Moving is hard. The logistics themselves can be overwhelming – packing, cleaning, arranging the move, housing on both ends, loading, unloading and unpacking. Moving a long distance is even harder. Longer distance means higher chance of damage and loss, and it means you better make sure you get everything on that truck in one trip. It is as expensive an undertaking as it is jarring.
Moving far away means more than moving your belongings, it means moving your life and inserting distance into relationships with friends and family. Strong relationships can withstand distance, but it certainly never makes them stronger. Long distance moves typically come with a change in job or even career, which can be daunting on its own but really presents a challenge when combined with the stress of setting up a new home and adjusting to a new city and/or state.
But there is also something refreshing about so much change. It creates exciting opportunities for new relationships, new hobbies and for integrating into a new community. It is fun getting to know a new city – learning where to go out to eat, go for a hike, grab coffee or just buy groceries. And yes, for the craft beer enthusiast, where to buy and imbibe our favorite beverages.
Those are the aspects of moving I wanted to focus on when my wife and I uprooted our life in East Tennessee and moved nearly 1,000 miles west to Eastern Kansas. Sure we are 13+ hours away from our friends and family, but we have each other, a new city to enjoy, new friends to meet – and new beer distro!
If you are like me (if you’re reading chances are pretty good), then local breweries and distribution is embarrassingly high on your priority list when moving or traveling. I’ll be honest though, I did not have high hopes for Kansas beer culture. It is not that Tennessee is some craft beer mecca (it’s far from it), it is just that Kansas didn’t seem like a step up.
But in combing through the extremely useful distribution comparison list generated at SeekABrew.com, I was pleasantly surprised. I was losing some hyper-regional favorites like Franklin’s Mantra Artisan Ales and Nashville’s ridiculously great Bearded Iris Brewing, but I retained all of the big craft brands I’ve come to love and added a few more.
The chiles play the part of cleaning up the sweetness much in the way hops can clean up the back of an IPA.”
Armed with a list of new-to-me breweries, I very nerdily set to searching the October Beer Directory to create a pref list of brews to target. Now all I needed to do was find out where to buy them. Luckily, through the power of the beer internet, it was not difficult to determine the best bottle shops and beer bars in town. While scouring the shelves and tap lists, one of my first targets was the signature offering of Tulsa, OK, based Prairie Artisan Ales – Prairie Bomb!
Bomb! is an imperial stout that is aged on a combination of coffee, vanilla beans, cacao nibs and ancho chiles for heat. It is commonly rated as one of the best beers in America and certainly one of the best widely available stouts. Bomb! is just one of the highly acclaimed beers produced by Prairie which also churns out excellent farmhouse ales and variants on the flagship among other offerings.
But I’m a sucker for a stout and most of the other Prairie brews on the shelf were months from the package date, so I took the plunge and bought a 13% alcohol by volume imperial stout on a 95 degree day.
I’m glad I did. Bomb! pours a viscous and totally opaque black with bubbly brown head. The aroma most prominently features the chocolate and vanilla on which the beer was aged, while hints of alcohol, malt, coffee and pepper waft through as well.
I like a beer that tells you what it is going to taste like and then delivers big on that promise, and Prairie’s Bomb! does just that. The first taste washes sweetly over the palate with flavors of coffee and chocolate. The malt bill and vanilla take a backseat but are certainly present along with warming spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.
This is a creamy beer with just the right amount of carbonation to create a silky mouthfeel. Right when the beer starts to steer towards cloyingly sweet, the thinly veiled 13% alcohol and ancho peppers come roaring in at the finish. As someone who does not consider himself a fan of pepper in beers, I was a little skeptical at the addition of the chiles. But this is not a pepper beer. The anchos play the part of cleaning up the sweetness much in the way peppery hops can clean up the back of an IPA – they just add a little heat.
It’s the front end chocolate, coffee, spice and vanilla of Bomb! that you crave and remember, but the back end heat of the booze and chiles that allow you to pick it right back up. At 13%, that’s a dangerous game.
This beer is fantastic as it is and while I’m not sure it was worth the move, Prairie Bomb! is a damn fine stout.