Barstool: Bottleshops battle the snow

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You know how it went down last weekend: a dump of snow drove most of us indoors, or at least off the roads, and business hours were hit or miss. Gate City Growlers off Battleground Avenue in Greensboro sent an email the day of the deluge, claiming, “We will be open regardless of the weather tomorrow.”

And sure enough, they were. City Beverage in downtown Winston-Salem stayed opened until 5 p.m. on the first full day of the storm. The Beer Growler on Robinhood Road in Winston-Salem had promised to open around mid-day, but a heartrending Facebook post around 2 p.m. said, “We admit defeat — even walking didn’t work!”

You’ve got to hand it to them for trying, and you can understand why I appreciate the value of a great local bottle shop.

I used to rely on the more convenient beer offerings at chain grocery stores, which, admittedly, started carrying interesting brands like Mystery Brewing from Hillsborough. I even went to the Lowes Beer Den to fill growlers for a fresher craft beer experience. That was before I discovered the magic of local bottle shops, effectively ridding myself of the guilt of supporting chains, be they local or otherwise.

On Jan. 5, the day before the storm kicked off, I hit up the Beer Growler on what was certain to be a busy night. They’d sent a newsletter earlier in the day advertising Kick the Keg night: 25 percent sale on 64-ounce growlers of certain taps and $2 half pours for those kegs. Plus, my co-workers had been feeding me updates of the weekend weather forecast, so it wasn’t hard to put the two together.

When I got there a couple hours before close, only a handful of people had showed up for the sale and pre-snow binge. I guess other people prioritize milk and bread while I’m out hop hunting.

At least I had more time to talk to my bartender, who told me his favorite dark beer is New Holland Dragon’s imperial milk stout, which rings in at 11 percent alcohol. My husband is a proponent of getting a growler in order to “sit with” a beer, so I took his cue and settled on a 32-ouncer.

My favorite beer this visit, though, was the Ass Clown Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Stout. The flavors don’t taste artificial, and the bartender was right: It’s more salt-forward when cold and chocolate-flavored when warmer, a fun transition to witness. It ranks fourth on my list of dark beers this season — after a bourbon barrel-aged imperial Tele-porter from Charlotte’s Unknown Brewing, Impending Grace imperial stout from Asheboro’s Four Saints Brewing and the Morning Stout from Hoots in Winston-Salem, in that order. I’ve heard that Hoots’ Coconut Rice Porter is a masterpiece, but unfortunately I didn’t catch it before the kegs ran out.

I ordered a 64-ounce growler of the Ass Clown (don’t laugh), to which the bartender honked the clown horn on the tap handle. When Beer Growler had an Ass Clown tap takeover last year, he said, it was a nightmare of honking for days.

I had to drink some later that night. I mean, how could I let it sit in the fridge until snow arrived? Most of our beer was gone by Day Two of the storm, including the Deep River Riverbank Rye-It pale ale, which perfectly matched our rutabaga, potato and carrot stew.

Despite my success, I don’t recommend braving the crowds to buy beer at the last minute before a snowstorm. But more importantly, it’s important to stock up ahead of time, especially with a local growler, rather than driving on treacherous roads even if your local bottleshop or brewery is open. I wanted to, especially after cracking into my beer as soon as I made it home, but next time I’ll just buy more — because three growlers isn’t enough.