It's great to live in a beer state.
From breweries of every size and description making every style of beer under the sun, to the availability of rare beers with production numbers measuring a scant few dozen cases, to national name-brand craft beer and excellent home-brewed beer that your buddy made in his garage, you'll find it in Colorado -- which boasts the fourth-highest concentration of breweries per capita of any state, according to the Brewers Association.
In fact, one could do well to drink only beers produced in Boulder County -- as many do -- and not want for a thing.
Although, sometimes beer lovers pine for brews they can't readily find here. Maybe for a bottle of Two Hearted Ale from Michigan-based Bell's Brewing, or a Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing in Florida or a Speedway Stout from San Diego's AleSmith. So what's a beer lover to do?
In the past, the solution would be to collect beers from your travels and hoard them at home or, if you're lucky, to arrange for a friend to ship you some from out of state.
Another popular option is to scour the community pages at beer-centric sites such as BeerAdvocate.com and arrange a trade with a like-minded beer aficionado. But navigating the message board and decoding the acronyms and jargon, much less arranging an actual trade, can be daunting for the newbie who just wants to receive a shipment of good beer. (An example of a recent subject line: FT: KBS ISO: BCBCS, Huna, 2011 Darkness, to which the person posting added: "Title says it all.")
And as craft beer continues to boom, so have the number of outlets from which you can mail order beer and have it delivered to your doorstep. It's a modern twist on the old "Beer of the Month Club" (which still exists, by the way) that offers an overwhelming number of choices at your fingertips for those willing to pay a slight markup and shipping.
There are a number of online sites and brick-and-mortar stores that ship beer (RateBeer.com maintains a nice list of them at ratebeer.com/mailorder.asp), and after receiving a few dozen special offers and emails in my inbox I decided to place an order with LetsPour.com, a Seattle-based company founded in 2009 that offers a "veritable carnival of curated craft beers and wines," according to its website.
The site is attractively designed and easy to navigate, with many tempting offers such as $10 off and free shipping when you order a dozen or more beers that ship from one of the three distribution points -- in Washington, Florida and Colorado -- or a free "mystery beer" when you order six or more bottles.
Of course, Colorado is well represented in the selection -- plenty of folks want to get their hands on our beers, too -- as are beers from the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Southeast.
I chose a selection of beers that shipped from Washington, including a Double IPA from 7 Seas Brewing in Washington and an excellent Choklat Imperial Stout from New York-based Southern Tier Brewing (not sure why that one shipped from Washington, but, hey, who's complainING), and in just a few days I arrived home to find A big box of beer on my doorstep.
The beers were well-protected in cardboard bottle inserts, including my "mystery beer," a tall-boy can of saison. The package also included a detailed note from the company thanking me for my order and explaining what to do about returns or breakage.
At a grand total of $50 for seven beers, which included a few big beers and several 22-ounce bombers, it's not the most economical way to procure craft beer, but it sure did satisfy my hankering for hard-to-find and new-to-me craft beer.
I think I'll stick with our bounty of local beers and save the special orders for special occasions, but it's nice to have options in this craft-brew nation.
Contact Tom Wilmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.