Good Beer Hunting

Fervent Few

Fervent Few — Take One Down, Pass it Around

I love bottle shares. Everything about them makes me smile. Seeing tables filled with rows and rows of open bottles, two ounce pours I don’t even remember drinking, the hours of comparing and contrasting, and the excitement when someone opens something unexpected: all of these moments fill me with delight. But there are also those who can’t stand them. So this week, the Fervent Few weighs in. Crack open a whale and join us? 


Nycbeerrunner: “Love bottle shares—great way to try incredible and unique beers without having buy or travel a ton. Particularly, the group that I tend to share with—insane stuff gets opened. I truly, truly believe that the community and unique experiences that result from a share are huge reasons why I got into craft beer in the first place. With all the annoying stuff that happens in the craft beer world these days, I think a share with the right people is the purest representation of what this community should be about.”

Jaron Wright: “I don't like to have bottle shares with a large group of people. The whole one-ounce pour of the bomber for each person really feels like a waste to me. 

If it is a larger share, i'll try to bring something I have two identical bottles of so there's enough to go around. I have so much beer that I tend to like hosting a bottle share where i provide the majority of the beer (people will always bring, though, since everyone has full cellars). I hang on to bottles because I get more fun out of sharing them than drinking the whole thing alone (IE: almost every larger beer I purchase to share, even if just one buddy at my house). The shared experience is more important than the beer. I don't like doing them at bars. That feels weird to me and most of the time I don't like crowds I don't generally hang with (people get serious and competitive, which makes it a dumb experience).”

Brad Redick: “The shares I enjoyed were mainly our friend group. The massive shares that turned into 30+ people with 100 bottles were too much for me. At some point, your tongue is thrashed, you're drunk, and all of it runs together. They're definitely fun, but it wasn't my favorite way to enjoy beer.”

Rick Owens: “I have a good group of guys that I have poured at the brewery with over the years and we get try to get together once a month to share beers. I really enjoy it.

Typically, we each to try contribute beers from trades or travels that none of us have had before. (I have been bringing bottles from Hill Farmstead and Suarez from my recent trip). We are all pretty obsessed with mix-ferm Saison, so it’s usually something along those lines or something wild that no one has tried yet (a few months back we tasted through every blend of SPON). Once in a while we will try to track down a popular Stout and do our own review of the beer.

For me, it’s a creative outlet that allows me a place to share opinions about beer, the industry, and the brewery we volunteer at.

I think it’s mainly about coming to share opinions and experiences. That’s the best part of a bottle share. It doesn’t really matter what someone is bringing. If you’re into what you have brought, I’m down to try it and talk about it.”

Threefrenchs: “I used to take part in a weekly bottle shares, and it was a great way to try beers from around the U.S. I think it's just as much fun to invite a handful of friends over and each bring a bottle or two of something they've been sitting on or something they picked up from a recent trip to a brewery. However, the last few years I've stayed away from purposely buying bottle share whales. There is too much great beer to waste my time/cash on something I might sit on for too long.”

Alex Marino: “I do organize a casual monthly share at work where the focus is educating people on great local breweries and different styles.  When I visit my LBS I'll keep an eye out for something to bring to that, but otherwise I don't shop with a bottle share in mind.  The idea of a bottle share can be a little intimidating.  Am I bringing something up to par with what other people are bringing?  Am I bringing enough?”

Dave Nelson: “These days I'm not a fan of bottle shares, especially big ones, but I think it's just because that phase of my beer life has come and gone. I used to be the guy with the nice cellar full of beer and wine and eager to share and pontificate at tastings, but I haven't really done that in 10+ years.” 

Travis Wannlund: “I personally love bottle shares. Trying new beer, meeting other people passionate about the community, and getting a chance to share beer you love. When done right, it is a perfect microcosm of what makes the craft beer culture great. Too big, and it is a poorly organized festival experience, Too small, and you lose that diversity or you get hammered way too fast. I buy bottles for bottle shares. In fact, my bottle intake outpaces my bottle share output.”

The best reason to open your most rare beers are in the company of friends who are also sharing their very best with you. So what happens when you decide to sit on something a little bit longer? And then, a little bit longer after that until you aren’t sure why you even bought the bottle in the first place? 

Scott Metzger: “I have a bottle of Cascade Manhattan Project that has been in my fridge for at least 18 months, maybe even 2 years. I'm sure it's not getting any better in the bottle. But I've not opened it because it was $41 and I kept telling myself I needed to wait for the exact perfect combination of friends to be present to open it.”

Jaron Wright: “100% have done this. I'm not opening some rare sour with a group who only likes IPA. i didn't buy/save a nice sour so they can take a full glass, have a sip, then drain pour the rest.”

Caldwell Bishop: “It's not quite the same thing, but the beer/mead I take to parties with friends will often depend on who is going to be there. There are some folks who just drink to get drunk or use it as social lubricant, so if I know they'll be attending, I often shy away from taking something nicer to socialize.”

Nycbeerrunner: “I definitely find I modulate what I open with who. The rare stuff in my cellar only gets opened with a specific group. With that said, I'm also forcing myself more and more to not sit on bottles too long. If I end up drinking it by myself that's way better than sitting on something too long.”

Zack Rothman: “Definitely base my bottle choices on the group I'm with. I think it's only natural that you want to open a bottle that the people there will really appreciate. Otherwise the bottles with the big price tags may feel wasted. I wait to open special bottles until I can find the right people to share them with. I wouldn't say it lessens my enjoyment of beer, since I don't tend to think about my cellar bottles that much. Lots of IPAs and such to drink while waiting for the next share to happen.”

Rick Owens: “I save most of my more rare stuff with my small bottle share group, but I subscribed to the notion about a year or so ago that I’m just going to open bottles instead of sitting on them forever. It’s more fun and I’ve been enjoying a lot more delicious Saison since then.”

Bottle shares can be stressful. It's not always clear who brought what, what can be opened when, and who gets the last—or even first—pour from a bottle. Here are some helpful tips for bottle share novices and experts alike.

Jim Plachy: “If you don’t have anything special, bring fresh beer. Something that could be considered a palate cleanser or something for the people who are only going to stay a couple of hours and don’t want to slam high octane beers. No one will be mad if you bring a few two-week-old four packs of fresh, local beer.” 

Jaron Wright: “Bring something no matter what. If someone is hosting and says not to, bring snacks or palate-cleansing beer (I brought Kolsch to a Stout tasting, for example, and bought cheeses that go well with Stouts.) I’ve never gone to a share where I didn't contribute beer or food. You should at least bring 22 ounces, and it should be something that can't be found easily in a local non-beer centric bar. (But also be nice to people who don't know they brought something easy to find.) Have a reason you picked that one out.

Also pace yourself with the group. Don't be the guy taking the beer to the face and getting restless when next bottle isn't opened right away.”

Rick Owens: “Definitely pace yourself. I am guilty of breaking that rule on occasion. Food is always welcomed if you do not have beer to bring—and even if you do. We will always welcome people who bring fresh beer or beers that cleanse the palate. In our group, we all love to drink Pilsner and Pale Ale. We never hesitate to bring those beers to our shares.

I think it’s mainly about coming to share opinions and experiences. That’s the best part of a bottle share. It doesn’t really matter what someone is bringing. If you’re into what you have brought, I’m down to try it and talk about it.”

If you’ve never been to a bottle share, hopefully we’ve enticed you into attending one. Or even starting a share with your friends. If you don’t like bottle shares, maybe our enthusiasm and tips will get you to try opening some beers with a large group. If you have a share coming up we’d love to see some pictures. Tweet them at @theferventfew

Hosted by Jim Plachy