First, a very brief introduction:
My name is Steve and I am going to be writing for this site from time to time. I am a self-described beer geek and home brewer who is still a young pup at 24. I have no prior ties to Cincinnati, so I think I may be able to present an outsiders perspective on beer in the area. I hope to provide a fairly straightforward opinion about the local beer scene and give both praise and criticism where deserved, all while promoting you to imbibe in more craft beer.
Now that that part is over, time for my first post.
How To Fix Beer Releases
As craft beer in general continues to grow like wildfire, the beer releases from breweries have turned into a certifiable shit show. KBS, a beer that just a couple years ago was fairly easy to obtain in Ohio, came and went from beer stores in a matter of hours.
The current situation leaves more people empty handed than ever before, and while there is no ideal way to distribute 100 bottles of beer to 1,000 people that want them, many bottle shops make the situation worse by the way they release the beer. I am here to highlight the right and wrong ways (according to yours truly!) that a place chooses to release beer. And now we will have a public service announcement to all beer stores in Cincinnati…
We will start with the WRONG ways to release bottles:
1) Reservations/Lists– There are many reasons why this does not work well. For starters, the majority of stores have no idea how many (or if they will get any at all) bottles will be in their allotment. Also, places that do this don’t tend to publicize that they do it, so many people could get screwed out of innocent ignorance.
2) Best Customers Only– To me, this is basically the worst method possible. In theory, this is a great idea. Reward those people that come regularly. In practicality, it is borderline impossible to know how frequently someone shops at a store, so what happens is the owner ends up reserving the bottles for his buddies and making good customers mad.
Here’s a quick aside: I was searching for CBS at a bottle shop that will remain unnamed. I shopped at this store on average 2-3x per month since I moved here and spent what I would classify as a good amount of money per trip. I asked the guy working about how they were releasing CBS, and he said that it was reserved for only their best customers, like all of their releases. I asked them how he classified “best customers” and he said trust me, he knows. I have not set foot in that store since.
3) Release Bottles When They Arrive– Another one that seems innocent enough on the surface, but in practicality it fails. The reason? It means that anyone who works normal people hours can never get bottles. Since beer costs a lot of money, and the majority of people work normal people hours, I am going to go ahead and extrapolate that this includes the majority of the craft beer population. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if there was some advanced notice, but since beer stores don’t know what day the bottles are going to come in and what time their deliveries arrive, it is near impossible to take time out of a working day to take a trip to a store.
And now onto the RIGHT ways! If your bottle shop currently does one of these methods, give yourself a round of applause.
1) Random Lottery– I know it’s not ideal, and I know it means sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but hear me out. Every time you make a purchase at a beer store for one month prior you get one ticket in the lottery. This process is announced in a newsletter that goes out to current customers, and you MUST ASK to be placed in the lottery when you make your purchase. By doing this, everyone that wants a chance at the bottles gets a fair and equal chance, plain and simple. It will also allow new customers to try these bottles from time to time rather than the same guys over and over.
2) Serve the Beers On Premises– This is not a legal option for everyone, but for those that it is, it makes way more sense to get many pours out of a bottle and let more people try it. Plus it eliminates the eBay selling.
3) Release the Bottles At a Predetermined Time- Tell everyone in advance when you will release the beer. Ideally, it would be a weekend morning. This way, people with 9-5 jobs are not left out, and everyone has a fair heads up to get the bottles. There is no loss to the store for holding the bottles for another week since they are going to sell out in an hour anyways.
So there you have it; the three Dos and Don’ts of bottle releases. I am sure there are those that disagree with these, so fire away in the comments below!
2 thoughts on “The Three Dos and Don’ts of Beer Releases”
A simple notification system would be awesome as well. Either from the distributors or the stores. An example of this is the Dogfish Head 75 minute IPA. I saw Dogfish Head make an announcement that it was going out to distributors, then I didn’t hear anything else until it was too late and every store was sold out.
Twitter, e-mail, postings on a blog. Any one of these are simple to do these days. It’s still not very fair because the whole working hours thing, and seeing the notification in time to get one of the few bottles they have. But it’s better than the crap shoot most stores seem to employ.
Tom, I could not agree more. Twitter is the perfect medium for announcements, yet stores barely use it (if at all). The best part is, the majority of store workers get annoyed when you call to ask because they probably get 100 calls a day about the same thing. Social Media would prevent that from happening.