The Will o’ the Wisp: Hunter Coffee Vertical Series 001.

This vignette takes place in early 2014. 18th Street Brewing in Gary, Indiana was and is the unending now. Glorious concoctions flow and continuously channel from unholy boiling cauldrons on high.

As the ancient scrolls displayed, the first of an eight part vertical series of Hunter – a double milk stout base beer, was to be a coffee variant. Bombers were the rage and I had no qualms.

Grindhouse Café in Griffith assisted in a cupping to help establish the best, most upright roast to utilize in the collaboration. The cadre of cloaked monks ended on Red Line Espresso beans from Metropolis Coffee Company in Edgewater. My favorite coffee roastery at the time.

Hunter Coffee Milk Stout was born of the afterbirth of a bitter lovechild. Recipe fashioned at Spiteful but each bottle was hand-capped and hand-labeled in the 18th Street Gary facility. Dazzling cover art in hieroglyphics through arrows under the All Seeing Eye.

Serpents embracing infinity and sandstone tones.

Each bottle was stored in a small burlap sack to honor the tradition of green coffee being shipped in such bags in order for air to flow since coffee beans are so sensitive to moisture.

Each adopted amber vessel came with a hand-stamped tag, a string looped about the neck to harness the beast to a hand-numbered designation. Tied for eternity.

Roasted chocolate malt to pair with a massively bodied coffee bean…bitterness offset in a brawl with lactose sugar and cacao nibs, all in a tulip glass. A fishbowl for the world to ponder from the outskirts. The unfiltered colostrum of a rabid and demonic cephalopod.

Pitch black, opaque. Roasted cocoa on the nose – it was my dad spilling his coffee on my chocolate birthday cake and I ain’t even mad about it because I got my Megatron gun and my Bigfoot Tonka truck.

I had to work late on the day of the Hunter Coffee bottle release. In fact I couldn’t even make my way over to the Gary taproom until after they had closed. But I decided to go anyway. Hey, maybe a door would be propped open that I could just saunter though by accident. This is the genesis of all Beeracles, mind you.

When I pulled in to the parking lot I saw the “closed” taproom was full of people. At this point I can’t remember how I knew, but I had learned that it was an invite-only party event for Drew Fox’s friends. Influencers, industry tycoons and beer deities. The Overlord himself had closed the rusty hatches and locked the iron gates.

I got back in my vehicle. A little bit dejected, but honestly I knew the odds from the get-go. I was not to obtain a bottle of Coffee Hunter Vertical Series 01.

I draped myself in sackclothe and rubbed my face with ashes. As my tires began to grind over gravel, moving from the train tracks in that awkward wedge of a parking lot, I saw a familiar face. It was Metal Gregg who tended bar at 3Floyds in Munster.

During this era of my life, lets just say I spent most of my time at the 3Floyds bar sipping barrel aged Robert the Bruce, Moloko, Black Sun Stout and Zombie Dust fresh as a daisy, still hazy from the brite tanks. I conversed with Gregg pretty regularly I might say.

Complain however you will about the crowds that gathered at 3Floyds taproom. But show up on a Tuesday at 11am and belly up solo to the bar? It was just you, the bartender, some other guy visiting from, like, Baltimore, and fun conversation, pal.

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I caught Gregg’s eye in that Gary parking lot and just like at every other place, all over the City of Chicago I’ve seen him, we had a glowing know. One time we hugged at Sportsmans Club because, well, that is what happens there.

What occurred next would be so powerful; so compelling, he would share the story himself on a podcast six years later, while sipping the very same beer released that indomitable night.

Before I could finish articulating the immutable dusk of being late and missing the stout release, he pulled out a bottle of Coffee Hunter.

He raised it heavenward to eclipse the neon strawberry moon like a shimmering Sword of Excalibur. Sheathed in its glorious burlap, he entrusted me with the coruscating potion. As nocturnal insects croaked, fireflies lit the night sky, black as the Hunter itself.

Under the buzzing red Miller Pizza Company sign, I felt the power surge as the bottle of Hunter Coffee Milk Stout shifted owners.

Like the flame witch, our friendship became as the Will o’ the Wisp, hovering overhead in a halo of energy. Pulsating orbs and translucent apparitions gathered and looked on, cheers’ing and singing in low, moaning vibrato as we forged a bond under magic. A bond to transcend ages.

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