I went to a limited release party, my first, at Foothills Brewery, down the street in Winston Salem for the release of Sexual Chocolate in bottles.  What an event! Actually four events linked together. Prior to the release of Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewery hosted what could only be called a beer swap, which became a spontaneous festival, followed a few hours later by the lining up party out front and the Selling of the Beer, and then filling up the put for an afternoon of socializing and beer camaraderie.

The limited release was the bottled version, which Foothills, a draft only brewery, had done just for that day. Drew Barton, Brewermaster at French Broad, drove to Foothills with his bottler and labored the full day helping to bottle all 600. Also, there was a growler of 2007 on hand, and a few pitchers of 2008.  Great vertical opportunity.

Jaime Bartholemew makes Sexual Chocolate using cocoa nibs not chocolate as other notable chocolate beers brewers do, which gives it a dryer flavor. The growler of the 2007 poured a beautiful beer that had sharp accents of flavors which could only have been from the nibs. The nibs come directly from the bean, which is rather fragile once the skin is removed. Pleasantly dry, but not hop or chocolate malt astringent. Readers, here’s an example of a complete failure of language. Randy, Garrett and Steve, where are you when I need you!

The 2008 on the other hand was very well rounded. One wag suggested the 2007 had been taken care of very well and hadn’t “aged” like the 2008 did. As for the 2009, describe rich without heavy, brown without black, toast without burnt.

The evening before the beer went on sale Foothills opened up the mezzanine above the restaurant section. Beer geeks gathered after lugging in some of their rare gems. With pitchers of Sexual Chocolate prominently placed on each table, the beer cognoscenti settled in and began pulling out some fantastic delights from their cases and coolers.

One of the many tables covered with beers for tasting and swapping
One of the many tables covered with beers for tasting and swapping

The noise was more akin to a cocktail party then a beer fest, except instead of kids’ school issues or stock market performance there was only one subject: Beer!

Bottles are opened with church key or corkscrew and the beer flows. It’s a beer swap, but more so the tastes then the bottles. People wandered from table to table handing out samples of their favorite.

A few just ensconced themselves at table tasting what table mates had brought or what landed in front of them. Interestingly, one table had everyone taking notes in notepads, while the adjacent table was exclusively PDAs of all stripes.

This was a different world for me.  I’d come of beer-age through the homebrew community via Charlie Papazian, and I thought I knew beer geeks or beer nurds. You know the sort of beer lover that brewpubs would ban from their place because of the arguments. Well here was a floor full of extreme beer lovers as if in response to the extreme beer movement. Jaime introduced me to a guy who has over 6,000 reviews on Ratebeer! There was even a card carrying rocket engineer, Joan Trolinger.

The whole mezzanine scene changed about 8:00 p.m. All of a sudden what had been a mild manner, but enthusiastic beer swap, became a spontaneous beer festival.  The mezz filled up with bubbling, brimming, beer people with bottles to share. Everyone had a thrill they wanted to share.  I ran into the brewer from Liberty who had a Kellerbier to share that was mouth watering and something sort of like a lambic. Jeff Levine, Carolina Craft Distributing, had some fun things from Moylan’s.

No I still haven’t figured out how to keep track of the flavor I experience. I even tried writing in my PDA. Check this out. “Prior ti the rekease of Sexual Chicilate” Now that’s brilliant writing, Readers.

Jaime visited the line of people that snaked around the brewery
Jaime visited the line of people that snaked around the brewery

The next morning, saw a line up of over 100 people, stretching around the building out through the parking lot, well over 7 hours in advance of the doors opening. Ray and Cornelia, our stalwart North Carolinian consecutive Beer Drinker of the Year, were visiting up and down the line. Cornelia touted a bottle of  Brasserie d’Achouffe Coffee Liquor from which she distributed samples.  There was a contingent from the World Beer Festival — Columbia Brew Crew, yukking it up at 8:00 a.m., with bottles of beers from across the country.  Amazing. The party from the night before was now in it’s third version.

When the doors opened the No. 1 bottle went to Shane Murray who’d left work in Cincinnati, hopped in his car, arriving at the brewery at 4:00 am and not budging till he’d got his hands on that number one bottle.

After seven hours of waiting Shane gets an autograph from the brewer for the #1 bottle of Sexual Chocolate
After seven hours of waiting Shane gets an autograph from the brewer for the #1 bottle of Sexual Chocolate

Needless to say the 600 bottles didn’t make it through the whole line. However, that seemed a moot point as the crowd of beer enthusiasts filled up the brew pub and the fourth party took off. Every table was filled with beer lovers, recently purchased bottles of Sexual Chocolate, and mugs of Foothills beers.

These are the moments that make my job really spectacular.