THE SESSION #128— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY
The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
Deep Beer hosts The Session #128 — Beer Blogging Friday for October 2017. The theme chosen is Bottle Shops: Good, Bad & The Ugly.
Introduction: I find bottle shops interesting and would like to learn other perspectives on these places many of us purchase our favorite quaffs. We love our beer and have a variety of options in acquiring it. Some home brew, others like to visit their local pubs, beer tourism and beer destinations have become a trend, but the ever popular bottle shop is often the best and most reliable means for finding our next beer.
Ten Years in a Bottle Shop
I've worked at a very good bottle shop for almost ten years. This shop has evolved over that time, as we all have. It began as a wine-focused shop, and if going by floor space, it probably would still be considered so. However, the beer scene has grown dramatically and so has its presence as this shop. The industrial beer has been moved mostly to the cooler — meaning out of the way — while the amount of shelve space available for craft beer has expanded. Growlers are now available, Thursday beer tastings have become a regular event, and build-your-own-six-packs have helped expand the good beer experience. And, my knowledge of beer, the industry, and its people have grown as well.
As I read and study and practice all things beer, I've come to have a more keen awareness of bottle shops. Not only the one where I work but those that I've added to my network of stops along the way. Those near my home, those along the routes I take as I travel for business, and those I've discovered as I vacation and attend conferences and meetings around the country.
Bottle Shop By Any Other Name
I like the title of bottle shop. To me, it has a certain romantic flare or even invokes an artisanal image. Others may call it a liquor store, package store and depending on where you live I'm sure there are other names for these places we buy beer to take with us. And some probably deserve another name. But I do know this for certain, they are not all the same. Some shops take great pride in how they display and treat their beer for sale. These deserve a higher title — bottle shop.
I Have Questions
So what is it that makes these places premier bottle shops? What is their attitude, hacks, incentives, a typical customer? I've drafted a list of questions I'd like to submit to some of these special beer places. Places I've either discovered from my experiences or from other beer aficionados. Here is my draft:
- What makes this bottle shop unique?
- What special benefits do you provide your preferred customers?
- How would you define a "special" or “perfect” customer?
- What is the best method for a good-beer drinker to stay in tune with what beers you have available?
- Do you have an Untappd for Business account? If yes, why?
- Do you promote your beers or follow Untappd activity regarding your bottle shop?
- What is the one thing you wished beer drinkers knew about your bottle shop that they probably don't know?
COMMENTS: If you have other questions you'd like posed to bottle shop owners and managers, please comment section at the bottom of this page.
Bottle Shop Hacks
As someone that has worked at what I consider a great bottle shop for a good while, I'd like to share some thoughts to benefit you who are reading this. These are a few things from my perspective, ten years from the other side of the counter.
Respect the Beer Guy
Every good bottle shop has a "beer guy". Patrick Dawson has an interesting take on this in his book The Beer Geek Handbook: Living a Life Rule by Beer.
This is a fun read which has a lot of good information regards of your beer expertise, much of it tongue-in-cheek. He states, "This crucial duty, the one that earns him the beer guy title, is choosing exactly which beer to order. It is for the sole reason that the beer guy must be befriended, because after all, he holds the key to the exclusive beery castle."
I list this as my number one hack since it has the potential to leverage you many benefits.
While we're at it, I have to recommend another beer book by Patrick — Vintage Beer: A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve Over Time. This is a book every beer aficionado must have in their library if they want to age beer properly.
Most finer shops will have a rewards program or email system — some way to keep in contact with you. Do it! This is your path to bargains, special finds, and a higher relationship with the bottle shop.
Tastings are a way to not only try new beers but meet staff, brewery and distributor reps and sometimes even the brewery owners. This has been the case at our shop on many occasions. You can make new beery friends as you return to the watering hole each week.
Share a Beer
I started this gambit in our bottle shop and it is a win-win-win practice. Many times brewery reps will hold a tasting and leave beer behind for the staff to enjoy. I often will hold some in reserve for a future strategic maneuver. If a preferred customer brings a six-pack to the counter that I have not yet tried, I will offer a trade — one of your beers for one of mine. I often will do this with beers I've purchased, taking some home and leaving the remainders in the back. This is a win for the customer since they now have two different beers to enjoy. It's a win for me since I now get to experience a new beer on the shelve which I have not tasted. It's a win for the shop since now I can offer an experienced opinion of one more beer. I've learned that an experienced opinion helps sells beer but also develops trust.
But this is the hack, some of these preferred customers will now offer me a member of a six-pack when they learn I've not yet experienced it. And I will do the same for them if I know what they like. You know what happens next time they come into the shop, I go to the back to see what I have in reserve. Your mileage may vary.
As customers have discovered we share a level of interest in beer, they have offered me their contact information and requested a personal notice of new beer arrivals. I gladly provide this when I can. I call it the "Cheers Effect". You know, “Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came”. People want to feel special — we all do — and providing the best customers with a higher level of service does that and rightly so, they deserve it. Saying that must be followed with the fact that every customer deserves excellent service. After all, that's how they grow into prefered customers.
If you've read this far, please share your thoughts on your bottle shops experiences below. Do you have any comments on some of my hacks, good stories with your trips to a bottle shop, other questions you'd pose to good bottle shops? Also, please "Like" this post or better yet, share your thoughts.
If you'd like to read what other beer blogs from around the world have written on this theme, I will be posting a "wrap up" article to collect all of those in one place.