Have You Ever Cleaned Out the Shelves at the Beer Store?

My wife is awesome.  Last night she popped into our local beer store, which has recently begun to offer a limited selection of craft beers.  There she found six bottles of New Holland Dragon’s Milk, one of our all time favorites, and a beer that’s been tough to get lately.  So what did she do? 

A photo of my guilty prize from the B&WB archives. I can't believe I used that glass!

She bought every last bottle on the shelf – she cleaned them out!  This was their entire supply, as they split a case of 12 between their two locations.

I’ve done this before myself, most recently at the same store.  They had just received a case of Troeg’s Mad Elf and had six in the cooler and six on the shelf.  I left the store with all 12 and a spring in my step.

But then a few clouds started to darken my sunny disposition.  “What about the next guy?” I thought. “He’s not going to get any now.”  But I forgot about the late bird (the one that doesn’t get the worm) about half way into the first bottle and never thought of him again.  Until last night.

Once again thoughts of being greedy and selfish flashed through my head.  What about the next guy?  Part of me says shame on him for not getting there first.  Another part of me says shame on the store for putting out all six bottles at once – they should ration them out.  And part of me tries to say shame on me for getting all of them, but that part is so happy about scoring some great beers that he’s mostly grinning from ear to ear.

So what about you?  Have you ever cleaned out a beer store of a hard-to-get goodie, or do you leave some for the next guy?  Have my wife and I broken some kind of beer geek code or did we simply obey the law of the jungle?  As always, let us know below.




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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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40 Comments on “Have You Ever Cleaned Out the Shelves at the Beer Store?”

  1. Brew Hiker
    May 13, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Your wife is awesome. Hi-5!

    • May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      For sure. She was so happy she “scored!” them, she called me right away, but I was in a late meeting and couldn’t talk. So she texted me the good news – she couldn’t wait to share her triumph.

  2. Ian Joyce
    May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    In my neck of the woods (Kansas City) this is a big problem. And one of the major issues with the craft beer “movement”. If you want craft beer to succeed and gain popularity, it helps to leave some of the beers you recommend to people on the shelves for them to actually try. I often find a newly released beer completely sold out of my regular liquor stores by the time I get off work that day.

    People here are more interested in getting the latest released beer before anyone else than there are in actually drinking the beer. They treat it like a scavenger hunt and it’s a turn off.

    • May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am #

      Yeah, that’s the downside to loading up. I have a really good beer store in my neck of the woods that will reserve a couple of the “ungettables” for hardcore beer geeks. This way people who really appreciate the stuff get a taste without hoarding them all. Of course you have to be an “insider” to get some, but most true geeks know about it.

    • Ben
      May 13, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      I’m also a Kansas Citian, and I’ve certainly noticed that happening with Boulevard special release stuff. My parents live in Springfield, and ironically it is much easier for me to find limited edition Boulevard stuff in Springfield than KC.

      Which leads me to one of the two times I’ve cleared a shelf this year. The first was when I was in Springfield and spotted 5 bottles of the Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad. I figured I wanted a couple, and I knew the girlfriend wanted one, and I have a friend who wanted one, and then there was just one left, so I bought it too.

      The second time was when I stumbled upon two bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year while travelling. I certainly bought both of those, and now I look at them and cackle like Gollum with the ring.

      • May 13, 2011 at 11:50 am #

        Ha ha – love the Gollum reference.

        I usually buy with friends in mind, too. I usually pick up what everyone needs plus one extra for aging or unforeseen sharing opportunities.

        • May 17, 2011 at 10:24 am #

          Jim, I’d like to be your friend!

  3. Reggie
    May 13, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    A tough call. It really depends on the number of bottles left on the shelf. There are no hard and fast rules of thumb for beer karma, but I think grabbing all 12 bottles of Troeg’s Mad Elf was over the line. This is especially true in light of the fact that you knew they only had one case. That’s just my opinion. In regard to the Dragon’s Milk, maybe they had more in the back.

    • May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      I wrestled with that after the fact, Reggie. But in the moment I couldn’t wait to get them to my car before the rubes at the beer store figured out what had just happened. Not sure if I’d do it again like that.

  4. May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Sounds like you got a keeper Jim. And I thought my wife was great for taking advantage of a Ska sale at one of our neighborhood liquor stores!

