From the Other Side of the Counter

Featured Contributor: Jamie Tierney @jamietie89

Editors Note: Don Manfredi has published a response to this post Here.

You’ve been stalking the release of that limited, overpriced, one-time release of the hippest brewery of the month and have finally found a store that will be getting some bottles. You drive an hour, maybe more to this fabled super store hoping to get your hands on that bottle only to find that when you get to the counter, you’re given the run around. “Sold out” the clerk says. You get a glimpse of the bottle, possibly with a slip of paper taped to it with somebody’s name scribbled on it. Instead of shopping around or moving on and leaving quietly, you make a fuss. “Yeah right” you say, and start complaining about how stores like this are everything that’s wrong with the craft community. As upset as you are though, I’m here to add insult to injury and tell you you’re wrong. You’re what’s wrong with the craft community.


Okay, maybe that’s harsh. You probably are really upset that you traveled all this way in hopes of getting something really cool and rare only to not be sold one. But the reality of it is, you don’t deserve one of those bottles, not the beer itself, just one of the bottles that that store was given.

As the guy who makes these decisions as to who to sell to, I break a lot of hearts. But it’s not because I want to, it’s just because there’s a limited supply, and there’s people I have to look out for first. I’m not talking about myself or friends, hell I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to save myself a bottle of something only to end up selling it to make someone’s day. I’ve even disallowed employees from buying certain products to make sure I can fulfill customers needs. You may really want that beer, but so does the guy I see twice a week buying something else from that brewery’s product line. And that guys loyalty is much more important to me than some cherry picker looking to scoop up his bottle than complain about my store online about how I overcharged him.

The way the system works is like this. (For this example the brewery we’ll use is Founders, and the beer we’ll use is KBS since I had to deal with this recently). Founders will allocate cases of KBS to stores based on how much core/year round product that store sells. So, the guy (let’s call him Doug) who I see twice a week picking up Founders Centennial IPA, is one of the reasons I move so much Founders. When Doug asks if I could hold him some KBS when it comes in, I’d be a pretty big jerk if I was like, sorry Doug, I have to appease the truck chasers of the world. Don’t ya think? That’s why I get so fired up when a customer I’ve never seen before is trying to call me out for not selling him a bottle I’m holding for a great customer. It’s as if someone was trying to jump your best friend and take his wallet and you decided to help shake your friend down for every dime.

This doesn’t mean I won’t sell it to someone I’ve never seen before. In fact it’s a great way to gain customers when you take care of them for the first time. But if you’re coming off as someone who’s gonna get all they’ll allow and only coming back when the next whale is available, I’ll probably just lie to you and say we sold out. Not lying just to lie, just to spare everyone’s feelings involved. So if you want to be on the elite list of a store who’s nice enough to hold bottles for people, here’s what I suggest.

The store you heard that’s getting said bottle, probably moves through a lot of beer, which means they probably have fresher product than most, and probably have a nicer selection than most. Also the guy who’s making these beer decisions definitely has a good bit of knowledge (you’ll probably hate to admit it since you’ve tried the top 25 beers on Beeradvocates Top 250) but it’s this guy’s job to hand sell expensive products of stuff a lot of people have never heard of before. Because of that, he probably knows of some sleepers you’ve been passing up your whole beer career. If the products “gone” ask the person in charge of it what he suggests, browse around, you’ll probably find a lot of other cool stuff on the shelves that you should probably try. You’ll also probably find that this store has fresher and better selection than the store that’s a bit closer to you, so make an effort to support it and soon enough I’m sure the guy behind the counter will keep you in mind when the time comes.

I know not all stores operate this way but it’s the way I run mine to keep my best supporters happy. The first year we received KBS we literally got one case. 24 bottles, 1000 people looking. I was overwhelmed so I asked my Founders Rep how to handle the release. He simply said “We use it as a thank you to our best customers, I suggest you do the same” So just remember when the guy behind counter denies you a sale, he’s not out to get you, he’s just looking out for longer lasting relationships he’s built and wants to keep building with other people in the craft community looking to share rather than hoard.

Jamie Tierney’s Bio:

Beer guy at Gerard’s – Collector of fine Jerry beads – I like cats obviously

Latest posts by Jamie Tierney (see all)

39 thoughts on “From the Other Side of the Counter”

  1. I had a great experience recently with KBS. My local spot (which I go to weekly). They announced to their loyal customers via FB messenger that they were releasing KBS on Wed at 5pm – limit 1 bottle. I was not going to be able to make it there and they told me since the supply was low they couldn’t hold any. I wasn’t able to get there because of work so I figured I was out of luck. I stopped in the following week and he handed me a bottle of KBS and even sold one to a friend I had brought with me. He knows that I am always talking him up to my friends and I am loyal to him so he took care of me. I have no doubt that there wasn’t a bottle with my name on it but rather a small supply they kept aside for regulars. Bottom line is he took care of me and I will be even more loyal going forward.

