In line at Monkish...
the process & thoughts of a craft beer hunter
BY THR CONTRIBUTOR JOHN DOESSEL
Every so often, work brings me just south of Los Angeles to a place called Torrance, California. Which, a few years ago didn’t mean much. Now, however, it means I’m able to visit one of the most rightfully-hyped purveyors of the hazy IPA – Monkish Brewing Co.
On many occasions, I’ve been able to experience their draft offerings and growler fills.
But never a can release.
Enter September 29th.
The morning started like any other–emails, meetings, and hotel room coffee. Followed by a refreshing of Monkish’s Facebook and Instagram pages like a lunatic, in hopes of an update.
Around 11:00 AM, it happens. Taking advantage of a break in the day, I hustle over and arrive an hour after announcement. The line can’t be that long, can it?
Out the tasting room, into the parking lot, around the building, and into another building’s parking lot. I’m informed people line up long before any sort of social announcement. On the off chance there’s a release, they’re already in line. Silly me, waiting.
At any rate, I arrive and grab my place. I’m closer to an oil change than I am beer, but it’s moving pretty steadily. A Monkish employee is counting heads and distributing wristbands. If you get one, you’re guaranteed a full-allotment. Which, today, is two 4-packs.
She methodically makes her way down the line wrapping the wrists of hopefuls with translucent pink bands. The odds get slimmer and slimmer...and slimmer and slimmer. She hands out the last band of the day to a guy three spots in front of me. You’ve got to be kidding.
She tells the rest of us we’re not guaranteed to get beer. But, we’re also not guaranteed to not get beer. Hmm...
An audible groan fills the air. But I’m still hopeful. Hell, I’ve come this far. I’ll wait it out.
Shuffle by shuffle, the line continues around the perimeter of the industrial lot. There are a large amount of what I assume are the 'regulars.' They all have coolers. Small ones. The kind construction workers sit on while eating lunch. These coolers–every inch of them–are covered in peeled-off can labels from past releases: LA Hat, Foggy Window, Foggier Window. They’re like proud gamesmen with a wall full of taxidermy trophies. And here I am, all jazzed about maybe partaking in one release.
The employee from earlier returns. She doesn’t have more wristbands, but she does have more news: cans are nearly gone. So she gives the line a firm cut off point right in front of this guy, who proceeds to stare around confused as if the line didn’t just get cut off in front of him. Against better judgement, he hangs around. Though most everyone behind him leaves.
At about this point, I can see inside the tasting room. A humble space comprised of stood-up barrels serving as tables...and actual tables serving as tables. In the background are a handful of giant tanks adorned with “Monkish” branding. It’s packed. And everyone’s glass looks the same. A 16oz snifter, filled ¾ of the way with that hazy pour.
I near the front, and finally reach the register. I can see the amount of 4-packs remaining. A short stack, you could count using only fingers and toes. Which is a problem for those behind me.
But not for me.
Wristband be damned, I walk away with a full allotment, 8 cans. Correction: 8 GLORIOUS cans, still cold from the morning fill, sweating in the California sun. They're an 8.3% Double IPA called Glamour, Glitters, and Gold.
I did it.
I grab a pour from the taproom, and a place at one of the barrels. Between sips, I catch myself looking at the cans as if they’re some sort of war medal. Earned for a valiant act of bravery rather than standing in a line.
As I admire and sip, a woman tries to buy an individual can for $25. I decline. These cans are all mine.
Fast forward a few days–I’m waiting at the baggage claim at O’Hare. Which, as beer shippers know, is a very nervy moment. One by one, bags get haphazardly tossed onto the conveyor belt and begin to circle. So do my thoughts.
“Hope the handlers were careful...”
“Wonder if the cargo area is pressurized…”
“My carry-on water bottle sort of concaved…”
“Would really suck if all my clothes were wet...”
I snap from my daze at the sight of my soft-sided vessel. Looks dry, at least. I crack it open, and, phew, they’re Intact. A few character-building dings, but intact.
Then, after all the refreshing, the waiting, the uncertainty, the procurement, and the safe travel, I do with my cans what anyone else would…
…I trade a few for some Tree House.