What is funny is that after you've had all the best beers in the area you tend to abandon them. I remember from a few years ago I had taken a trip to San Diego. Julio (DocHopHead photographer) and I stumbled upon the Lost Abbey Brewery. We were totally blown away by the quality of their beers and forever after sought them out, or something of their caliber. I also knew that some of the top beers in the world were close by after doing my research (see my article, Bring the best beers back). Two of said beers were Pliny the Elder by Russian River and Trappist Rochefort 10, a Belgian Trappist.
Now, don't get me wrong, we had access to 5 of 7 of the Trappist beers in North Texas. I had tried them all, and they are excellent. But, the missing two were driving me bananas. One was Trappist Rochefort 10. It is considered one of the best beers in the world, and for good reason. The other was Wesvleteren 12. It is considered the best beer in the world, depending on which list you are perusing. I'm still searching for it, but I digress. Ultimately we found Trappist Rochefort 10 at an amazing beer store in San Diego. We actually had that one as well as the Rochefort 8 and 6. The 10 was quite amazing. After that I started searching for other places in the U.S. that carried the beer. Turns out it was being distributed to Oklahoma. I was actually planning a 3-4 hour trip up there just to get some. Shortly thereafter Trappist Rochefort 10, 8 and 6 started being distributed to Texas. The day that I found it at Central Market I grabbed an even dozen, just in case it was fleeting. It was spectacular drinking it here in my home town after seeking it out for so long. The distributors listened to the beer gods and they sent their bounty to North Texas! I could partake of this wonderful Trappist any time I wanted. But after awhile, as I mentioned above, I moved on. Yeah, it's a great beer, but the fun was in finding it. Now I haven't abandoned the Rochefort 10. I usually always have a few bottles in the cellar. But, I'm always looking for the next white whale. Well, after a while of finding the white whales wherever you travel, once again, you want something different.
There are, in most larger cities and towns (for the most part), brewpubs with a selection of beers that are available only on site and not for distribution. Texas is notorious for this. In Texas, by law, you can either sell your beers on site (ie: a gastropub) or you can distribute and be sold at retailers. You can't do both. So that means that if you want to sample everything, you're missing out by only going to the store shelves.
A fun and adventurous activity for the hophead is to find the local brewpubs and seek out their beers. I did mention that beer Advocate.com is my favorite go to resource for research. As it turns out these brewpubs are included in their searches. Fellow hopheads like yourself are the ones that populate the search engine in beer Advocate.com. They will rate and review the brewpub, their beers, their food, etc. There's a whole other world of beers out there to try. And if you're visiting a particular destination in the U.S., walking into a particular brewpub will be your only chance to try these rare gems. So, when in Rome...