What were you doing on March 10, 2012? I was one of about 750 people standing in line outside of Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on a balmy 28 degree morning waiting to hopefully score some KBS. KBS is currently the 11th most popular beer in the world, as rated by Beer Advocate.
Let me set the scene of the day, in case you’ve never had the sheer glory of attending a beer release or standing in line prior to a beer festival. The release of Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an event each year. The brewery releases KBS at the brewery for consumption on tap and in bottles for those who are willing to wait in line to purchase some. This release often comes days prior to KBS being sold in stores. Beer stores often receive very limited quantities of KBS and consumers frequently have to drive around the city hoping to arrive at a store as the KBS is being shelved. Most stores limit the quantity available for purchase. So, by going to the brewery, you have a much better chance of procuring some KBS, either on draft or in bottle form. This year, Founders announced that 300 cases of KBS would be available for sale at the brewery on March 10 when the brewery opened at 11:00 AM. Each person was limited to purchase one case. Since KBS ages so well, a case can last a really long time.
At 5:30 AM, my husband, Steve, and I pulled up outside of the Founders Brewery prepared to take our place in line. When we had attended the Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) release in October, we arrived at a similar time and were numbers 80 and 81 in line. At KBS, we were numbers 530 and 531. (I’m not sure why this is, as CBS is much more rare. If I had to guess, I think it had to do with the amount customers were able to purchase. Each consumer was only allowed to purchase 2 bottles of CBS, whereas, everyone could purchase a case of KBS. I’m assuming that some people don’t want to spend a day waiting in line for 2 bottles, but that is just my thought and may be entirely unfounded.) Mind you, we were aware that only 300 cases of KBS were going to be released, according to Founders. However, we took our places in line and garnered some hope that more cases would be released or that the line wasn’t nearly as long as it looked. While I would have liked to have taken some pictures to share with you, the 28 degree weather was a real deterrent for me to remove my 2 pairs of gloves.
While standing in line at a release or beer festival, many people take advantage of this time. As only the most die-hearted beer fans are willing to stand in line for 8 hours in 28 degree weather, you are sure to find others with a common passion. The majority of people who wait in this line bring some amazing beers with them. People either drink what they’ve brought, attempt to trade with others, or simply walk down the line sharing with anyone who has an empty glass. While this shows the generosity of the craft been community, herein also lies the potential for idiocy.
The beers that people bring with them are often no joke. While I can’t say you won’t find domestics (as evidenced by the empty bottles of Yuengling and Coors Light on the ground – which is an entirely different story of idiocy) or session beers, most of the beers are high in ABV. As people also come from all over the country, you are usually able to sample beers that you can’t get your hands on in your own city or state. And no one is going to pass up that chance. So, while waiting in line, people are sampling. This by itself is not a problem. My husband sampled, our neighbors in line sampled, I sampled (although I am a freeze baby and sampling required me to take my gloves off in order to hold a plastic cup, so I sampled a lot less than I normally would have). Many people were happily intoxicated with hours left in the line. It is not these people to which I refer. This is to be expected and enjoyed. My favorite drunken move to witness is the helicopter and there was a ton of helicoptering going on all around me. I was in my glory. I digress. Let me recount to you the story of 5 bouts of idiocy.
Tale #1: The People Who Didn’t Wait
When Founders representatives arrived at work and saw that the line was about 600 people deep at 7:00 AM, they graciously decided to modify their original plan to allow everyone to purchase an entire case of KBS. Instead, each person was permitted to purchase half of a case, or 12 bottles. I’m sure this pissed off the people who had arrived at 11:00 PM the night before and slept over in a tent. However, it made 300 additional people happy. Founders had a difficult decision to make and were going to tick people off, no matter what was decided.
A bunch of people who arrived in line after us, saw the line and decided to leave. While I grant that it wasn’t their fault since they truly believed that they weren’t getting any beer, doing all of the work of waking up early, driving to the brewery, packing a cooler of beer to sample, putting on 20 layers of clothing, etc. seems like too much of a hassle not to stay and have hope. Even if they weren’t going to stand in line for bottles, they could have gotten in line for the brewery to enjoy yummy KBS on tap. Instead, they left. And they would have been able to purchase bottles. While this is a tame story of idiocy, they did not receive any KBS.
