10 Cult Beer Releases, and What to Drink If You Can’t Get Them

The white whales of craft beer may be fun to chase, but don't miss out on easier-to-find brews that are just as good.


In Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick, a mad fisherman named Captain Ahab is consumed by the desire to hunt down the white whale that chomped off his leg. Since then, the white whale has entered the lexicon as a symbol of any rare, nearly unobtainable objects that people feverishly seek out.

Nowhere is this lust for white whales more apparent than in craft beer, where scant supply, limited distribution, and Internet-fueled praise can transform tasty IPAs, imperial stouts, and sour ales into objects of obsession for which driven drinkers will gladly sacrifice a leg. While Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, and the Bruery’s Black Tuesday are all brilliant beers, the effort and cost required to obtain them borders on the absurd—can any one beer possibly be worth such an investment?

That's for you to decide. But even if you do chase cult releases, you'll want to round out your drinking with some easier-to-obtain brews. Here are 10 of craft beer’s biggest white whales and—should your hunt be unsuccessful—their suitable replacements.

Written by Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein)

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  • Kdewby

    The Brouwerij Westvleteren should have been first, I paid 50 bucks for just a single bottle!!! Also zombie dust is amazing!!!

  • Just A thought

    I’m a little confused by the thesis here. How does replacing white whale beers with mostly-still-hard-to-find and/or extremely-regional beers serve any purpose? Shouldn’t the rule here have been that every replacement be widely available?

  • Nono

    I was attending Lewis & Clark College in ’94 and we would drink the hell out of Hair of the Dog brews! Damn $1500 a bottle now!!!

    • NoNo

      Burlingame Market down the hill from campus in SW Portland would have stacks of six packs always in stock! Uughhh! $1500 a bottle now!!!

      • http://www.talkbeer.com detocqueville

        What in the fuck are you labia-mouthed idiots talking about?

        Only Dave is $1500 a bottle. All of their other cheap swill is still affordable.

        Better yet, you guys should just load up on as much Hair of the Dog beer that you can find and try to flip it on Craigslist in the m4m section.

  • Michael McMonagle

    Ya, these substitutes don’t really compare to having the real thing. I don’t know if it’s the mental block knowing you’re having the sought out beer, but these beers really are amazing and sought out for good reason.

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