One might think that running the country’s best beer of the month club would be a glamorous gig, sitting back quaffing high gravity malted nectar all day, rubbing elbows with some of the coolest entrepreneurs you’ll ever meet, and turning your customers on to really, really good craft beers. Truth be told, heading up the sourcing of the beers we feature is in fact the most important thing I do around here, but I don’t get to meet the men behind these beers face to face more than a dozen times a year and quite a bit takes place via email and over the phone as with most businesses these days.
So it was a sincere pleasure to sit down with one of the owners and Head Brewer of Valiant Brewing, Brian Schroepfer, last Friday, to get to know each other a bit and talk about working together. Thirty minutes into the conversation he busted out a 2014 bottle of Chernyy Medved, a 13% Russian Imperial Stout brewed with cherries, vanilla and oak and said something like, “I think this is about the right temperature to open Kris. Do you have an opener?” It was Friday afternoon about 3 pm or so and after considering it for a nanosecond, I quickly produced some fine glassware and an opener. Wow. What an amazing beer. It mattered not that this beer was brewed in tribute to the OC Brew Ho Ho Holiday Ale Festival and that the average temp last week was approaching 90 degrees. It was surprisingly approachable for such a big beer, had a big full, viscous and round mouthfeel, and poured like motor oil that hadn’t been changed in quite some time. Smokey, roasted, and chocolate malt flavors intermingled with vanilla and hints of cherries in perfect harmony. Suffice to say, I was sold instantly.
Brian waited until the end of the meeting to let me know that he was confident that they could fit us into their production schedule so that we could run it this December. Further, we may just be able to pull off a Valiant Special Offer in The Rare Beer Club in February 2016, giving members a chance to try four other gems from this rising star of a brewery that only three years in and distributed largely only in Orange County, CA. What a way to end the week. Days like that remind me how lucky I am not to be moving big iron for IBM any more.