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Thoughts on beer stores

I was recently watching a special on CNBC about Costco. I have no business watching CNBC as my money is not tied to the stock market and the only thing of value that I own is a car, but I’m really interested in business for some reason. CNBC does a great job of finding successful businesses and showing the story of how they became successful. I eat this stuff up as someone who wants to open their own brewpub one day. Usually I like seeing how a unique, but good idea can become a great success story, but still have major hurtles to overcome. Call it the American Spirit, but I dig it.

While watching the Costco special they had a 10-15 minute section about wine sold at Costco. Apparently Costco offers around 200 different types of wine at their stores while local liquor stores generally stock 2-3 times that amount. Wine is a big part of their profit margin and makes up about a tenth of their business. The reasoning behind carrying a smaller selection is to not overwhelm the consumer and help them find a solution quickly. It also helps the consumer discover new brands and styles more easily. It’s an interesting take on business that Costco also applies to all of their departments.

It really made me think about the local beer store that I visit. They have an outstanding selection of beer with 400 or so “normal” beers and a rotating seasonal selection of about 50. Some would call me lucky (and believe me I’m lucky), but when I think about it through the Costco lens it doesn’t make sense. How many IPAs does a beer store need to offer to keep people happy? IPAs are particularly bothersome because with more selection comes an increased chance of beer sitting for longer. IPAs lose a lot if they sit unrefrigerated for too long.

As a craft beer nerd I love going into my store and finding new beers to try, but someone new into craft beer may actually be turned off by the intense selection. Now my store is really good about asking if you need help, but I don’t know if that applies everywhere. Surprisingly the demographics of Costco and craft beer drinkers is interchangeable. So that leads to the question is less selection of craft beer a good or bad thing?

Personally, I want more selection as I love having more choice. I think that most craft beer people would agree with me as well. Would you rather have a smaller selection, say 200 different beers, with the promise that they are fresher and better rotated?

Enough bourbon and barrel aging

A little under two years ago I wrote about some trends in craft beer that I was noticing. You can read the full thing here, but the skinny of it is that oak aged and sour beers were making a mark in the craft beer world. I still think that the trend that I talked about then is true now, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on “big” beers and frankly, I’m tired of it.

I do dig the occasional bourbon aged imperial stout, but they are becoming a dime a dozen. They aren’t special anymore and they ones that I have had range from decent to poor. Consumers seem to be getting caught up in these “special” release beers and I’m not sure that it is having a positive effect on the craft beer industry. I’ve fallen victim to this type of ploy as well, but I’m learning to shy away from it.

How many 10% bourbon aged imperial stouts can one drink and how different can they all really be? I’m getting tired of big and bold, I would prefer smaller beers with more delicate flavors. There is something to be said for a solid 5% beer. I think it shows a level of skill in brewing that a 10% stout just doesn’t showcase. As any homebrewer which style of beer is easiest to make consistently. I bet stout would be the number one answer.

Hopefully this trend starts to calm down and we can return to more “normal” beers. There is still plenty of room for experimentation, but the bourbon and barrel aging has run its course. Am I alone in this?

Beer Review #127 Flashpoint Pale Ale

When I first got into craft beer, one of the first breweries that I tasted things from was Hook and Ladder Brewing Company out of Silver Spring, MD.I was a bit confused when finding the location of this brewery, as their bottles says Wilks Barre, Pa, but their website and most other internet resources says the Silver Springs location. I’m assuming they contract brew with the Lion Brewing Company and that would account for the labeling on the bottle.

I’ve always liked the idea of craft beer “helping the greater good.” Hook and Ladder donates a portion of their profits to local fire departments. Since 2005 they have raised over $60,000. I would love to do something similar with my future brewpub, but I have a different group that I would want to donate to. But that’s a story for another time.

Flashpoint Pale Ale (great name) pours a nice amber color and has a thin, light tan head. It it perfectly clear and it looks very nice. A tad dark compared to most pale ales, but a good looking beer none the less. The nose is super malty with some strong smells of dark caramel. There is a slight citrus smell that is produced from the hops in the beer.

The nose promised malt, and the taste carries through on that promise. I got a lot of strong caramels, almost too strong. There was some slight citrus from the hops and also some slight biscuit. To go along with the hops and malt, the yeast gives a few dry fruity esters which is a nice addition to the beer.

I’m not sure how well this fits into a typical pale ale in terms of style. It was much more malt forward than what I would have expected. The flavors did mix very nicely and there was a good amount of complexity thanks to the strong malts and slight fruit. This probably isn’t an award winner, but it is nice to have a pale ale that isn’t all about the hops. (more…)

Wildness Brewing reminder

I might be out of the country right now, tasting some yummy Belgian, German, and Czech beer, but our friends from Thank Heaven for Beer are still in the process of raising money for their nanobrewery. If you have not already contributed please consider doing so. You can check out their page here and remember that you can donate as little as $1.

The money raising campaign goes until August 4th so that gives us a little over a month to help Mike and Nate raise the money necessary to start their dream. We as a craft beer community love supporting our local breweries, let’s help support this one as well.

Click here to donate.

My Europe Trip

Later this week I will be traveling to Europe for a two week vacation. I have always wanted to travel to Europe and when it came time to decide between a house and a fun vacation, my wife and I decided that the housing market just wasn’t stable enough. We also don’t know how long we will be in our current area, and with that type of uncertainty, Europe was an easy decision.

Smalls, my wife, wants to travel everywhere and do everything. I’m much less adventurous when it comes to travel, but Europe has always been interluding to me. Now that I’m into craft beer, Europe becomes even more interesting. I’m really looking forward to relaxing with Smalls and traveling all over the place and trying the beverages of the different countries.

We will be traveling to five countries during our trip, but only actually be staying in three of them. We will be traveling to Belgium, German, Austria, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Austria and the Netherlands will be day trips for us. Does anyone have any tips or any beers in particular to try when I am over there? We will be in each country for 2-3 days so we aren’t going to get to travel deep into an area to explore something special. We will also be mostly sticking to the major cities of the countries that we are going to; Brussels, Munich, Prague, and Amsterdam.

I’m really excited about this trip. On a side note, I’ve written some posts ahead of time and scheduled them to come out during my time in Europe. If you leave a comment or try to contact me, chances are I’m not going to see it until early July. Please leave any suggestions for my trip, I appreciate it.