    I am sure this makes it hard or the casual beer shopper. I have been on the other end where I drive around town and try to get a bottle of something rare to be told it was sold out. It’s just how it goes but I will stick to my local shop and then hunt when h can’t get me the latest release.

  2. As an ex manager and buyer of two specialist beer store in Vancouver BC I largely agree with the author. What I would do is email everyone on the alert list beforehand and limit each purchase to one or two bottles to stop the bulk purchases or greedy! I also will put a few aside for anyone who calls up or regular customers that I know personally and give them a call to ask if they want one. Loyal regulars who support the business week in week out and sign up for our Email alerts will always get a heads up before a casual customer.

    The breweries reward good stores and bars with special releases for loyalty year round and stocking core ranges. We pass that loyalty in to loyal customers ! Simple. But… All retail and hospitality staff should explain this to new customers politely and in a friendly way, never making them feel like a second class citizen or rubbing their nose in it! I offer to put them on the email alert list or guide them to the Twitter account where they can get quick information

  3. If you have ‘sold out’, either literally or not, you take the stock off the shelves. It’s rude to display what you can’t sell.

    It doesn’t matter if you are rewarding loyal customers or not. You are rubbing your other customers face in the fact that, yes, you have a beer but, no, YOU can’t buy it.

  4. Elliot you are a boob, you people just don’t get it. If I get 24 beers and 100 people want it, it is not first come first served, there will always be someone else, preferably a person we see on a weekly basis. If you drive an hour and purchase many items and I never saw you before I would gladly sell whatever allocated items we have. Oh and by the way nice beard. And charlzm that is a poor analogy with the record store it does not relate in any way at all.

  5. Here’s my scenario: I have been into craft beer since the year 2000. I have been involved with homebrewing for over a decade. However, I don’t drink a huge volume of beer, and a lot of what I do drink is on draft at bars and/or restaurants. I don’t drink every day. I’m not one of those guys that buys a six pack of a “shelf beer” every week at the local liquor store.

    What I do have is a couple of refrigerators in my garage that hold my “cellar”. I tend to prefer big boozy beers that will age well, so that’s what I have in there. I’m not a hoarder, either; you won’t find more than two or three of any beer in there, and far more likely, you will see one bottle. I also do not trade beer, nor do I join societies or purchase clubs at breweries. I just love beer and dislike the b.s. that seems to have sprung up around limited releases in the last decade or so.

    So, by the logic of this article, I don’t deserve that rare beer that I’d like to try.

    And that’s why you’ll ever only see me in your store that one time, looking for the limited release. You throw me some shade and you have kept me from ever being a customer ever again. And that’s cool with both of us; you don’t want my “kind” and I have no use for a store that plays favorites.

    1. Comments like yours are reading articles like this one, forgetting that everything in it is covered in generalities. If I was going to write an article covering every scenario it would most likely be never ending but I guess to make things clearer next time I will. There’s plenty of guys who are in your same scenario cahrlzm who I save bottles for, again, the scenario used in the article represents the majority to save time and space. Customers whose outlook on outcomes of events is constantly negative, I’m unlikely to save bottles for as the culture we’re trying to build is supposed to be a fun one.

      1. I have no clear idea of what you’re trying to say with your reply, sorry. It does seem a bit defensive, though, so maybe I touched a nerve?

        I used to manage an indie record store throughout the 90’s. We had our regulars and I would hold special stuff for them, knowing they’d appreciate it. However, I never held anything for a potential customer behind the counter that an actual customer standing at the counter asked for. It was a business and it existed to make money for the owner. There was enough traffic that we didn’t have to court people to earn repeat business.

        We had our version of truck chasers, too: the people that wanted to know when we put new releases and used CDs and vinyl in the bins so they would get first pick. I had no problem with these people, because they bought stuff.

        When a person I hadn’t seen before would come in and ask for something rare or hard to find, this is when the analogy breaks down. Unlike in the world of beer, I could usually order what they wanted or, if not, make a “hold for” card to remind me to call him/her if that piece ever came in.

        I’ve been behind the counter in retail; it was my career from age 17 until 45. I finally had enough (not the customers, but the B.S. of the companies I worked for and the desire to find a more fulfilling career). So I feel I”m qualified to talk about customer service.

        Telling customers they are what is wrong with the industry reveals to me someone who actually doesn’t enjoy at least part of what he does. Perhaps you, Jamie, may want to consider how fulfilling this job is for you personally? If you truly believe that people who want to give you money are what is wrong with a business, then there’s an opportunity here for reflection.

