Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

[GUEST POST] from Tiff @99Bottles: “Reflecting on the beer blogger – beer retailer connection”

Posted Jun 22, 2012 in Beer, Brewpubs, Rants

“Reflecting on the beer blogger – beer retailer connection”

99pours.com, Tiffany Hereth Adamowski

There are many challenges in running a beer shop, ranging from woeful discouragement to triumphant success, and back again. The same questions over and over. It feels like I’m living an a beer shop version of Ground Hog Day.

Repetition. The same questions over and over. I try out new answers. I offer the same answer. Over. And over. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, the same answer day-in, day-out. For me this isn’t so stressful. It is just part of the job. I do, however, get a bit frustrated when it is the fifth time I have answered this exact question for the same customer. Does he not realize I will give him the same answer next time, and the time after, as well? My patience wears thin. Clearly there is no retention. How can I get him to realize the answer will not change? To get it to absorb. Are we communicating in different languages? The old he’s from Mars, she’s from Venus kind of thing?

For the past few months I have been reflecting on how citizen beer bloggers could better network with a beer retailer like me.

This is one topic of reflection: Common questions asked by customers. It seems as these questions are not being answered in a way they understand. The questions continue to be asked. So, clearly, I need to share information from a different perspective…right?

Talk about beer supply & demand

I could really use help from beer bloggers to convey how the beer supply chain works. This is one of the most common themes that repeats itself.

“Do you have…(insert beer name here)? If anyone had the beer, you would.”

If we stock the beer, the answer is: Yes! Here it is.
Or: Yes, but I’m sorry, it is sold out. Sometimes this leads to a discussion of seasonal, limited and rare beers.

If we don’t have it, the answer…
Perhaps we can order a case for you. With an inventory of over 1,200 in a small shop with not much more square footage, there are beers available in Washington that we simply don’t stock on a regular basis. That is, if the beer just doesn’t sell fast enough, taking 3 months or longer to sell a case of 24, or worse, a case of 12, it’s put as “full case preorder only” item in our list. Afterall, we don’t want good beer going bad on our shelves, while awaiting discovery.

If we can’t get it, but they’ve seen it at another retailer or bar in Washington State, this can lead into controversial topics like bootlegging…and why we don’t participate in such practice. Or, the topic of special one-off kegs being approved for special events (this is common practice for festivals and is totally legal). It can also lead to topics of private label beers (also illegal in Washington State, according to the liquor control board), and the politics of distribution.

Many times the beer they seek just isn’t available in our state.
Or: It’s beer from a Washington brewery they seek, but the brewery cannot make enough beer to provide our store with any. That is, the beer the brewery produces is already selling out at the brewery and to existing accounts…there simply isn’t enough beer to go around.

“Why can’t you get it?” …. “Will you get it for me?”

If the brewery/beer isn’t available in Washington, I cannot attain it. We are licensed to direct-receive, but can only purchase from those licensed to distribute or who have distributors.

If a brewery doesn’t produce enough beer to add my store to its supply chain, there is nothing that I can do than be on a their wait list, and wait until the time when they choose to grow their brewery or, god forbid, lose an existing account.

If the person is really intent on getting this beer, how can THEY get it? Legal purchase: direct-ship. Travel? Trade? Questionable purchase: Black market?

“Why do you limit beers?”

There is beer with limited production that is highly sought after. If we didn’t apply limits, the first person in the door could buy everything and you would get none. We do this to share the beer love.

The distributor/brewery decides how many cases they will make available to my store. There are times when we request to order five or ten cases, but are allowed to buy just one or two. We have little control over this. This sometimes leads to question of “Why can’t you get more?”

…sometimes a contributing factor to how many cases we’ll get is how much of the brewery’s other labels that we sell. If customers don’t buy their other beers from us, we won’t get additional cases of the “hot” item. It’s just how it is.

…or it could be based on relationships and/or the politics of the beer industry. Verbal contracts. Big chains. Friendships.

…or it could be due to…?

We try to be fair with our allocation, to get the beer into as many hands as possible.

The beer blogger – beer retailer connection

I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between my local beer bloggers and me, my store, and our local beer drinkers. There is definitely new territory that could be covered. But I don’t believe I’ve actually put my finger on it. I am trying to narrow this topic; next month I’ll be chatting about it with American beer bloggers. The panel, “Networking with Local Breweries, Distributors, and Retailers” is pretty wide open, and I haven’t asked conference organizer Allan Wright for specifics. So my mind has been wandering over this topic for months.

