Happy Halloween to all – may your treats be craft beer and may no one trick you into drinking anything less!
Just a quick update to talk about one of the most anticipated days of the year for those of us at Freetail and many of you, Dia de La Muerta.
For those unacquainted, La Muerta is our Imperial Stout, brewed only once per year to coincide with the remembrance of our dearly departed on Dia de los Muertos. The draught release will always been on November 1 and the bottle release will always be the first Saturday of November, which this year falls on the 5th.
Dia de La Muerta has come a long way in a short amount of time. The first batch (2008) was actually released in February of 2009, was a little under 100 bottles and took about a week to sell. We only made about 6 barrels total of La Muerta and it took about 2 months to sell it all, but we started to see a few bottles pop up around the country and started getting calls about it. Why only 6 barrels? Our mash tun maxes out at about 1,000 lbs of grain and the grain bill for La Muerta is so intense that’s all we can yield from a single mash.
La Muerta 2009 was the first version to adhere to the traditional release dates, and had a bottle release of approximately 250 and sold out around 10 pm the evening of the release. We made about 6 barrels again and it sold out in about a month. Some of the 2009 was diverted to a freshly emptied bourbon barrel and 95 bottles of Bourbon Barrel La Muerta 2009 were released in February of 2010. Bourbon Barrel La Muerta was made available to members of our email list, who were mailed a “coupon” a few weeks prior to the event for redemption on a first come, first serve basis. The email was passed around to non-email list members and, if my memory serves me correctly, it was our first “instant sell-out” of any bottle release (which has become the norm). Sadly, reports of infected bottles started to surface (and I even had the misfortune of tasting a few) and thus (among other things) led to the decision to not do bourbon barrel beers anymore and devote our barrel aging program to our wild ales.
La Muerta 2010 was our first double batch, brewed on back-to-back brew days to increase the volume to 12 barrels. Even with twice the volume, we still sold out of La Muerta in a little under a month. We amped the bottle count to 450 available for sale, and witnessed a sell out in under 30 minutes. This is when we knew our imperial stout was really taking off. I started to see not just the occasional review from another state, but lots of out-of-state and out-of-country reviews (more on trading later). I immediately knew the following year we’d have to amp up the production yet again.
La Muerta 2011 was another double batch, brewed on October 5th and 6th. We’re spending all of Halloween day filling the 750 bottles that will be made available to the public, plus a couple of extras for “internal purposes”. Our bottle releases have gotten pretty big, and we know La Muerta is the grandaddy of them all and we plan on making this the best bottle release yet. We’ll have a staff member distributing “tickets” on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 8am. You’ll need to turn in your ticket to buy your beers, which have a 3 bottle/person limit. If there are any left over after everyone makes it through the line, we’ll allow folks to buy more. Quite honestly I’m a little anxious to see if we make it completely through the line.
Since folks are known to show up as early as 8am to wait for a bottle release and… um, socialize… I’ve partnered with my friend Manny of Tin Can Tacos (follow him on twitter @tincantacos) for breakfast. Manny doesn’t do anything half-ass, and is bringing the heat for Dia de La Muerta. I don’t know what exactly he’ll end up doing, but he’s talked about “Borracho Carne Guisada con La Muerta” and “Borracho Black Bean and Cheese” and has politely requested we make beer available to him to make tacos with. Sounds like a plan to me!
So, why a 3 bottle limit? Well, there are a few reasons and all of them have to do with some personal philosophies of mine. The biggest reason is to ensure that as many people get an opportunity to get some as possible, while still providing opportunity for folks the chance to get multiple bottles to enjoy one now and age a bottle or two. In respect to trading, while I think it is very cool to see our beer pop up in other places and I don’t mind people trading – that is a personal choice the person trading the beer makes. With that said, I’m not inclined to make policies to accommodate beer traders at the expense of the people in my immediate community. At the end of the day, we’re a brewpub in San Antonio, TX and I want to take care of my fellow Texans and the people who visit us in San Antonio first and foremost. Our bottle limits are designed to give as many people as possible a chance to enjoy our beers – and I won’t increase a bottle limit so a trader can trade away his beer while keeping one to drink when it means someone who just wants to drink it won’t get a chance. That isn’t to say I’m “anti-trader” – I think trading is awesome. I’m just way more “pro-local who wants a bottle to drink” than I am “pro-trader.”
So there is a little history of La Muerta and some details for this year’s bottle release. Hope to see many of you starting on November 1 for draught (which, we don’t allow growlers of La Muerta because we’d run out way too quick… that goes back to wanting as many people to try it as possible) and I know I’ll see a ton of you on the 5th.