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Big-deal beers brew less frenzy in 2016

Posted 3:58pm on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016

When you’ve been around longer than almost everyone else, it can be hard to maintain your cool-guy cred.

Back when Rahr & Sons started making Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer — or BBAWW, for the purposes of brevity — there weren’t a whole lot of “Big Deals” going around.

Saint Arnold made a semi-annual splash with its sought-after Divine Reserve series. People would hunt these beers down with fury and zeal, and when they were released, people waited in line and stalked stores with extras to sell. It was a rare treat that engendered a cult following. BBAWW would also warrant fevered searches and passionate pursuit.

In 2016, competition is at an all-time high and that level of fervor for singular beers has died down considerably.

There are still some beers that draw a pre-release line. Somehow, ABInbev-owned Goose Island gets a pass from an otherwise fervent anti-big beer crowd for the Black Friday release of its Bourbon County Stout line. People wait in line by the hundreds and post to online forums about where they can find more. (Hint: Some gas stations have it, it’s not the rare, artisanal treat some make it out to be.)

Austin’s Jester King attracts lines at its brewery for some of its bottle releases and some patrons even regularly travel hundreds of miles for the rare fare.

Rahr and Saint Arnold don’t see the “buy everything you can” mentality that they once did for their proudest releases. It’s not uncommon to see Divine Reserve releases still on shelves months after release and BBAWW has stuck around well into the New Year for its past few iterations.

BBAWW isn’t quite what it used to be, either.

Big, bourbony and rich, BBAWW in its early years was quite a bit more barrel heavy. The past couple of years, it feels like it’s mixed more with the regular Winter Warmer, which cuts down on its bourbon-heavy aspects. If you like concept of a barrel-aged beer, but are turned off by some bourbon-bomb beers on the market, BBAWW might be for you.

Its price point is down a little from last year as well. In its early years of release, BBAWW could be found for $8 to $9 for a 22-ounce bottle. Last year, $14 was a commonly seen price and pushed many previous fans away from shelling out the premium.

This year, it’s consistently hovering around $12 a bottle, so that small dip in retail price should make it a bit more palatable for consumers.

Ultimately, consumer passion can be a fickle mistress. Some things catch fire and everyone wants a piece. Others become old hat. Perhaps this is just the way of things, but Texas’ old guard is seeing a dip in intensity for its Big Deals.

Quick sips

BBT is back: Speaking of Big Deals, Lakewood Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Temptress came out this week. If you find a bottle, snag one. It’s magic in a bottle.

Cobra turns three: Lewisville’s Cobra Brewing celebrates its third anniversary Saturday at the brewery from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25 and feature 10 six-ounce beer pours (yowsers!), a special glass and two bottles of water. cobrabrewingco.com

Have questions or tips for Scooter? Shoot him an email at texasbrew@dfw.com. And for more beer columns and news, visit www . dfw . com / beer.

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