The Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam, The Great Wall of China, the beer section at Jungle Jim's International Market. Marvels of human invention, each of them. The former three are all well and good, but it's the latter with which I'll concern myself for the time being. After all, this isn't "Grin and Build It."
As you may know, I typically review a particular beer or brewery in this segment, but I wanted to break from that today in order to tell you about a place that almost brought me to tears when I first experienced it for myself.
I first heard about Jungle Jim's from my parents, who had had occasion to visit with their friends for a one-off shopping trip. After the visit, I was regaled with stories of a grocery Xanadu, a place where you could have your fish caught and filleted in the store, where international and rare food sections stretched as far as the eye could see.
Hundreds upon hundreds of hot sauces flaunted their ability to burn your mouth...and other things. But the real draw for me was the legend of Jungle Jim's beer section, where bottles and cans (and just clap your hands) were stacked in aisles and rows and more aisles and more rows.
But my parents, whose malt beverage proclivities extend no further than Woodchuck and Sam Adams, really weren't able to convey the unfettered glory I discovered upon finally entering JJ's. You see, it wasn't just my parents; my kids had gone there too and left in awe of the bathrooms.
So it was that I finally put my foot down and made the trek to Cincinnati (we actually hit the Fairfield location, just north of the Queen City) to buy beer and mule it back across the border into the blue law-saddled confines of Indiana. Whatever images I had conjured in my mind about the size and scope of the the beer selection were quickly blown away like so much dandelion fuzz in a June breeze.
Sure, I had to navigate past some of the cheese section while tolerating the sideways glances brought on by my determined plodding. I'm sure it didn't help that I was foaming at the mouth as well. But soon enough, I stood before the Shangri La of suds, 4,000 different beers from around the globe stood in glittering towers of recyclable vessels of all shapes and sizes.
They had macros and micros, craft and crap, single-serves and kegs. International beers were divided by country of origin and domestic brews by region of the US. My head was spinning right off my shouldsters and I was nearly paralyzed by the sheer volume of options before me. It was wild like Gene Wilder, like being in a less creepy version of Willy Wonka's factory.
Quickly overcoming my paralysis, I began filling my cart with aplomb. In search of some unique options to round out my IPA challenge on StirSide, I grabbed Snake Dog, Citra Dog, and Bengal Lancer, among others. When it was all said and done, I think I ended up with as many IPAs as Todd O'Conner's had heart attacks.
Then I noticed their tasting area, where you can sample a variety of draft beers out of a plastic shot glass for a quarter apiece and even get growler fills. While bellying up to the bar, I noticed the familiar green-and-purple swirls of Three Floyds bottlecaps peeking out of their boxes. Jackpot!
So it was that I landed a bottle of Permanent Funeral to go along with the rest of my haul for the day. The only drawback to the trip was that both my funds and trunk space were limited; given an AMEX Black card and an 18-wheeler, I'm pretty sure I could leave satisfied.
Please do yourself a favor and make a trip to Jungle Jim's, and not just for the beer. It is truly an adventure in shopping and one that you'll not soon forget. And should you be able to get there in mid-June, you can even participate in their 9th Annual International Beer Fest, which looks to have quite a selection.
To stay up to date on the world of beer, and to find out more specifics about the selection at Jungle Jim's, you can follow @JunglesBeerGuy on Twitter.
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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Filed under: Craft Beer