All bets were off when Perrin Brewing Company announced this year’s No Rules bottle release would have no limits.

The attendance for the No Rules Release Boondoggle on Saturday, March 26 reaffirmed the hype the beer earned after its first bottle release in 2015. The event’s name suggests Perrin might’ve been a little surprised by what they had gotten themselves into.

no rulesNo Rules’ overnight success last year was backed by a 100-point score on RateBeer and a world-class, near-perfect rating on BeerAdvocate. Its fame owned the secondary market with a national trade value that was so surprising it earned its own hashtag, #tynr (thank you, No Rules), from the Facebook group West Michigan Craft Beer Enthusiasts.

Connor Klopcic, Perrin’s Assistant Brewer and PR point man, confirmed No Rules was brewed with the same recipe as last year, which highlights a sweet combination of coconut, cinnamon, and turbinado sugar. This 15% Imperial Vietnamese Porter did undergo one change, however. The difference this year is that more first-use barrels were used to aged the beer during its 4-to-6-month nap, in addition to reusing a small selection of barrels from the last batch. Klopcic wasn’t at liberty to share what brand of bourbon barrels are part of their formula. “That’s on our double secret probation list,” he said.

Klopcic knew it’d be a double-edged sword to disclose the volume of No Rules produced for this year’s release. “We made a little bit more than last year, but probably not enough.” The challenge to satisfy demand is complicated by one variable in the process. Klopcic said, “It’s the people. We just don’t know how many were going to show up.”

When asked the obvious, Then why no limits?, Klopcic relayed Perrin’s simple and effective marketing approach — “To be consistent with the beer’s name.” Without any intention of instigating the no-holds-barred chaos that might ensue, Klopcic sincerely advocated Perrin’s position, “People should be able to buy as much as they want.” He qualified that by adding, “We actually want the beer to be drank.”

Is there a silver bullet solution for managing high-profile bottle releases — one that satisfies everyone? Or, are breweries damned if they do, damned if they don’t? Winning over public commentary across social media can be daunting, regardless of whether it’s a pre-sale ticketed event, entry via lottery, capped allotment or as daring as a no limit free-for-all.

There’s almost always going to be someone in line behind the person who buys the last bottle. If you haven’t already been that person, you probably will be eventually. And, when that time comes, being gracious and constructive always looks better on us than being quick to criticize with a counterproductive rant. For the premature skeptics, Perrin accomplished with tact and effortlessness what many condemned them for even attempting. If you disagree, let The Dude remind you, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Perrin rewarded their Pub Club members with a one-hour head start, giving them the opportunity to purchase their bottles starting at 10 a.m. Memberships spiked the week of the release after word got out that they could be purchased over the phone. Klopcic lost count of how many new members joined just days before. He said one group of ten guys, who all bought in, arrived together on Friday, with many others coming in from out of state. The consensus among general admission guests, queued in a separate line, was the hope that they wouldn’t be limited to only enjoying draft pours of No Rules, which were also available. They wanted the bottles.

Pub Club members and friends, Eric Sertyn and Larry Bishop, who traveled from Shelby and Troy, respectively, made the 160-mile plus drive to be the first in line at 9:30 p.m. – the night before. They both intended to buy six cases each. Sertyn, who had never experienced No Rules before, said, “I heard how awesome it is, and have been chasing it ever since.”

When asked what they were going to do with their bottles, Bishop shared, “We’re going to spread the love with friends in and out of state.” Sertyn added, “We treat this like we’re all in the same community.” When the doors opened at 10 a.m., both guys humbly walked over a red rug Perrin laid down that really tied the taproom together, and successfully got their beer.

Back outside, Chris Klein, of Chelsea, was the first person in the general admission line. Klein made the two-hour drive, and was in line at 12:30 a.m. He said he survived on beer until the 28-degree temperature forced him to thaw out in his car around 6:00 a.m. He planned to buy four cases – two for himself, and two to share with friends in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, “…that is, if there’s any left,” he said with some apprehension.

Greg H made the drive from Chicago — first on Monday to join the Pub Club in person, then again on Saturday morning. Mr. H secured his place in line at 8 a.m. He intentionally traveled by himself in case he needed the passenger seat for beer. He wasn’t sure whether he was going to buy eighteen or twenty cases, and even tried to remove his back seats as an extra precaution. He said he’d even drive home with a case on his lap, if he needed to.

