Last Saturday Ale Apothecary Club Members from all over the state met in a beautiful home at the base of Aubrey Butte for the 2nd annual members-only party. Chef Katrina Spatrisano of Deschutes Brewery provided a spread of appetizers with salami, cheeses, and desserts. Ale Apothecary's founder and brewer, Paul Arney, and his wife mingled with each of the members for more than three hours. Though every Ale Apothecary beer was available, most of the beer was provided by the members themselves. The party was a special type of BYOB known as a "bottle share."
Bottle shares are beer potlucks. Each person brings a bottle of similar value, and everybody gets to taste it. Shares are the secret to gaining extensive beer knowledge in a fun and affordable way.
Beer fanatics love to evangelize their favorite brews, often from brewers with small production and distribution. Bottle shares allow pooled connections from like-minded beer geeks. This provides access to boutique beers that are hard to come by. It also reduces the pain when a beer doesn't live up to its hype. Beers from all over the world were at the Ale Club share, and a few were duds. There simply isn't a beer that will be good for everyone. No big deal: at a share, just taste, and move on.
Bottle shares are fun and social. Locally shares are often organized through the Adventures in Beer, Food, and Wine Meetup group and through exploringbeer.com. Though occasionally hosted at someone's house, both Platypus Brew Pub and Broken Top Bottle Shop are great places for these events. Organize your own by inviting a bunch of friends to surround a table, order food, and pick your bottles from the cooler. Typically, there is a slight upcharge for enjoying the bottles in the pubs, but it's worth it. Both bottle shops have great selections and make the whole share easy to enjoy.
Miles Wilhelm, founder of exploringbeer.com, insists it's important to be specific with the invitations. Always state the expected size and price range so everyone brings roughly the same quality to share. For example: "22oz or bigger and priced over $10." This is more for the inexperienced than the experienced. He has had guests feel embarrassed for not bringing something special only because they didn't know. With high-end palates like the Ale Club members, that part wasn't necessary. Each member tried to one-up the next in friendly competition by bringing something expensive or aged or unavailable in the area.
Shares are often random, but themed shares are more educational. By choosing a single context, guests get to compare and contrast. Be sure to try a bottle share organized by style or region. It's fascinating to taste a dozen beers of the same style in succession. There will usually be some big variations even when the labels all claim the same thing.
Bottle shares embrace the social aspect of beer culture. It's educational aspects take a distant back seat to the fun and conversation. This summer, turn a backyard BBQ into a share. If eating at a bottleshop, pass up the tap list and share some bottles from the coolers. It's true: sharing is caring.