THE FRESH BEER STORE

future2Envision 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.

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12 comments

  1. I would love to see a store like this. It would be fascinating to see the differences between fresh and less-than-fresh beers.

  2. Spectacular concept and very, very much needed. I’ve been many more than a few times with out of prime craft brews. It doesn’t help that too many otherwise great brewers aren’t putting bottling dates on their beers – that’s getting better but not quickly enough. I get it, sales could (probably would) decline when those of us who care pass on a case of Flower Power because it turned (or failed to continue blossoming) 8 weeks ago. Reality is that there aren’t really that many of us – not yet – so it doesn’t necessarily behoove some brewers to warn off potential buyers.

    Perhaps something like this could work in the really highly craft beer educated markets like Portland or San Diego. I’d love to see someone try.

    Cheers!

  3. I love this idea, but I suspect that 90 day discount bin would fill up pretty quickly. I don’t know that I’d want to run this store, as there’s a lot of work involved, but on the other hand – those are precisely the opportunities that successful businesses pounce on. The only question is whether or not the beer drinking public would pounce… (for the record, I would!)

  4. That’s a fabulous idea! Have you ever seen a shop like this anywhere? We live in a highly educated craft brew community that would jump at something like this…

  5. I have had more than a few instances of buying far less than fresh beer because I neglected to check for a bottling date. It’s discouraging that is now the priority of the customer rather than the business itself or the distributor.

  6. In addition, the Fresh Beer Store should only be lit by UV-free LED bulbs to minimize the deleterious effects of light on beer. Also, it should be within walking distance of my house.

  7. Barley, I thought your beer cellar was arranged this way…

  8. Yes, Barley, I’m sure the Fresh Beer Store will debut in suburban Birmingham, AL. Perfect place for it.

    Someone, please steal my concept. I’m just the idea man here. I will accept lifetime payment in fresh, delicious beer.

    1. I agree with what you are saying, but I disagree on one point…A world class beer store should have NO old beer (speaking only of “fresh” styles like here and IPA, etc). Why discount bad beer? Take it off the shelf. Nothing makes me happier than when my customers tell me they don’t even check dates in my store anymore….They know everything is fresh!

  9. I agree with so much of what you are saying! While not quite the Fresh Beer Store, my new store in Chicago, The Beer Temple, does do some of the things mentioned above. First, I monitor the dates of all the beer coming IN to the store from the distributors, to ensure that only fresh beer is being received. There hasn’t been a single week where I haven’t rejected something for being too old.

    Second, I date all beers the I feel have a shelf life of less than 1 year or so. If I can figure out the brew date, that always is ideal. If not, I will fall back to the best-by date, and finally, if nothing at all is given by the brewers, I mark the received on date, so people at least can tell how long it’s been sitting on my shelf.

    I also order correctly, so there should never be a reason for a discount bin. Rather than buy stacks and stacks of Lagunitas Sucks (for example) I buy 2-3 cases at a time, sell through them, and then order more, often from a fresher batch. I will admit, this results in me running out of hard-to-find beers first, but I’d rather have an empty spot on my shelf than old beer filling it.

    I also switched out all my lights, including those in the cooler, from fluorescent to LED to reduct the effects of lightstruck beer. I also put a UV filtering coating on the windows, as well as a dark tint that block 85% of visible light, and even more from the “bad” part of the light spectrum.

    1. Chris,

      Your store sounds fantastic. Keep fighting the good fight!

    2. You are a prince among men, Chris.

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