        1. Not all customers, really I wrote the piece as a rant complaining about very small sector of the craft community that exists. I didn’t know the reach this blog had, if I did I would’ve been a bit clearer. I love what I do but there are people in the community who bash people in the position I’m in when we tell them we’re out of something. They then go snooping around, see a bottle behind the counter, and complain I won’t sell that one to them when it’s being reserved for “Doug”

    2. It’s the whale hunters and truck chasers that are the problem. In Phoenix we used to be able to buy Cantillon at a number of fine beer stores, now they can’t get them because the distributor will only sell to places that are on premise only at a ridiculous marked up price. The distributor went to this policy after a handful of truck chasers followed him around buying up all the Cantillon the second it was delivered to the beer stores and pissed off pretty much the entire beer community. Whale chasers do not keep the local beer stores in business and have no loyalty whatsoever. I have no problem with local stores only selling rare beers to their loyal customers. I certainly agree with the author, whale hunters are what is wrong with craft beer.

  6. Jamie I agree with your article 100%.

    Having worked in many bottleshops myself I always looked after my regulars – they’re the ones that keep the business running. Forget about the whale-hunters – if they want that bottle of KBS so badly they’ll get it one day, and pay a premium, as they should.

    Doc (aka doktorhops on BeerAdvocate)

  7. What if you like stouts only, and you don’t want to drink the same beer over and over? Would you save KBS for a customer that buys a variety of stouts from you a lot and KBS is their favorite?

  8. Amen. This is how it is. And it’s not easy telling people “no,” but seriously, you have to take care of those that take care of your business. Well written!

  9. The actual problem here is the egalitarian nature of rare craft beers. If the laws of supply and demand were allowed to be applied, KBS would be about 40 dollars a bottle. At that price, you would have as many buyers as you have product. Wine collectors already know how this works. No one chases wine delivery trucks. If you want a bottle of Krug, it is available whenever you have $180 for a bottle. Enjoy the days of debating truck-chasers vs. loyal regulars. Already certain ultra-rare craft brews are fetching $100+ per bottle on the secondary market. That will only grow going forward.

  10. Good article. I can work at a little beer store and can totally relate. It also feels awesome to take care of the regulars!

  11. Aren’t you doing your ‘best customers’ a disservice by selling them an inferior and overhyped product at $5-$6/bottle (minimum)? For a beer manager who apparently knows a lot about the product you are selling, one would think you would steer your ‘best customers’ to something less hyped and just as good. Just because someone buys a ton of Centennial IPA does not automatically mean he/she likes KBS. Just because it’s limited doesn’t mean it’s worth holding back.

    1. Completely disagree. He never said he holds back KBS for every customer that regularly buys Centennial (or All Day, or Porter, or Dirty Bastard). He said that one customer IN PARTICULAR asked if some could be held back. It’s possible that this customer has never had it, or has had it many times before. For all we know, it’s this customer’s favorite beer and he/she can’t wait for it to come out every year. Who, in their right mind, would dissuade one of their faithful customers from buying something THEY ASKED FOR. Doing so would come off as arrogant and insinuate that the customer’s tastes and opinions about beer are “incorrect”. Instead, gladly sell said customer the beer he/she wants, and open a dialogue about other great beers hitting the shelves. Chances are, if they’re willing to spend $5-$6 on something they wanted, they will be willing to also spend less on other hidden gems.

    2. Bro, you just sound like one of those cry baby people who do chase trucks. In fact KBS is sold for 20 dollars a 4 pack at Founders for the release on KBS week. So know your information before opening your mouth and if you can’t do math that means KBS can go for 5 bucks a bottle.

  12. The real lesson here is don’t drive an hour or more to chase an elusive status beer. Follow the advice in the column and go to your local store and ask the expert. Maybe you’ll get lucky and hit on the next big thing and be able to enjoy it a little before the masses find it and ruin it for everyone (I’m looking at you Maine Beer Company’s Dinner and Foundation Epiphany).

  13. Elliot, you seem like a whiny hipster brat. “Ultra rare beers” are a commodity and people who frequent smaller establishments and actually get to know the owners should have an “in” for getting these beers ahead of the whiny truck chasers like yourself. Just because you sit around and call every shop at all hours of the day to find out when exactly the truck arrives, race through 25 mph school zones while thinking of how you will post your newly found rare beer on instagram with your hipster friends doesn’t make you any cooler. How about getting to know your local stores, and not just to use that as an opportunity to mooch rare beers. It’s people like you, the narcissistic faux trendy hipster which gives craft beer a bad name. Stick to the non-craft stuff, kid. It’s all your brain can handle.

  14. Sorry my friend, but it is you as the shopkeeper who must earn my business. I’m not interested in earning the privilege of buying anything from you, I’ll simply buy elsewhere. And there’s ALWAYS an elsewhere…

    1. Jeff, business works best when both parties gain from the transaction. If I sold you one of the highly sought after brews instead of taking care of a deserving customer, I’d feel terrible. I think a lot of shop keepers probably encourage you to buy elsewhere. That’s the point of the article.