Tale #2: The Dropper
While walking out carrying a case (or half case) of KBS bottles, walking past hundreds of other people waiting for their share, you should probably be extra careful. Alas, we watched in horror as one recipient dropped his box of beer. When he picked it back up, lovely KBS was pouring out of the bottom. Screams of terror and pain were emitted from the line of waiters. I have no idea how many bottles actually broke, but even one is a great loss.
Tale #3: The Sitter
This particular gentleman was dubbed the sitter by those of us who were near him in line. As we got closer to the building and actually entered the parking lot, we observed this man sitting on a curb. I’m sure you can visualize the pose…legs crossed, neck hanging low, head in his hands. He had no ticket to receive KBS. Instead, he continued to sit. At 15 minute intervals, he would get up, stumble forward with the line a few feet, and sit back down on the curb. As we neared the door, he remained in our view, where he chose that moment to expel all of the beer he had consumed in line that morning. The Sitter did not get any KBS.
Tale #4: Van Passer Outer, or The Feet
While in the parking lot area, we noticed some feet lying in front of a parked van. Moments later, a few men took themselves out of line and helped the feet to a standing position. However, these men had to get back in line so as not to miss their turn for KBS. When they left, it was only seconds later until only the feet were visible lying on the asphalt in front of the van again. After the friends in line purchased their KBS, they contacted someone else to come and pick the feet up. The friends had to carry the feet to a car and push him inside, where I believe he bent over and puked all over the interior. This man, or the feet as I like to call him, was so wasted that he did not receive any KBS.
And finally, Tale #5: Cooler Man
Cooler Man was walking with a cooler of beer, fortunately not KBS. He tripped (or just fell, I’m not sure) and the cooler opened up depositing beer and ice all over the parking lot. At least 3 bottles broke. I didn’t get a good look at what they were, so am not sure whether I should be simply sad or mortified. A few of us near Cooler Man went over to help pick up the non-broken bottles and assist. Cooler Man also wanted to help pick up bottles. As he bent over, his weight and lack of balance projected him forward where he landed directly on his face, no hands down to bear his weight. Cooler Man struggled to sit up on his knees, somehow missing all of the broken glass. Blood poured out of and off of his nose. He was so inebriated, that he had no idea he was bleeding. Someone in line brought him a towel, which turned crimson in seconds. Another individual brought him a sheet. Cooler Man couldn’t even hold the rags to his face. The line of waiters continued to watch blood pouring onto the ground and mixing with spilled beer. Cooler Man did get up and leaned up against a parked car for a few minutes, sometimes covering his nose with the sheet, sometimes not. By the look on his face, he had absolutely no idea where he was and his nose was definitely broken. Finally, after 5-10 minutes, he picked up his cooler (which someone had repacked for him) and carried it off down the hill. Cooler Man left without any KBS in his possession but did receive a broken nose for his troubles.
Why do I dub these tales of idiocy, you may ask (although I hope not because then I didn’t tell my stories very well)? How could you take the time to drive to a brewery, spend 7 -8 hours standing in a line in 28 degree weather, and get so annihilated that you don’t even receive the item that you went through all of this work to get? I just don’t get it. And while I’m sure the beer that was consumed while waiting in line was delicious and possibly rare, I just can’t see the rationale behind the extreme drunkenness of these individuals. Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve been wasted and acted like an ass on plenty of occasions. I just don’t think that a festival or beer release line is the place for that. Especially when there is potential to miss the event in its entirety.
So, next time you attend one of these events, consider the reason behind the event. Are you there simply to drink in line with friends? If so, I say go for it. But if you are there to purchase beer or attend a festival which you have paid for, I say sample lightly and bide your time wisely. There will be plenty of time after purchasing the beer or getting into the festival to drink until you puke. And at that point, at least it makes sense.