Learning About Beer Allocations (AKA 5 Steps to Buying Zombie Dust)

Zombie Dust, KBS, Beer Allocations

Edit 4 years later: Some of this info is slightly out of date, like Ohio’s ABV cap, but the vast majority is still highly relevant.

When I talked to bottle shop and bar owners about my series on the 3 tier system one of their concerns and challenges was dealing with beer allocations. Each store generally only gets so much of each beer. Craft breweries are just too popular and too small to fulfill every demand for their beer in every store in every state. So read on to learn more about beer allocations and, most importantly, for the master magician (that’s me) to reveal his secrets on getting those rarer beers!

Zombie Dust, KBS, Beer Allocations
Safety First!

Beer Allocations

The first thing that everyone needs to understand is that you likely can’t buy the rare beer you’re after in your state. Of the top 10 biggest craft breweries only 2 of them are in all 50 states, Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) and Sierra Nevada. Ohio has just become New Belgium’s 35th state, someone as seemingly large as Dogfish Head is only in about half the states and Three Floyds in just 5 states. Seek A Brew is a great way to check this out. That said don’t start bugging your local better bottle shop in Florida for Zombie Dust and us Ohioan’s won’t bug our stores for Cigar City Jai Alai.

Even if you do get a brewery like Dogfish Head in your state there may be some archaic asinine laws regarding ABV limits that prevent beers like 120 Minute IPA from being sold in your state (Ohio caps at 12% ABV). Then if you are one of the lucky 5 states who get Three Floyds you need to know many of their beers are in such limited quantities that stores likely get only 1 case of each beer if they’re lucky. Further, many of these beers are not made all the time like 120 is only made once or twice a year and Zombie Dust seems to be about every 3 months. Once the case of Zombie Dust actually gets to the store headaches begin for the store owners.

When I talked to store owners about beer allocations they almost all sighed in an exhausted and frustrated fashion. Some customers are used to seeing pallets of Budweiser stacked in the middle of a grocery store in the shape of a race car and on some level expect Zombie Dust to be the same. Other folks think they should be able to walk up and pull a 6er of Zombie Dust right off the shelf. I’ve never personally seen that happen even in Indiana close to the brewery. Then you’ve got folks who think that since their cousin’s uncle’s son told them that this store had Zombie Dust they should be able to buy a 6 pack, even though they’ve never been to that store once before.

All these things frustrate store owners. they all want to be able to sell everyone something like Zombie Dust but can’t due to the limited beer allocations. What little they get they have to balance between old, repeat customers and the chance of scoring a new customer for life. How can you know if this person drove down the street on the day you happened to get something rare or if they followed a delivery truck across town and will never come back again? The bottom line store owners said was the more you get in there buying your weekly six-pack of PsycHOPathy the more likely they are to tell you that there’s a bottle or two of Zombie Dust available if you want it.

Behind the Magic Curtain

Why am I revealing my secrets? Simply put I’ve bought, drank, and traded Zombie Dust enough times that I feel bad that other people haven’t had it. The following applies to Zombie Dust and a number of other rarer beers that are available for sale in the greater Cincinnati area but stay to stores back rooms and don’t see store shelves.

  1. Shop at the same one or two places frequently for your standards
  2. Talk up the clerk, owners, anyone you can about beer
  3. Follow them on email, Facebook, Twitter, every service they use
  4. Repeat steps one and two for weeks, months, however long it takes
  5. Buy Zombie Dust, KBS, CBS whatever

That’s a general outline that can apply to any store in any city or state, but our loyal Cincinnati readers may want some firmer guidance which I am happy to supply:

  • Join The Party Source email list (make sure to check the box for beer)  – The Party Source has been great about what is being released when and they don’t hold too much back. Everyone on that email list knew Bourbon County Brand Stout was going on sale on Black Friday at 9 am.
  • Follow Cappy’s Wine & Spirits on Twitter for awesome tweets like the below

I promise that if you follow these folks and stick to my 5 guidelines above you will, sooner or later, find your hands holding a delicious bottle of harder to get beer like Zombie Dust!

8 thoughts on “Learning About Beer Allocations (AKA 5 Steps to Buying Zombie Dust)”

  1. I sampled my 1st FFF beer at the FFF Brewpub after failing to obtain Gumballhead for 2 months. I finally looked up the brewery and realized I lived less than an hour away. While I waited for a few cases of Gumballhead to be brought out an employee made small talk w/ me and suggested I try Zombie Dust the next time they have it on tap… And so my eternal hunt for the elusive Zombie Dust 6-pack began… I have def learned to build rapport w/ the owners of stores where I’ve found it. I’ve noticed many store owners only put our one 6-pack at a time and lie about having any more so as to keep patrons such as myself from buying their entire stock all at once. I have earned the right to purchase more than usually allowed by making friends and being loyal.


  2. I just went up there last night with my gf and bought 2 cases each of ZD and got the scoop from one of brew guys there. Basically, if you want it, it’s brewed on Mondays usually, and made available for carryout between Tues PM and Wed morn. It lasts about 1.5-2 days, so forget about getting any past a couple hours of opening on Fridays, if then. Their website is in real time, and they pull it from the to go page when they’re down to 1 pallet. If you’re close and see it disappear, you may still be in luck. It may as well be an endangered species around Indy, where I live. Once in a while, I’ll see it at my neighborhood liquor store, but even then, you’re limited to a sixer and they only get a case or 2 if that, of which the store employees help themselves to several. Good Luck!


      1. Try different liquor stores . They only sell it by 1 bottle 2 bottles or if you get lucky a six pack . A few places have it in Indy bars but I am not sure where . I am going to be letting mine go for Christmas .


  3. The best thing to do is to find the store in your town with the best selection (we have an awesome liquor store here) and like he said, talk to the people there and most importantly BUY product that proves your interest. If you build a relationship with the people there, talk “shop” with them and buy from them on a regular basis they’re going to let you know when there’s something interesting in the back and they’ll be much more willing to hold things for you and help you find stuff.


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