Featured Contributor: Jamie Tierney @
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