Scoring the Unicorn
The PubScout shares a rare beer discovery.
My beer buddies and I are buzzing over an 8% DIPA that rarely sees the sun-splashed coast of southeastern NC. Like a sighting of the mythical unicorn, you have to be lucky to spot it, because while it’s pretty common in its home state of Vermont — and now Massachusetts — finding it in the Tarheel state is purt-near impossible.
Unless you know somebody. And this week, the somebody to know was me. But only because I knew somebody. And his name was Gary Beaudet.
Gary owns a successful little shop on the Beach Road called The Brew House. It’s a cozy place known for its coffee, bagels, muffins and, on Wednesday nights, brick oven-fired pizzas. Gary also carries a nice selection of craft beer.
I learned this when I stopped into his shop for a beer a couple of years ago on a warm day after an even warmer motorcycle ride. I also learned that Gary was, like many folks down here, a transplant from the Northeast.
But Gary’s Northeast was Vermont. So, naturally, beer-nut me asked him about the unicorn called Heady Topper from a brewery called The Alchemist.
I liked him, his pizza and his little shop so much so, I did a story on it called “On the Cusp of Greatness,” which you can read by clicking on the title. Fast forward a few years. Gary contacts me to tell me his son, Justin, is coming down from Vermont to visit southeastern NC. He asks if I would like him to bring down a few cases of the unicorn.
Duh. Is the Pope Catholic? Of course, I had had it before, so I knew what a treat was coming. And I even had its cousin Focal Banger, also from The Alchemist. But transporting this nectar — and even consuming it — has some strict protocols. First, the beer must be kept constantly cold. It’s unpasteurized. Even the brewers at The Alchemist in Waterbury (or Stowe, depending on who you ask) strongly advise that the beer be drunk directly from the can, and as close to the canning date as possible.
Long story short, last week I met Gary and Justin at his shop in OIB where two cases of the unicorn had been resting in the cooler.
Justin assiduously kept the brew cold during the entire trip south by car. We made the exchange of cash for suds (although it did feel a bit like a back-alley illicit drug deal), and I immediately drove the precious cargo to two of my beer buddies: Keith, who owns Tap time in OIB, and Patrick, who manages the very successful and always-packed Oyster Rock Seafood Restaurant in Calabash.
Needless to say, you will not see Heady Topper on either of the menus in those respective businesses. First, because NC’s somewhat arcane beer laws forbid it, as it’s not available from a distributor. But secondly both Keith and Patrick realize what they have in their possession. And while each man may share a can or two with special friends, my guess is most of that nectar is destined for their own palates.
I don’t blame them one bit. When you see a unicorn it’s a rare treat. But when you actually capture one, you’re very particular about who you let near it.
Want to go?
The Brew House
7207 Beach Drive SW
Ocean Isle Beach, NC