I think about each of the beer bloggers who come into our store. I look at their blogs, sometimes scanning, other times reading. Few local beer bloggers are on my regular reading schedule.

My favorite local read: The Washington Beer Blog

It’s written by Kendall Jones. Kendall’s blog is super; it’s written by him and also has women-authored posts by his wife and their North-end reporter. Rarely do they offer beer reviews, it’s focused on what’s happening in the Washington beer scene. The Washington Beer Blog is purely independent, with a focus on “now.” I asked to advertise with them because I like their style. Kendall and crew are the kind of people you want to sit down and have a beer with.

Sharing beer blogs

I don’t “purposefully network” with beer bloggers for our retail shop. I do peruse a variety of blogs and search Google for specific topics to share with our customers. Occasionally I share local beer blog posts with our customers — emailing thousands of subscribers via Constant Contact, posting to loads of visitors on our facebook page and twitter feed.

The beer blogs I share are those that entertain, inform, and, hopefully, engage.

When I feature reviews it’s done to pimp my beer. My delicious beer.

I still have so much to reflect on.

*********************************************

Great follow up post at The Washington Beer Blog.

“5 Step-By-Step Ways to Bring It Home, Renew Your Vows, and Support Asheville Beer”

Posted May 22, 2012 in Beer, Beer Awards, Beer Pairings, Beer Places, Breweries, Brewpubs, Cooking with Beer, Events, Goings on, In the news, People, Rants, The Beerlanthropy® Project

[BlogAsheville] With the inaugural Asheville Beer Week kicking off on Thursday, May 24, it’s time to renew our spirit and dedication to our city’s favorite beverage, beer.

Sure, we tied with the awesome town of Grand Rapids, MI for BeerCity, USA this year. The nay-sayers of the economic boon our industry brings will say “who cares?” and the neo-prohibitionists say we’re ruining the city by forcing everyone to drink “the alcohol,” but no. We shall not stand for that. We are a hard-working, vibrant, integral cross-section of this community that knows no borders and has no limits. We are a small bunch. We are strong. We work hard for each other. We work hard for others. We are not jerks. We are trying to make a living. And we like beer. And, moreover, we like that you like beer.

Here’s a Step-by-Step way to bring it home during Asheville Beer Week. If all you can think about is beer right now, skip straight to Step One. Otherwise, humor me.

FIVE: Support Southeast Regional Breweries

We get it. Sometimes you’re tired of that regular local beer you always get with the burrito, side of sour cream. Been there. (And I hate sour cream.) Well, expand your local map area and drink something from within the region of the Southeast. There are many great beers by non-NC breweries that are often available from our greater region: Sweetwater (GA), Terrapin (GA), Atlanta Brewing/Red Brick (GA), RJ Rockers (SC), Thomas Creek (SC), Abita (LA). Surely, I am missing many. Even a brew in our general economic region is boost to the industry. And shouldn’t we let the world know we’re not a bunch of light-beer-swillin’ rednecks? It’s great to branch out, but still: the closer to home, the better.

logo

FOUR: Support North Carolina Breweries

Zoom in, go smaller. NC is awash in breweries and start-ups. We’re not even going to pretend to know everything about each one. We don’t. We’re on a mountain and no one tells us anything. But you can go to the North Carolina Brewers Guild Guide and then ask your favorite restaurant, bar, store (or refrigerator) in Asheville to stock your favorite North Carolina beer. If you don’t see something, ASK FOR IT. (Ask a manager. Also, sorry, managers.) There is no shame in it. In fact, you get extra cool points from the beer gods for doing so. This has been proven somewhere. I read it on the internet.

THREE: Support Asheville Beer Week (May 24-June 3, 2012)

This is the biggest beer bash ever to be held in Asheville, North Carolina, a.k.a. BeerCity, USA. A small, yet mighty group of people is working overtime to put on a stellar “week” for you (Okay, it’s 12 days, or something, but no one said we could count. We can’t.) with an insane number of beer events all over town.

During Asheville Beer Week, not only are you supporting the local breweries, restaurants, bars, and retailers, you are also doing your usual gig for many, many, many good causes. During Asheville Beer Week, the beer community is helping out many groups and individuals, including the Asheville Brewers Alliance, The Family of Ben Harris (Redhook Brewery), Habitat for Humanity, Save The French Broad, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of WNC, The WNC Nature Center, and The Appalachian Trail Conservancy to name a few. There are big, fancy dinners and free, fun pint nights. Three fests ranging from free to $16/pp to $40/pp. We’ve got you covered.

