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Your Beermonger: Why I Don’t Have What You’re Looking For

by ARLnow.com July 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm 2,192 20 Comments

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

As a retailer, the question I hear the most in my day-to-day conversations at work is “Do you have…?” Sometimes my answer is no. There are a few reasons why that would be the case, and I do try to explain why I don’t have something available. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve always tried to be uniquely open with customers about some of the behind-the-scenes of our business; even within the world of retail the alcohol industry is weird and I believe educating consumers demystifies some of the vagaries that can confuse and frustrate buyers. So for those of you heading out to stock up on beer, here are some reasons I or any other retailer may not have the specific brew you’re looking for:

It’s out of stock: The most common reason and the simplest, except for the often overlooked factor of a distributor being out of stock. Virginia is a classic ‘three-tier’ state: I buy my beers from distributors who own the rights to brands in our state. In fact, every restaurant and retailer has to buy their beers (and wines) from the specific distributors who own the rights to them. Occasionally for any popular brand, demand outstrips supply and we all just have to wait for another truck to arrive from a brewery to their distributor. I promise I’m not trying to not have that beer you need for your party this weekend that I always have.

It’s not available here: The second most common reason I don’t have a requested beer. I often mention in this space beers that aren’t available in Virginia, but getting those beers here isn’t a matter of my simply asking for the brewery to send them. A brewery has to determine that they want to sell their wares here and then make a deal with a distributor in Virginia before I can even think about seeing it. This is one of the many ways the alcohol business is just odd — I can’t just get what I think will sell or what I think is interesting. I’m at the mercy of a whole separate industry that determines what I can/cannot purchase and stock. Weird, right? Again, though: I promise I’m not trying to not have your beer. Unless…

I just don’t carry it and don’t plan on stocking it: Yup, unless I just don’t want it. Even with the space that I’m blessed to have at Arrowine, there are a good dozen or so breweries whose stuff I can’t regularly carry because I just don’t have room. Beyond that, there are so many options within a couple miles of our shop in each direction that I don’t necessarily feel like overlapping what they run with. That isn’t to say your local shop can’t get that beer for you: if a customer gets a hold of me early enough in the week I can usually get whatever they want for the weekend, regardless of whether it’s something I regularly carry or not. I want to make you, as the customer, happy but if I feel that you’d be better or more quickly served by a nearby store who stocks something I don’t, I’ll let you know.

Happy hunting. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

  • Greg

    I like these articles. Are you finally allowing comments here? It would be nice to allow people to discuss this stuff.

    • TheBeermonger

      For this week at least, it seems we are. Sorry to be late on this, but I just got the heads up on it earlier today. Glad to hear you enjoy the articles!

  • John Fontain

    Ahhhh, freedom. This is wonderful!

    • TheBeermonger

      Run! Run free, ArlNow readers!

  • dirty biker

    Looks like it! Open season on the friendly beer guy! (kidding…)

    • TheBeermonger

      So, it’s like being at work, expect I’m not at work. Except that, as I type this, I’m at work. Ok, then.

      • TheBeermonger

        *except* dammit.

  • John Fontain

    Nick, can you talk about malt liquors sometime? I’m not kidding. Lots of beer-but-not-beer beverages that are popular today (such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade) are malt liquors. Growing up as a kid, malt liquors used to be your Colt 45’s and what have you. A Mike’s and a Colt 45 seem world apart, yet are both labeled as malt liquors. How can that be? Are there any good malt liquors out there or is that an oxymoron?

    • FBG

      Mickey’s. All the rest is garbage.

      • Ballston

        Bud Light Lime-a-rita is surprisingly good. Dare I say genuinely enjoyable on a hot day?

    • TheBeermonger

      Dogfish put out one a few years ago that was actually pretty good, but I think that was a one-time thing. Not sure I’ll get into the malt beverage category (I don’t carry any) but it’s an interesting topic that I think merits some discussion so who knows?

  • darsasx

    It’s a shame that breweries don’t follow a model similar to what we have in Virginia for wine. I can ‘join’ a winery in California and buy a case of wine and have it shipped directly to my house (and buying a case of wine I love directly from the winery is much cheaper for me as well as for them, because nobody around here stocks the ones I like for the price I am willing to pay). The only drawback is that someone over 21 has to sign for it, but if you request them to ship via FedEx, you can have it diverted to the local FedEx/Kinko’s and pick it up there. Granted, I’ve only used this between CA and VA (you can’t ship to anywhere in PA, for instance), but even with shipping costs factored in, it’s still more affordable than retail.

    • David

      Would be great if breweries could, but they have their hands tied in the three-tier system. I think wineries have an exemption for their wine of the month stuff, but I don’t think breweries do.

      • TheBeermonger

        You can cruise the ‘net for Beer-of-the-Month Clubs and hope you get a good one. Otherwise it’s retailers who’ll ship here or trading forums, which have been a boon to beer hunters everywhere for the past few years now. Check your local obscure liquor laws for details.

  • VaGurl

    Along the same lines of the malt liquor comment – how about ciders? im on a gluten free booze kick and wanna know thoughts on the ciders that are available out there. 🙂

    • bb

      On the subject of ciders, I’ll say this: they’re one of the the easiest of homemade drinks to make at home, much easier than beer or wine in my opinion. I made a batch of dry (hard) cider last year from cider I bought at the farmers market, and it was very easy. No boiling needed or wanted – you’d set the pectins and end up with apple jelly. I went with an English Cider yeast I bought from the homebrew store in Falls Church. It turned out drier and with a brighter apple flavor than anything commercially produced I’ve had on bottle or draft.

    • k

      there are some awesome ciders available now.

      Albemarle CiderWorks has some lovely dry cider options (and, it’s from VA!). Original Sin is really quite good too.

      I think b/c many people are gluten-free now the cider options are expanding. Which is a good thing b/c it’s delicious. 😉

      • TheBeermonger

        I’ve had a long and tumultuous history with ciders. For years I had customers come in and ask me to stock more ciders, only when I actually did they’d sit on the shelves. These days cider really is starting to pick up, and I’ve become a bigger fan personally. Expect something on cider sooner rather than later.

    • E

      I really like Angry Orchard (from OH), it tastes almost just like carbonated apple juice, very crisp!

      • TheBeermonger

        I actually just tried some of their stuff recently for the first time. I was surprised at how crisp it was as an American cider. Impressive.

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