And the winning entry is...
I suppose, that given the overwhelming responses before I stumbled over here, that a plea for a spot as one of the 10 will ride away with the cold wind that is enveloping the NY/NJ area. But, as a beer enthusiast, writer, avid drinker, and evangelist of it's wonders I cannot say that I wouldn't be disappointed to miss out on this timeless opportunity. Beer is created to be enjoyed but mostly to be respected and celebrated. Very few men (my father not withstanding) are given my respect as much as Sam and Ken. No matter where I am on Tuesday I will be raising a glass of a Finely crafted beer to these two gentlemen and I hope all others do as well. Cheers!
About forty five minutes later I received the message:
From the Spiegelau team:
You're in! The Spiegelau , Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada event is tomorrow at 6:45 PM in NYC, please confirm you're schedule is clear, I'll then pass along the venue name.
Is my schedule clear? Of course it is. There was a follow up message with a phone number to call as I mustered the courage between shaking legs and the lump in my throat, still somehow thinking that I was in for a ruse. But no, it was confirmed. I was going to be attending a once-in-a-lifetime groundbreaking event. I was ecstatic. My wife was concerned. Who was I on the phone with and what could they have told me to render me speechless? Why did I look ultra pale?
"I won the thing," was all I could spit out. That lead to the litany of questions: What thing? Are you okay? Why aren't you speaking?
"The glass thing." As though that made it more clear.
But eventually I was able to get it out. I was going to the release party. I was going to finally get to meet Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada, two of my biggest idols. Men who are true artists when it comes to beer.
To say that I didn't sleep that night would be a lie. I did sleep, convincing myself that I wasn't that excited. That it wasn't that big of a deal. That it might be a sordid dream. That I wasn't lucky, I was meant to be there.
And then I woke up.
The nerves in my stomach told me otherwise and I knew it wasn't a dream. It was a huge deal. I was meant to be there but I couldn't discount luck, or fate. I was actually going to meet these guys in the flesh and get a chance to drink from the new glass before the rest of the IPA drinking world.
I arrived at the NoMad Hotel a half an hour earlier than I was told (just in case) and I got to meet Vince and Matt from Spiegelau USA and Reidel, the two responsible for picking me, before the event started which helped to calm my nerves. That and Sam walking down the hallway and saying "What's up guys? You ready to drink some beer?"
Yes, Sam. We all were ready.
Entering the Johnston Room at the NoMad I was growing increasingly more excited as I found a seat near the front. Set up at each seat were five glasses. Clockwise from the bottom left was the "Joker" glass, or shaker pint, the Spiegelau Tulip, the Spiegelau Lager, and two of the new, beautiful IPA glasses. The slender base and the long neck create an air of elegance. It looks almost alien. It immediately pushes this glass into a new realm. A realm by itself. It is, in the greatest sense of the word, revolutionary.
With a quick introduction and a four and a half minute video montage featuring Sam and Ken speaking about the glass (each garnered with the logos from their respective breweries). This was followed by some real time beer talk from the two. If I had the option, I would be able to sit there for days on end and listen to them speak. The knowledge, passion, and insight into the beer world is unparalleled.
The first course of the night, so to speak, was Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, an ale/mead hybrid recreated from remnants of ale found in King Midas' tomb. We were instructed to pour a third into the Joker glass and the rest into the Tulip. The differences were astounding. In the Joker glass, the nose showed some mild sweetness but was airy nonetheless, lacking the strong effervescence of its challenger. The tulip exploded with aromas of potent honey and a nose of the sweetest wine drawn from the muscat grapes leading to underlying tropical fruit notes. This course highlighted one of my favorite extreme beers that is great for all occasions. I also recommend to anyone who enjoys it to try Randallizing it with fresh mint (as suggested in DFH's Randall, Jr.) to draw out more layers of flavor than a standard tulip pour can provide.
Course number two took me to very familiar territory. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. I have consumed this beer hundreds of times out of a slew of different glassware. But this time was different. Very different. This was the first pour into the new IPA glass. The beer flowed down into the bowl shape of the glass and cascaded relentlessly into the exponential rise of the base cylinder. As the glass was tipped from a slight angle to upright, the head ballooned into a frothy, white snow cap atop one of my all time favorite brews.
In just the pour my nose picked up the pungency of the hop blend and the balance of aroma from the continual hopping process. This was again compared to the Joker glass where again about a third of the twelve ounce bottle sat and the aroma was weak, almost nonexistent. As Sam explained, the shape of the shaker pint is not optimal for aroma as the wide mouth of the glass pushes all of the beautiful smells around your nose, avoiding the olfactory sensation that you are so desiring. The narrower mouth and elongated shape of the Spiegelau IPA glass not only properly displays the IPA in all of its glory, but it enhances every aspect of its aroma and flavor. A laser-etched nucleation site in the bottom of the glass creates an enhanced flow of carbon dioxide bubbles when the glass is tipped back to unleash even more of the aroma that lays dormant in a flat sided, thick, porous pint glass.
From nose to finish, it was was though this was the first time I had ever enjoyed a 60 Minute IPA. It blew my mind and shocked my palate. A standard staple in my life when it comes to Dogfish Head.
As my mind raced and my body warmed from the 60, the wait staff brought out Sierra Nevada Torpedo, a west coast fresh hop bomb which pours citrus and pine aromas onto the nose. As with the 60 Minute, drinking the Torpedo out of the IPA glass was a new experience. The citrus aroma seemed stronger, the flavor a lot brighter and more mouth puckering, and the long, dry, bitter finish seemed to last a whole lot longer.
Finally, it was time for the moment I had been waiting for. The first official release of the newest Life and Limb collaboration between Sierra and DFH, Rhizing Bines (not even Ken Grossman had tasted the final iteration), a wonderful hybrid of East and West IPA styles, extremely well balanced with the sharp kick of fresh hops from Sierra's Torpedo. The beer features a new varietal of hop called "644" for the time being until they do more research on the strain. What it creates is an IPA that comes off tropical in the nose with a flavor that reminisces of mango lending way to a crisp, not-overtly-bitter finish. It is an IPA that hopheads can rejoice and celebrate that is easily accessible to a beer drinker that steers clear of hoppy beers. The glass exemplified this beer's potential on the open market, but for those of us who know and respect these two breweries, we didn't need a glass to tell us that.
The night began to wind down for me as I was fast approaching my opportunity to catch the bus home so when the panel discussion ended and we had a chance to meet the brewers I hopped on it (no pun intended). It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. They could not have been friendlier or more interested in meeting ecstatic fans. With handshakes exchanged and pictures taken I was able to procure an autographed bottle of Rhizing Bines to round out my epic evening. I even got to hold Sam's beer for him!
As I said my good-byes to some new friends and the men responsible for picking me, I took one last moment to soak in the event. It was the moment that I finally snapped out of the daze that I had been in since I discovered that I was going to be able to attend. It was a night that dreams are made from. It was a night that I will relive every time I pour an IPA into my new glass and experience a new beer. Ultimately, up to this point in my life, this evening was the Beer Experience.