You can visit the Official Asheville Beer Week site at http://ashevillebeerweek.com. We’ve also got apps in Android and iPhone markets. You can play with us on Twitter (@AVLBeerWeek), Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, and Untappd. We even have an Untappd Badge you can earn to show you Asheville Beer Week pride! Use the official hashtags #avlbeer and #avlbeerweek to share your events and get info.

(Oh, and here’s a link for a contest for two free tickets to Beer City Fest from 104.9.)

Asheville Brewers Alliance

TWO: Support Asheville Breweries

When you drink a local beer, you don’t just support the brewery. You support the employees in the office to the folks scraping the mash tun; you support their families, their kids. You support the businesses that carry their products, which means you support small businesses. You support EVERYONE. We’ve heard Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery say many times that the very first beer you enjoy every night should always be a local beer. This is not a lie.

ONE: Drink a Local Beer

You’re doing it! Congratulations. Cheers!

(Photo: MountainXPress/Anne Fitten Glenn)

Beer bloggers: The lovers, the haters, and me

Posted Nov 05, 2010 in Beer, Goings on, In the news, Miscellany, People, Rants

Interesting things happening in Beer Blog World this week with many of the most ambitious converging on Boulder, Colo. for a weekend conference. This is the first ever Beer Bloggers Conference, which looks to be a great time of sharing ideas, methodology, and no doubt, a lot of beer. Yours truly isn’t there (obviously), but Asheville is being represented by Anne-Fitten Glenn of the new(ish) local beer blog, Brewgasm. Most of you know her from her weekly column in Mountain XPress. She also writes the column Edgy Mama. (Anne-Fitten Glenn will be speaking on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. at BBC10. You can follow blogger tweets on Twitter using the #bbc10 hashtag.)

In a strange twist of timing on Wednesday, published beer writer Andy Crouch sent his thoughts into the blogosphere via the post “Beer Blogging: To What End?”. This somewhat critical, questioning, and really odd sort of post set Twitter a-flurry yesterday not only with the timing—just ahead of BBC10—but also with his opinions of beer bloggers in general. Some beer bloggers were outraged, some ambivalent, some defensive, with a mess of reactions in-between.

Yesterday, in a sleep-deprived state, I made an open Twitter comment on the subject:

“.@beerscribe‘s beer blogger post as #bbc10 starts IS controversial, however, he makes some very *practical* points. That’s my only comment.”

This was met with some that agreed and others that quickly rebutted. Frankly, my opinion was deliberately vague, non-confrontational, and meant to invite comment. Crouch’s post itself is not inherently offensive. My point was that he raises a good question about beer blogging, in particular with the posts topic: “Beer Blogging: To What End?”

Here’s the thing: While Crouch does have a small reputation of being somewhat of a curmudgeon, he is an exceptional beer writer. This is a writer who, along with the likes of just only a handful, comes from the Old Guard (for lack of a better term). He’s one of the pioneers of the trade who were writing about craft beer long before craft beer was cool and so front-and-center. He was writing about beer before there were blogs. While he’s been blogging for years, Crouch is primarily an author of books, so let’s keep that in mind. While some read his post as an attack on beer bloggers, I don’t really believe Crouch was intentionally attacking anyone. I do believe he was intentionally putting an important question to the forefront so that bloggers attending BBC10 would perhaps use part of their time to engage in discussion of what it means to be a beer blogger; determining your purpose as a beer blogger; and questioning the role you play within the industry itself. The post itself is a little rambling and there are specific statements that show that he doesn’t “get it” entirely. I mean, even I know what SEO is, and I really don’t hide my lack of knowledge when it comes to web stuff. (One funny thing I learned from Crouch’s post is that the Bruisin’ Ales Beer Blog came in at #73 out of 100 on the Wikio Beer Blogger rankings . I don’t even know what that means, frankly, but it sounds good, yes? And who doesn’t love lists?)

