we couldn’t ask for more.
Finally, there has been that call to do Indiana On Tap bottle shares in other parts of the state. There are Tasting Society members in every part of Indiana – let us know if this is something that would be of interest to you. We could conceivably do them all over- Terre Haute, Evansville, New Albany/Jeff, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and/or Crown Point. It would depend on finding a host with an event room, and having enough interest in doing one. And the interest doesn’t have to be huge, a couple of dozen people makes for a great bottle share – but so does a hundred.