Mr. H joked sarcastically at first that he was going to “swim in it,” when asked what he intended to do with his No Rules. Then, as if he was trolling live, he said he was actually muling for friends, “going to keep forty bottles to drink out of a goblet with my name on it,” and then trade the rest.

Mr. H’s said he’d consider selling one bottle to the next person in line if in the scenario Mr. H happened to be the last guy to get any bottles. When asked what his thoughts were about anyone else who might miss out on the chance, he said, “Well, maybe if they didn’t stop on the way here this morning for breakfast or whatever they could’ve got in line before me.” I asked if that meant he was essentially giving everyone else the proverbial middle finger. He shrugged and said, “Yeah, pretty much.”

It’s to be noted that Greg H willingly agreed to have his full name published at the time of this interview. He was even advised, “You know I’m going to print this, right?” He acknowledged with approval. He has since reached out asking that we don’t publish his last name.

Mr. H’s smug humor was transparent, and his indifference for his fellow enthusiasts is disappointing. It’s precisely what the craft beer scene could use less of.

no rulesIn direct contrast to Mr. H, and contrary to what it may have looked like from afar, Stu Tingley, of Warren, and his friends, had a refreshingly positive attitude. By the time this story gets published, many will have already seen (and commented on) the photo circulating on the internet of their haul: twenty-four cases, stacked neatly in front of them and their SUV. That’s $5,215.51 in No Rules.

The first thing Tingley said, aware that he made his last name public, was, “Trust me, I’m not some mad man who’s trying to destroy his own life today.” His friend, Ben Rios, of Shelby, backed him up, “I promise, we’re not black market guys. It’s just that SO many people we know wanted a bottle.”

Tingley was serious in making clear that all 288 bottles were being divided among approximately fifty of their friends, and not being hoarded. He swore they were not marking up the price either. “Everyone is paying exactly $18 a bottle, that’s it,” he said.

Marc Alberda, of Hudsonville, might’ve been the most well-liked guy in line. This was his first beer release. He said, “I simply came out because of the buzz I’ve heard about the beer, and just wanted to have a good time.” Alberda got a hilarious round of applause from everyone in line as they watched a Perrin rep wheel out his beer on a hand truck. He bought one bottle.

no rules

The Perrin staff were a well-oiled machine. Whether it was Alberda’s modest bottle, the average guest’s few cases, or Tingley’s twenty-four case haul — the men and women of Perrin worked in sync to get as much beer out as possible, managing no limits with no problem.

“With so much hype this year, we can’t be anything but excited and anxious,” Klopcic said of the vibe among the staff leading up to the release. Angela, Perrin’s newest employee on the floor and seasoned server in the industry, wasn’t intimidated by the turnout. “I think it’s amazing. The energy in here right now is perfect,” she said.

No Rules bottles finally sold out minutes before 1 p.m. For anyone planning ahead, Perrin teased in their press release for the Boondoggle that there would likely be more bottles of No Rules in 2017. In the meantime, No Rules hit retail distribution March 28.

Party World and Rishi’s International Beverage both offered the relatively unconventional opportunity to call ahead and pre-reserve No Rules. Each bottle shop planned to receive a generous allocation, sharing a percentage of that at their discretion to those quick on the dial.

David Castor, manager at Party World, said they maxed out their list in about four hours. “Multiple cases were reserved by people out of state, who told me they were sending local proxies to pick them up,” he said.

Rishi, owner of Rishi’s International Beverage, said, “I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, that I wanted to do whatever I could to share the love with those who follow us on social media. Everyone who I talked to over the phone seemed genuinely excited to have the chance to get some bottles.” Rishi, who posted the offer on his store’s Facebook page, maxed out his reservations in two hours. Any bottles that Rishi’s receives over and above what was reserved in advance will be available first come, first serve.

In an effort to continue celebrating its release, Perrin also sent representatives to three stores on March 28 to autograph bottles of No Rules.

Bryan Bastow, Quality Control Specialist, and Anthony Parker, Shipping & Receiving, were to visit Rishi’s International Beverage.

Eamon McCarthy, Cellarman, and Charlee Weatherwax, Brand Manager, were to visit Party World.

Connor Klopcic, Assistant Brewer, was to visit Ric’s Food Center, in Rockford.

Please contact each store directly to inquire about whether any bottles of No Rules might still be on their shelves.

 

Photography: Steph Harding