There are varied levels of beer blogging. Some are reviewers. Some are critics. Some are hobbyists. Some treat their blogs like diaries. It runs the entire spectrum. Crouch doesn’t seem to care one bit about those hobbyists and diary writers, documenting their beer experiences, travels, etc. He seems more focused on those trying to parlay these writings into a career, such as BeerNews.org and Drink With The Wench, both of whom he names specifically. Calling BeerNews.org uninteresting is silly, as it has become the go-to site for beer releases and news. This is value content, especially for people like me in the retail industry. His passive-agressive “not to pick on a particular person” while deliberately naming Ashley Routson, a.k.a. The Beer Wench, is also silly, because while clearly billing herself as a personae, she also provides value content, covering events, writing for Mutineer Magazine, working at breweries. She’s an active participant in the industry giving a firsthand look at some insider information. Ironically, her greatest project is her ongoing “Featured Beer Blogger Series” on Drink With The Wench, which highlights the other folks blogging about beer. (In full disclosure, I was featured on there.)

When it comes to beer blogging, there’s a fine line between being an original content blogger and regurgitating content. (Something I addressed specifically with the advent of 2010, that I would no longer be regurgitating content that could be found elsewhere online.) There’s a fine line between a review and an endorsement. There’s a fine line between a well-versed fan and an expert.

The important takeaway, no matter how you feel about Crouch’s post is this: What is your role as a blogger? How will you make a living off of this (if you want to)? Where are you headed? “To What End? The reality check here is the thing that sent many over the edge, but it is the harsh reality: There are simply not that many people who have successfully made the leap from beer blogger into a primary industry player. There are also very, very few that make money from blogging. (See Asheville’s Kelby Carr of Type A Mom Conference, who posted just yesterday about bloggers getting paid for endorsements.)

I sincerely hope that the beer bloggers out in Boulder this weekend aren’t sitting about Crouch-bashing. It would be easy to do. I do hope, however, that they are able to take a step back and discuss the main point in question, which at its heart, simply asks, “Where do we go from here? And how?”. It’s important, and judging by the great response of people attending the conference, a discussion opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Wish I were there! Drink up, my friends.

Loss, mourning, and the business of being in the beer business

Posted Aug 27, 2010 in Goings on, Miscellany, Not Coolness, People, Rants

This post probably doesn’t belong here. At least the beginning part, where I apologize for slacking on the blog among many other things for personal reasons. You see, it’s been tough around here at the humble storefront with a spring/summer of traveling back and forth to care for, give support to, and simply love an ailing family member. That person was Jason’s mother, Susie. She got sick earlier this year and passed away a few weeks ago on August 9. (Some of you might know that Jason also lost his father and mentor only last September.) Needless to say, it’s been a difficult process doing everything we can to keep this place open with smiles on our faces, without a corporate system to back us up, a big staff, and government time to use (not abuse) like the Family Leave Act. It’s been a rough year for us here. It’s even harder as a small business owner.

We publicly want to thank a multitude of awesome people, especially Mike Guarracino, who is The Best Employee on Planet Earth. We often joke that it’s unfair he wins Employee of the Month all the time (because he’s our only employee), but seriously, in our time of need, this one amazing person has kept Bruisin’ Ales functioning with open doors. Without his flexibility, understanding and completely unselfish nature, we could have lost many days of business through emergencies, visits and other random happenings that occurred throughout the year. We hope that we are at least two-thirds the employers to him that he is as an employee to us. He gives 100% all the time. We realize how lucky we are. (Also, please note, he shaved his head this week, so now, both Mike and Jason have shaved heads and beards with dark hair. Jason is the tall one; Mike is the one with the bike and the dogs you all love so much.)

Others to thank: Terri Lechner and Jason Martin: Our oldest and dearest friends in Asheville—who helped paint the interior of the humble storefront in the colors of Belgium—also came in to help clean-up and keep the shelves full. Sophie Thompson: The daughter of friends, she helps us out in summertime with cleaning, glassware, folding t-shirts, sweeping and other random stuff. Sophie and her dad, Tom, came in for a few hours during the funeral week to help Mike stock. Rebecca Bedingfield: Bruisin’ regular, she ran errands for me while I was out of town, helped stock, made people laugh and helped a very heated crowd (from a sweltering A/C unit) survive the Duck Rabbit tasting the other week. Scott Witherspoon: Customer turned great friend, he’s weathered a couple Saturday hours, helping make recommendations to people. If I’m forgetting anyone, it’s not on purpose. My brain is fried. Just know how very thankful we are for everything that everyone has done to help us through.

The day after Jason’s mom’s funeral, I got a message from Joe at Blatz Liquor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Blatz Liquor folks are our comrades—a small, independent beer store in downtown, just two years our junior. I banter with them a lot on Twitter and while many people think that indie beer stores compete with each other, we really don’t. The truth is, we all recognize how difficult it is to be competitive in this business and regularly support each other. Solidarity, if you will. We are a tough bunch, doing what we love, following our passion for beer in a world where corporate megastores and groceries want to crush us. That’s the long and short of it. You probably know where I’m going with this: Blatz Liquor is closing today.