  15. No, this kind of behavior out of retailers is what’s wrong. You don’t choose who you sell to. Unless someone legitimately came in ahead of time and asked for one to be reserved and maybe even put a few bucks down ahead of time to secure it, nobody should be allowed to restrict sale. Someone comes in, has the cash or a valid credit card, *you sell it to them*. There’s no speculation as to whether this customer “deserves it”. That’s a big reason there’s this disdain from the non craft drinkers about craft beer. It’s not as much the snootiness of what crazy flavor beer you’re drinking, it’s that you have to be all high and mighty when someone deems you worthy of buying a (usually intentionally) ultra rare beer. It’s like you’re being given some kind of honor. In the end it’s just a bottle of beer and not worth obscene prices and run around from middleman retailers.

    It’s one thing to reward your regulars, and you do that by offering discounts or something, not secret sales of rare stuff. You want more regulars? Stop acting like you’re this secret society where you have to prove something to the guy at the counter to get good beer. Otherwise you’re just pissing people off.

    1. You posted the same comment on reddit and it was the most downvoted comment in the entire thread.

      You’re just butthurt because you’ve been one of the those truck chasers that got denied their precious whale. If I knew you personally, I’d never sell you any of my allocated beers.

    2. Disagree with Elliott.

      Business is business, sell to who you choose. And if the guy who supports your ability to move a brewer’s product is the guy that you reserve the rarity for, so be it. Elliott just chose to read too much into this post, rather than acknowledging the points made. I can’t stand people that are beer snobs just for the sake of pretentiousness, but this is not one of those cases.

    3. I allready have or allready had everything in your shitty little store and i allready had everything from the line up . just because i hit up 20 stores in a rotation and you dont remember me thats my fault ? im here . sell me it .

      1. I would never sell a —– thing to you ,you strike me as an arrogant truck chasing doughbag . It’s selfish pigs like you that ruin it for others

    4. Hi Elliot – That’s sounds all fair and mighty but if I have a loyal buyer who supports everything I stock and not just whale hunting, you bet your ass I’m going to supply him with “limited” brands.

      I get it from distribution. You support a brand you get rewarded certain items. If not you’d have a store full of expired beer. It’s always a give and take sir. Do I always get those “limited” labels? No I don’t. Do I get upset? Damn straight I do. Guess what though? There’s always something new the next week!

      I pioneer brands – They come and go just like the whale hunters.


    5. Youre way off Elliot. Why should someone who has never supported my local store get to drive up on the weekend and buy out the limited releases? Should I be shit out of luck because I couldn’t get off work to truck chase at noon? Entitled assholes who push around store employees and raid Walgreens are the problem, not stores that take care of their regulars.

    6. Nope, you’re just wrong. Limiteds ARE for rewarding our best customers. Who cares about the ‘customer’ that you never ever see again? Regulars rely on us, and we them. The one night stands don’t earn any loyalty.

    7. No, as a business owner its 100% his decision who he does and does not sell to.

    8. When everyone feels entitled to anything, from beer to shoes, that attitude is what destroys small business. In this case the brewer has to make more for me! And the store has to carry more for me! Oh and I’m not paying that price for it! So then the big box retailers that spend a ton on the regular line of beers would then be entitled to more allocation of rare beer. HOORAY!! Walmart’s got it on sale for that low low price! Gag.

      Limited releases are, by nature, limited. And they should be limited to the guy/gal that stands by that brand and store day in and day out. Chances are “Doug” won’t turn around and sell it off at a profit because he’s drinking everything from Founders. The ISO:FT people gobble up as much as they can to trade! That’s crazy.

      Beer is meant to be enjoyed and fussed over while drinking it. If you like a particular whale, you might want to spend a couple bucks at your local store and enjoy all the other beer that talented brewer is making, because you might find something you like, and you’ll support the business that’s selling it.

    9. Actaully that’s what it means, as a retailer I can sell to whoever I damn well please, and that’s regulars, not cherry pickers. If you want the limited allocated stuff then become a regular shopper of that store.

    10. Elliot has obviously been shut down in the past, and based on the emotion in his post, I’m guessing he probably made a scene and acted like an ass. I’m also going to assume this is what he typically does any time he doesn’t get his way.

      If reserving rare beer is the only way we can reward good respectable customers who don’t try to cause a scene to get everything they feel they are entitled to, then I say keep it up! Good customers deserve it, and anyone working in sales or retail will agree.

      1. I own a sporting goods retail store, yes we reward good customers, ones we see all the time who buy their equipment from us. Broke an ice skate, we’ll fix it right on the spot. Never bought anything from us before, yes sir we’ll have it for you in a week. Customers do not understand loyalty.

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