Editor’s note: This is the debut article for Jason, our fifth (of six) Brew Crew Bullpen members. He bit the bullet and bought a rather expensive local beer for review. For that, we thank him. I at least am pretty damn poor right now. Anyone looking to hire a freelance writer who specializes in sports and beer? — Stoutmeister
This past Friday I was able to get my hands on a Tesla. No, not the amazingly cool electric vehicle, but a bourbon barrel-aged American Wild Ale brewed by Marble Brewery in collaboration with Jubilation Wine & Spirits. Much like its namesake, this beer has innovation written all over it. Not only is this is the first sour to be bottled and sold by an Albuquerque brewery, but I do believe this is the first time Jubilation Wine & Spirits has partnered with any brewery on a beer. Like I said, innovative.
Secondly, this sour is unique in that it was aged in Taos Lightning Bourbon barrels. (For those of you who don’t know, Taos Lightning is a locally produced, small batch bourbon distilled by KGB Spirits in Alcalde, NM.) Finding a sour that is aged in bourbon barrels is very unusual and, again, innovative. Lastly, and perhaps most noteworthy is the retail price of the 22-ounce bottle, a shockingly steep $26. Innovative indeed.
Innovation is not always welcomed with open arms, or in this case open wallets. Judging by the initial reactions on my Twitter feed the cost alone would disqualify all but the most loyal New Mexico craft beer fanatics. Twenty-six dollars is by far the most I’ve ever spent on a single-bottled beer and Tesla is easily the most expensive New Mexican-made craft beer currently on the market, perhaps ever. I walked into Jubilation expecting a $10-15 bottle so I was a bit surprised and downright curious when I saw the price tag. Now before I get into the how the beer was perceived on my senses, I want talk a little about the craft beer market and just how I justified a $26 beer purchase.
My father is not an economist, but he always made a great point when it came to supply and demand. One day we were arguing about sports, as we often do, specifically about the exorbitant contracts that some athletes sign. I said something to the effect of, “That guy is not worth all that money.” And my father replied, “Son, something is worth whatever somebody is willing to pay for it.” Not exactly poetry, but it made a resounding point to me. The demand for a product directly determines its worth. You or I may think something is overpriced, but if there’s somebody out there willing to pay that price then it’s worth every penny.
Craft beer can be quite an expensive passion. Anybody who has regularly beer traded or purchased beer online knows that well respected breweries frequently command $15 to $30 for some of their creations. Perhaps you’ve heard of the legend of Dark Lord, a Three Floyds Brewing Co. Russian Imperial Stout that actually has its own day (Dark Lord Day) and has hordes of thousands of devotees lining up for hours at a chance to purchase a bottle. Kegs are are often tapped and dry within minutes. This is exactly the type of extremist behavior that craft beer drinkers exhibit on a regular basis. In fact, as I write this a bunch of fellow New Mexicans are in Denver attending Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp festival. I assume there was little hesitance on their part to justify spending hard earned money on gas, food, hotel rooms, and pint after pint of the some of the finest beers in America. Clearly, “worth” is relative.
Back to the beer. So there I am standing in Jubilation recalling my father’s economics for dummies lesson on value and cradling a Tesla in my arms like a newborn babe. I’m staring at the minimalist, yet beautiful label as the last bit of confirmation I needed hits me like a linebacker on a blind side blitz. Local! It’s local! All the parties involved in the conception of this beverage are local. This partnership included my first brewery love (Marble), my favorite liquor store (Jubilation), and a local distillery (KGB Spirits). A chance to support local business? What more was there to ponder? After all, supporting independent local business is the foundation of the craft beer revolution. With all this being considered, it took roughly 10 minutes of contemplation and revelation for me to justify the $26 Tesla purchase.
Now to the good stuff. Once home, Tesla was able to relax for a few hours in my temperature controlled beer cellar (actually it’s just an old fridge, but cellar sounds like I know what I’m doing). The relaxation brought Tesla to a optimal temperature of 52 degrees. I poured her (I refer to Tesla as a her only because I’m almost certain that Tesla is a relative of Sansa, Marble’s spectacular sour release from Albuquerque Beer Week) brilliant, deep ruby-colored body into a tulip glass. The perfect shape for such a succulent looking concoction. I only let Tesla sit for a few minutes but already the aromas of vanilla bourbon and fermented fruit overwhelmed the nose.
Upon first drink, the vanilla-oak-bourbon congregation invoked fond memories of Marble’s Reserve Ale. However, Tesla introduces a tart punch to the nuts of sour cherries. The mouthfeel is thinner than I expected, coming off more as a wine than a beer, but that is expected of most wild ales. There’s some slight carbonation, but it’s quickly dismissed by the dominating bourbon-and-oak finish. As the sour warmed up I had a few moments where I forgot I was drinking a sour ale. It’s that different. Sour “haters” would be well served to give this one a try. Despite the commanding presence of bourbon, Tesla is a fairly easy drinking ale. I do believe that I will be picking up another bottle before they run out.
For what it’s worth, this purchase was definitely worth it.