Feb 11, 2014

Dearest Beer Store, I Am Not A Child

If there's something that's been increasing over the years, it's craft brewers releasing more and more "limited" offerings.  The most coveted of which, at least in my area, has been Founders Brewing's vaunted annual release of KBS, their Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  There were stories during the 2013 release that the local distributor had to disguise their trucks, change their routes and make deliveries at odd times to throw off the the scent of nagging beer hunters.  How much of that is fact and how much is urban legend, I don't know...and I'm not sure I want to know.

Mention that level of hype and anticipation in front of a craft beer retailer and you're likely to get one of two reactions.  1) Yawn or  2) More hyperbole.  It's the second response that seems most prevalent lately and behind the perpetuation of many retailers' behavior that has gotten my panties all in a bunch.

How many times have you walked into your local, or worse yet a distant, beer store to 'hunt' for that elusive brew?  The latest limited release from your favorite craft brewer is due on shelves today.  You've driven all over your state, certain you were going to find that beer.  You just knew it, but you walked out of every store empty handed.  Why?

Well, the dirty little secret (if you didn't know already) is that many retailers never put that beer on the shelf.  It was kept "in the back" or "behind the counter".  You had to ask for it.  Not only that, you had to ask the right person for it.  The reasons I've been given for this practice are as varied as the colors of the rainbow.  None of which hold much water with me.

"We want to make sure it gets in the hands of true beer lovers."

"We don't want just anyone being able to buy this beer."

"We got a very limited supply and didn't want to move current stock off the shelf to make room for it."

"If you're not on the list you can't have a bottle."

"The beer manager says he's not selling any yet."

And so on, and so on.

These are all things I've heard said to others or have been told myself.

There's nothing I loathe more than having to find an employee, who refers me to the "beer manager", who I then have to ask if a particular beer is "in the back".  Why?  In what other retail situation am I begging to buy a product, hoping I pass muster?  Or live up to whatever standard you've set for someone worthy enough to buy this beer?

Have I been a victim of this practice?  Yes.  Often, and especially earlier in my beer hunting career.  Have I benefited from knowing what to ask for and who to ask?  Absolutely.  That doesn't make me feel any better, though.  I think equal, open access makes the most sense.

So...dearest beer retailer, please don't treat us like children.  We're not.  We're more and more sophisticated and educated than ever before.  We love beer.  Not games.  Don't keep the "good stuff" locked in your cabinets and out of our sight and reach.  Put it on the shelf.  Maybe in a special section if that makes you feel better.  Impose buying limits if you like (and most of you do).  That all seems reasonable to me.  But STOP making me beg for beer.  It's embarrassing...and it doesn't make you cool.

I've decided I won't chase beer or employees anymore.  I'm frequenting those stores less and less often, but if I find a "rare" one on the shelf, great!  If I don't, oh well.  I guess it went to someone more "worthy", and I guess either way they're making their buck.  So I won't expect any change anytime soon.