How a Hard-to-Find Beer Like Dogfish Head's Sah'Tea Really Winds Up on Local Taps

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Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM
click to enlarge Emily Ford calculating her bar tab - JGARBEE
  • Jgarbee
  • Emily Ford calculating her bar tab

Much as we like to imagine that our favorite beer purveyors like Ford's Filling Station have spent weeks begging, pleading and, sure, bribing distributors with platters of Ben Ford's pork chile verde with crispy pig ears for those coveted, rarely sighted kegs, sometimes it's just a matter of luck that five (five!) kegs of Dogfish Head Sah'Tea recently landed in the Culver City restaurant's cold storage room.

Only "lucky" wasn't exactly what the restaurant's co-owner, Emily Ford, was feeling when she saw the bottom-line invoice proof that she had indeed landed her distributor's entire supply of Sah'Tea.

Ford says she has been trying to keep that penchant for pilsner that Katie Bell, the restaurant's former manager, had instilled (Bell, who recently moved to New York, was one of the younger generation of staffers behind the restaurant's microbrew convergence). "She was just so good at it," Ford says. And so when the restaurant's distributor called and said Ford had to taste his stash of Sah'Tea, a beer that begins over a few smoldering rocks (literally) and ends with a spicy Chai tea-inspired finish, she obliged.

click to enlarge A Sah'Tea Zen moment - FLICKR USER MITCHANCONA
  • flickr user mitchancona
  • A Sah'Tea Zen moment

"So I'm tasting this beer, and I'm thinking sure, I'll just taste it ... I mean, it's 8 o'clock in the morning," recalls Ford, laughing. "I take a sip, and it's like no other beer I've ever had before, all of these flavors and spices that keep going on and on. ... I couldn't believe it. I called my distributor and said, 'Give me all of it.'

"The Sah'Tea was so good, I didn't even ask what the price [per keg] was," she continues. "I never do that." Herein lies the customer debit card catch, as most beers on tap at Ford's Filling station are $7 a pint (recently: Avery White Rascal, Stone Smoked Porter, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, North Coast Scrimshaw Porter), a price-per-pint number that Ford says is always on the back of her mind. When she heard the price of the Sah'Tea, Ford says she called her distributor back to return the kegs. "I said, 'I'm sorry, I know I said I'd take this, but I just can't sell a beer for more than $10 a pint,'" she says, referring to the keg's high price.

There's a happy tea leaf ending here, as Ford's distributor offered her a deal, and the first of those first Sah'Tea kegs were tapped this week. Lucky us.

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