All the beers

New friends and the best craft brews at local bottle share party

Two hard-to-get Vermont faves in one kiddie pool in Chico: The Alchemist’s Heady Topper double IPA and Sip of Sunshine IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids.

Two hard-to-get Vermont faves in one kiddie pool in Chico: The Alchemist’s Heady Topper double IPA and Sip of Sunshine IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

As cliché as the saying might be, when it comes to the Chico Beer Enthusiasts, goddammit if membership doesn’t have its privileges. Thanks to being a part of the online forum for local craft-beer fans, in just one night I was able to sample Bretta Rosé from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (a wild ale, fermented with raspberries and aged in French oak wine barrels); Almanac Beer Co.’s dangerously smooth Cold Brew Coffee Barrel Noir (a high-alcohol imperial stout aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for 18 months and steeped in vanilla and coffee beans); and the much heralded Heady Topper, the double IPA from The Alchemist, the Waterbury, Vt., brewery whose products make their way to the West Coast only via beer-mail packages traded between committed connoisseurs (thank you, fellow member Ryan Cranney).

Those were just three of hundreds of unique tastes available to me and the 249 other CBE members who paid $20 to take part in the CBE Bottle Share Party at the Arc Pavilion on a recent sweltering Saturday night.

CBE was born a little over a year ago as a Facebook forum—where like-minded beer geeks would share photos of their latest beer conquests—and today has a membership of nearly 1,900. As the community has grown, so too has its offline presence as CBE-hosted events have entered the Chico beer scene. At the sold-out Arc event, I was blown away by the extremely varied, world-class selection of craft beer of an overall quality on par with any of the craft-beer festivals I’ve been to.

Lined up side-by-side along one wall of the rental hall were six blue kiddie pools (and one large metal bucket) filled with ice and about 500 bottles of beer that members brought to share. There was everything from home brews and aged treasures (e.g., a 10-year-old bottle of North Coast’s Old Stock Ale) to Russian River’s coveted Pliny the Elder and the very rare Wisconsin Belgian Red from New Glarus (with a pound of cherries used in each year-aged bottle).

Additionally, CBE provided an impressive lineup of kegs, including the dry, tightly focused Brometheus Pale Ale collaboration between Device and Breakside breweries, the wonderfully juicy (and very limited) Blam Blam IPA from Modern Times, and the previously mentioned Bretta Rosé and Cold Brew standouts. That’s not to mention the two casks from Sierra Nevada (Blood Orange Torpedo and a Pale Ale dry-hopped with hops from the garden of CBE co-founder Keith Mitten) as well as a couple of taps from Chico’s up-and-coming Secret Trail Brewing Co.

A typical bottle share is a much smaller affair, a party where each person brings something special and everyone can try most everything. For such a huge event, however, the bottles serve more as ice breakers. A great way to strike up a conversation with a fellow beer geek: Pour some of your favorite beer in their glass and talk about why you like it.

“Overall, these big bottle shares are great because it gets people talking; it gets people to interact,” said Kevin Jaradah, owner of Spike’s Bottle Shop and a CBE co-founder who organized the event.

He’s right. Find the group on Facebook to join the conversation.