The other night, I did something unusual: I opened a 2009 bottle of 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze.
The weird part wasn’t that I chose a spontaneously fermented beer from Belgium: Although I do mostly consume Czech lagers, I happily drink most styles. But that particular beer from my own cellar was one that dated from before the 2009 disaster that shuttered one of Belgium’s favorite lambic breweries for several years. It was not just from Belgium. It was not just sour. It was not just old. It was a truly rare bottle from a different era, one of a very limited number that remain anywhere, and a real collector’s item among connoisseurs.
Chalk it up to not being able to go out during a government-mandated lockdown, or credit it to the obvious precariousness of life during a global pandemic: Around the world, there’s a widespread trend of beer lovers digging into their collections and consuming some truly special bottles, complete with a trending hashtag.
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Happening right now, it’s time to #drinkyourcellar.
“The whole ‘save them for a special occasion’ seems pointless now, when you’re not sure when a special occasion will happen,” says Dale Peterson, who posted a picture of a 2014 Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout from Big Sky Brewing Co., among other highly sought-after beers, along with the #socialdistancing and #drinkyourcellar hashtags on Twitter. “And now that we’re home and not working as much, it made sense to start doing it now. It keeps us from going to the liquor store.”
Robert Arsenault, an Ontario beer writer who reviews beers on YouTube, was an early promoter of the idea. He describes the concept as “using beer to make the day special, as opposed to the other way around.”
“It’s about those special beers you’ve been saving to celebrate a momentous life occasion being pulled out of the cellar now to help with this uncertain and abnormal time in human history,” Arsenault says. “Good beer is meant to be enjoyed, and now is not the time to sit on it. Drink up and celebrate life.”
That might sound like a modern version of the “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die” line of reasoning that runs from Epicurean philosophy all the way up to the modern-day YOLO. But there are at least another couple of sides to it. To start, there’s the issue of practicality when many bottle shops are closed or hard to reach under strict “shelter in place” orders. And beyond the “carpe diem” angle, the #drinkyourcellar movement also helps housebound beer collectors manage their stocks — and their space.
“It kind of came from a thing I did called #DrinkTheFridge where I didn’t buy beer for a month and cleaned out my fridge,” Arsenault says. “We constantly accumulate beer and push stuff to the back, so I wanted to highlight that.”
Brendan Faherty has been posting pictures of opening special bottles from his collection, along with the alternative hashtag #drinkyocellar. “It also ends up being a space issue,” he says. “My cellar is literally a few shelves in a crawl space.”
The movement includes those of us with small cellars and those with much larger collections. An Untappd user with 13,500 total check-ins and over 3,800 badges, Scott Blanchard has two full-size beer refrigerators that are filled with rare one-offs and enviable verticals, including a collection of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywines dating back to 2007, and bottles of Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale starting in 2010. He started posting pictures of the beers he was drinking with the #drinkyourcellar hashtag on March 19.
“I’ve been socking away far too many beers for far too long,” Blanchard says. “So when I saw several posts from people promoting the idea to clear out your cellar, I came to realize I better join ‘the movement’ before my beers went downhill. What’s the point in hanging on to dozens and dozens of bottles when I’m always purchasing new stuff, too?”
While a few wine lovers on Twitter and Instagram have used the hashtags along with pictures of special wines they were opening, it seems to have primarily struck a chord with beer fans. If you’re eying your own collection and wondering if you should, Peterson suggests opening a few hashtaggable bottles with friends online.
“I say do it,” he says. “We’ve had ‘beer shares’ over Facebook with our other beer friends who open theirs as well. Sure, it’s not the same [as in real life], but it’s still a way to enjoy good conversation and beer.”
So go ahead and pull those “whalez” out. But maybe don’t drink absolutely everything you’ve got. After all, no one knows for sure what kind of beers will be available when the emergency passes. Once things return to whatever normal turns out to be after the pandemic, you’ll almost certainly need a great bottle or two to celebrate.
— The Beer-brarian (@brendan_faherty) March 26, 2020
While Faherty has been drinking down his cellar and hashtagging the process, he’s also keeping a number of rare bottles for just that moment.
“I also have a five-year vertical of the Central Waters anniversary beers which I’m looking forward to at some point, maybe summer?” he asks himself, or maybe the universe. “When can we congregate around a fire pit again?”