The craft brew industry is very communal. From the brewers to the consumer it’s easy to see that beer loving people enjoy getting together to taste and discuss their favorite beverage.

Brewery owners have set the example with their willingness to collaborate with other breweries to make a special and usually one time only release. This summer Sierra Nevada organized the release of the ultimate 12pack in which 12 of the most prestigious breweries came together to make one beer each with Sierra Nevada. To celebrate this monumental release the participating brewers boarded a bus and made a road trip out of the seven city traveling beer festival across America.

In May I was allowed to crash the party in the brewers camping section of the Boonville Beer Festival. The evening before the festival was actually more enjoyable than the event itself. It was great to see the brewers telling stories while sharing beer that each respective brewer had brought along for the trip. People were bouncing around from tent to tent greeting old friends and making new ones.

Much more frequently you will find beer enthusiasts getting together for a bottle share. An individual or a small group of people will take the initiative to select a location, time and many times a featured style. The message will then be put out to a slightly larger group. When attending a bottle share it is customary to bring a bottle or two of limited release beer that you typically would not find on a store shelf here locally. The idea would be to bring something that you have been aging in a cellar, found while on a trip or perhaps traded for with someone in other parts of the country. Each group varies on the theme and not all bottle shares need to be full of such rare beers. That being said, there is a level of trying to one up everyone else in the group by bringing a ‘whale.’ A whale is considered a beer that has very small production, say 1,000 bottles or less. Limited distribution and difficulty to acquire add to the status. When arriving you will find cheese, fruit and a group of welcoming people eager to share what they brought. I’ve had people tell me that they wouldn’t open such special beers at home for themselves. Edgar Delgado AKA Ed Hops enjoys organizing bottle shares. Recently he told me “good beer brings good people together. The guys that have been doing this for a while do try to one up each other, but are happy when a new person wants to join the circle and never discriminate against what a new person to the group may bring.”

Personally I have reconnected with childhood friends that I lost contact with at bottle shares while meeting awesome new people that I have become great friends with. The simplest way to connect with other cool beer loving people is still done the old fashioned way. Taprooms constantly have special events that see familiar faces bouncing around and breweries are known for having regulars that are seen in the brewery on a regular basis.

– Peter Lopez