Envision a store that treats beer like what it is- a perishable item that must be consumed at its peak of freshness, no different than produce, meat, or dairy products (minus the food-borne illness risks). Every item for sale in this store requires the producer to display the packaged-on date.
Just like at the grocery store, the most age-sensitive products are kept in coolers around the periphery- in this case the Pales Ales, IPA’s, and other beers that rely on fragile hop oils for flavor and aroma. No more breweries jockeying for sovereign shelf real estate through schwag and more nefarious means- these beers are grouped in coolers by packaged date: <30 days, <60 days, <90 days. Beyond 90 days these beers are relegated to a separate section of the store, where customers pay the discounted rates due of products past their best.
In the center of the store sit the beers that age with a little more dignity- the malty Stouts, Scotch Ales, styles of the Belgian persuasion. These too, on a more case-by-case basis, are sent to the discount shelf when the time is right. This decision is made by the proprietor, who cares about freshness as much as his most ardent consumer, and who instills this belief in his educated staff.
At the back of the store you’ll find a hanging beaded threshold that evokes the adult annex of late 1900’s VHS rental establishments. This section is filled with the small number of beers that improve, or at least change, with time in the bottle: big boozy Barleywines in need of mellowing, farmhouse styles with Brett munching away happily as the days click by, rich Imperial Stouts who’s high ABV’s serve as a buffer to the inevitable aging process. These are for the collectors, the traders, the aficionados, the tickers, who should rightly expect to pay extra to cover the time and cost the store undertakes through a proper cellaring program.
Make your way to the register and the growler filling station, with a digital board reflecting both kegged-on and tapped-on dates for a variety of local beers and a few national brands. The station boasts a state-of-the-art growler filler that purges the container of oxygen and maximizes quality and shelf life of the brew.
The US brewery count climbs past 2,500. Do we need another? On a macro level, perhaps not. But for those who wish to innovate, fill a niche, or relieve a consumer pain point, there will always be room for a good idea executed properly. It is the same with bottleshops. There are many who want to take a love of beer and brewing and make it a career, but we’ve no need for another place to grab a sixer just like the one down the street. When contemplating entering this industry, it is not enough to love beer anymore- you have to stand out and do things smarter, better, with the good of the beer and the consumer held paramount.