Loyal to delicious craft beer or cheap convenience?

“Just because you sell beer doesn’t mean you drink it or know how to care for it.” — I feel like that has to be said.

Since opening our beer store 6-1/2 years ago, I’ve met many people who’ve come into my shop to check it out because they want to open a similar business and think “It’ll make good money.”

What may come as a surprise to you is that not all of these people love beer. They only see dollar signs. (A side note: It’s not a big money maker. Beer margins are low. I can think of a lot of other fun ways to go into debt.)

One fellow we talked to years ago branched into beer simply for the money — he doesn’t even like beer!

This lack of love is often shown in their treatment of beer. Unfortunately this isn’t always apparent to the customer. Their draft lines may be dirty. Cider and sour ales may share the same draft lines, resulting in cross-contamination issues. Kegs may be stored at room temperature. Beers may be placed in windows or stored directly under fluorescent lighting. Their passion isn’t for beer, it’s for the money they believe the beer will bring.

I know that most consumers aren’t loyalists. They’ll visit the retailer that’s most convenient, or who appears to offer the cheapest product. This is part of the society we live in.

Consumers don’t always consider care of product; likely it’s because this is ASSUMED! If a place is selling a product, they should make sure they’re keeping it delicious, assuring its quality for the consumer. But that’s not always the case…

A few days ago a customer stopped in to pickup a couple bottles of a limited release beer. He hadn’t been in for some time, and we both knew that he was still drinking beer regularly. He’s been regularly shopping for his beers elsewhere. Now, coming to my shop because this limited/rare beer wasn’t available at the place he’s frequenting.

I get it. Convenience and cheapness sometimes over-rule loyalty.

We were well-staffed that afternoon so I had some time to visit. He brought up in conversation that one of his favorite imperial IPAs was on draft for growler fills at this place he now frequents, “but it doesn’t taste right.” The new location? A former state liquor store, now privately run and bringing in craft beer simply to make more money. Do they flush their lines nightly? Do they do chemical washes periodically? Do they replace old draft lines? Probably not. A dis-service to craft beer, in my opinion. But they carry craft beer and offer growler fills in effort to operate a financially viable business. With the opening of large liquor chains, they weren’t able to remain competitive by only carrying liquor, so are have branched into craft beer and are now pulling some of my customers.

What’s weird: Even though the beer “doesn’t taste right,” he continues to support that business rather than drive an extra 10 minutes to get fresh bottles from me.

It’s a tough economy. Dollars that could be spent at a business who cares about beer are, instead, given to a place that doesn’t give a crap about the beer. But that’s the opinion of a small business owner who’s seeing support decline, so I may be a bit bias. However….

I’m in it for the love of beer, but I’ll only be here as long as customers continue to support.

I thanked him for stopping in; at least there are rare/limited bottles to bring him in occasionally.

I’d like to encourage all beer lovers to show your love and support to your local bottle shop, and drive the extra 10 minutes to patronage the small businesses of those who share your love of craft beer. To use your hard-earned money to support businesses who value their position as steward of beer while it’s under their care. The sloppy beer caretakers and billion-dollar liquor chains don’t need your support as much as the local business owners who pour their heart and soul into the love of beer.

To my regulars, thank you for your continued support. Thank you for talking my store up to your friends, for sharing the beers you buy with them, and for your lovely online reviews. Without you, my shop wouldn’t continue to exist. Peace and love to you.

One Response to Loyal to delicious craft beer or cheap convenience?

  1. Nitch says:

    All well, valid points, well written. In comment to people seeking cheaper prices and more connivance, as they say “you get what you pay for.” I feel like the beer culture movement is more focused on helping family owned establishments, with people who love and care for their work and less simply on getting heaps of IPAs at discount prices. Your true regulars are true beer culture citizens.

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