It’s 3:30 in the morning, 40 degrees, and pouring rain in a small, coastal New England city. My buddy and I are sitting in nylon folding chairs, wearing trash bags for raincoats and clutching umbrellas with cold, white knuckles. I nod off and my umbrella tips, allowing a stream of cold rainwater from an overflowing gutter to course down my neck, soaking the last plot of dry real estate on my clothing.
The driver of a passing car might assume we are waiting for concert tickets or the release of the latest revolutionary Apple gizmo. But were they to ask, they would learn that the answer is much simpler than that — we’re here for a glass of beer.
Yes, there are beers in the world worthy of such trials. They’re sometimes referred to as "white whales" in the beer community, and their rarity can drive many of us to extreme measures. Camping out in line in the rain, for example, or journeying to a Trappist monastery, or driving for days to a festival celebrating the perennial release of a legendary recipe. Are the beers worth it? Well, that’s subjective. But regardless, the pursuit and adulation of these beers is as much an appreciation of the care, attention, and skill that the brewers pour into them as it is for the final product.
And with that, here are five that you’ll probably never get to taste (unless you really, really want to). One quick note: I must confess that I have only had one of the beers listed below, so any other descriptions are heresay... for now, at least.
Why you'll never try it: “Westy 12,” as it is affectionately known, is the granddaddy of them all. Created at what is one of only seven Trappist monasteries in the world still making beer, it is perhaps the most sought-after brew in active production. This fruity, spicy Belgian Quadrupel presents a centuries-refined balance of spiciness and phenols with rich malty notes of slight chocolate and caramel. I’ve seen one bottle of it in my life, brought forth from a cupboard momentarily by the host of a beer tasting, who then quickly returned it to its dark home. His paranoia over having revealed such a treasure before our covetous, thirsty eyes was palpable.
How to prove me wrong: Westy 12 is only available at the monastery itself, only in 6-packs, and only at certain unannounced times of year. So you could easily plan your trip to Belgium, drive through the countryside, and show up at their shop, only to find that the 12 isn’t available. And even if you do manage to get some, you still have to either stow it in your luggage or ship it home.
Three Floyds Dark Lord
Why you'll never try it: Dark Lord is a Russian Imperial Stout that is released annually by Three Floyds Brewing Company, a rising yet well-established star in the craft beer world. They’re located in Munster, Ind., just a short drive south from Chicago. A rich, dank alcohol-laced imperial stout, Dark Lord boasts the full range of the style's characteristics — dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and a molasses-like sweetness. In recent years, some variations have been produced, including barrel-aged and vanilla-infused versions. You won’t find it in any store, and those who have acquired bottles have a habit of locking them away for years to allow the beer to age and mature.
How to prove me wrong: Dark Lord Day is an annual festival on the grounds of the Three Floyds brewery and is your best chance at securing a sip of the elusive brew. By purchasing a “Golden Ticket” beforehand, you are guaranteed the right to buy a predetermined number of bottles. Smuggle them home in your trunk and don’t go overboard with the Darth Vader asthmatic-breathing jokes during the drive.