From August 14:

Today it is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of Blatz Liquor.

For 2 years we have worked as hard as possible to bring the biggest and best beer selection to downtown Milwaukee. We have gained an awesome group of regular customers and an even better group of friends. Sadly with some increases in monthly costs and a leveling in sales its just too much for the already slim profit margins to handle. It breaks my heart to have to do this, since day one at Chicago Ave. Liquor I had planned on opening a store downtown that catered to all the beer geeks and people that enjoy a glass of wine or a mixed cocktail like myself. I’ve sacrificed emotionally, physically, financially and loved every second of it.

Joe

So, today I mourn also the loss of my comrades. That last part just about sums it up. This business comes with many sacrifices. We’re lucky we live in a town where supporting local businesses is a top priority, however, that attitude or practice doesn’t trickle down to everyone. When Sam’s Club sells certain beers at our cost and the groceries sell beer at a no-profit margin and megastores like Total Wine or World Market kill us with bulk pricing, that essentially negates certain brands we, and other stores like us, could and would otherwise carry. I cringe when I hear someone say, “This is 25-50¢ less at whereever-it-is.” The truth is, independent beer stores like ourselves are not trying to rip anyone off. We are just trying to make a living doing what we love. Here’s a trade secret: Beer has the lowest profit margin of all things alcoholic. Here’s another fact: Unlike a lot of other indie stores, we sell only beer. And, there it is.

We opened this store because we love beer, beer people, and want to provide a great selection of hard-to-find rare goodies in addition to a hard-to-beat selection of imports and American craft beer from across the country. It’s not an easy business; it is a difficult business. But, like Joe, we love every second of it. So, when I send out a Tweet or post to Facebook the friendly advisory to “support your local, independent beer store today”—I mean ALL of the indie retailers, yours, across the country, not just Bruisin’ Ales.

Join me today by dropping in to your local indie beer store and buy a beer in honor of Blatz Liquor. Let’s hope that their closing is not a sign of things to come in these questionable economic times. I know we hope to be here for a very long time.

And if you’re in Milwaukee today, go visit them for the big, closing bash. We’ll be there in spirit.

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise” —Oscar Wilde

Newsy morsels

Posted Jul 22, 2010 in Beer, Beer Places, Breweries, Brewpubs, Coming Soon, In the news, Limited Release, Rants, Weird/Odd

Sprecher Brewery from Wisconsin coming tomorrow
Yup, a classic from the original brewing city, Milwaukee, is hitting the shelves tomorrow. Welcome, Sprecher Brewing! We’re making our list and checking it twice today, including some of the Brewmasters Premium Reserve Series. Can I get a woot?

Tweet for beer at Bele Chere
The Mountain XPress is offering beer for tweets this weekend to help them cover Bele Chere. Basic rules are: Have five or more posts with the #belechere tag and/or upload pictures or videos and if they use either, show up at 3pm on Sunday at Asheville Brewing on Coxe and they will buy you a beer.

Foothills got label approval for more bottles
Beernews.org reports that Foothills Brewery got label approval for Hoppyum IPA, Torch Pilsner and Peoples Porter. While the post makes this seem imminent, beer spies tell us that bottles are at least a few months down the line. Look for them on our shelves later this year. *cross fingers*

The End of History
In the on-going-school-boys-on-the-playground-pissing-contest that is for “the world’s strongest beer,” Brewdog’s forthcoming The End of The World was leaked to the masses yesterday. The End of The World is the latest (possibly dumbest) incarnation by Scotland’s Brewdog. There are only 12 bottles being made at the cost of $800-$1,100 per bottle …with the actual bottle stuffed into road kill converted to a bottle vessel by a taxidermist. Wait, what? Yup, not joking. You can’t make this crap up. The best news, in my humble opinion, is that Brewdog states this is the last in their high ABV experiments, and thank god, already. We like the brewery, we love their marketing, but we’re 100% over the hype. Hopefully, they’ll return to brewing beer now instead of scouring the Scottish Highlands for dead squirrels.

Everyone’s an entrepreneur
A homeless man broke into a Northern California bar and reopened it, posing as the new owner. A+ for ingenuity, but ultimately, still a failing grade.