    I’m right with you on the whole snooze you lose, within reason. I probably would have left one bottle there as a token, and let the next guy ponder the moral implications; although they would probably just think SCORE! 😉

    • May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      THe best thing is I didnt’ have to make that call, Will. I just came home to six bottles of goodness. So I’m morally sound and well lubricated. Win-win baby!

      • May 13, 2011 at 10:01 am #

        “I’m not taking the rap for this copper, it’s the dame that did it!” 🙂

        • May 13, 2011 at 10:03 am #

          Exactly!! 🙂

  5. May 13, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I think the hoarder mentality is a big problem with hard-to-get beers. Of course, I am always tempted to load up, but I want to make sure others get a chance as well. There is a guy who goes to my local liquor store and constantly pesters the folks who work there (and probably other stores as well) to see if he can buy their whole allotment of Pliny the Elder the next time it comes in. They all think he is a major douche, and so do I. I always happily take my two bottles whenever it comes in. This past November, they lucked into getting five cases of The Abyss and I only picked up four bottles. I guess I just don’t feel the need to buy up so many bottles of the same beer. There are plenty of other great beers out there. It’s good karma to share.

    • May 13, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      I like it when there’s a governor in place, like when a store limits you to two bottles of something rare. That way it’s out of my hands.

      All told, I think as I’ve grown as a beer geek, I realized that in most cases, there will always be more coming around, so you don’t have to be greedy. But I’m still glad my wife was. 🙂

      • May 13, 2011 at 10:28 am #

        I don’t think I’d complain about that either! 😉

    • Ian Joyce
      May 13, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      There are people here who call up the distributors to try and find out *what time* they’ll be delivering to a certain store. People here take so too far to the point where stores have to impose limits to how many beers you can buy of certain releases so some jackass doesn’t buy everything.

      • May 13, 2011 at 10:35 am #

        That’s a little much. I’m all for getting a taste of the hard-to-find stuff, but not being a pest about it.

        The Dragon’s Milk my wife scored isn’t a limited release or truly hard to get beer, it’s just one we love and that’s had some distribution issues in our neck of the woods. If it was truly rare, I’d like to think we show restraint.

  6. May 13, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Don’t know that I’ve loaded up like that before. Always seems to be quite a number of beers I’d like to take home, and blowing my dough on a bunch of one beer seems a shame. Having said that, I think when next year’s Ivan the Terrible BBA Stout and Old Bluehair BBA Barleywine from Big Sky comes out, I’ll be grabbing quite a bit. They were delicious, limited and hot trade items this year. But then, I’m not really keeping them all for myself. I’m sharing the beery goodness.

    • May 13, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      Dragon’s Milk was an easy to get staple in our fridge for a long time, Chad. Then New Holland has some growing pains and it dried up around us. It’s starting to trickle back and I guess we’re just a little overzealous about it. Anyway, if it was a super-rare beer, I’d think twice before looting the shelves (but it would be tough not to grab one or two more than I need!)

  7. Greg K.
    May 13, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I wound up with five of my local store’s twelve bottles of Abacus. It was spread out over four visits though. The beer just sat there taunting me when I made my trip every week. I gave people ample time to buy it, so I don’t feel bad about it. I also bought two of those five for friends

    • May 13, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      That’s probably what would’ve happened with the Dragons Milk too. I think we’re the only people in town who care about it.

  8. johnking82
    May 13, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Way to suck the Dragon’s Milk teet dry Jim.

    I do not like hoarding of the beers. Get a 4-6 pack and move on. There is no need for a case of anything, especially if you buy said case with the intent to trad (IMO). That being said, a lot of beer stores won’t put everything out in an attempt to prevent this from happening. Of course, you eat the last of the ice cream probably as well.

    • May 13, 2011 at 10:56 am #

      I do eat the last of the ice cream, the last nacho, the last cracker and cheese. Otherwise it just sits there! I’m putting people out of their polite misery!!

      • May 13, 2011 at 11:08 am #

        The word “hero” is bandied about too frequently these days, but . . .

        • May 13, 2011 at 11:15 am #

          I actually do it to ease the tension. I guess that makes me a thoughtful eater, or in your words “hero.” 🙂

      • Don
        May 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

        Truth be known, Jim being the youngest made him this way. He knew if he didn’t hoard or get the last bit of something chances were likely wouldn’t get any. See in our house when we were growing up, for example, if we had an apple pie for dessert the might be half a pie left after dinner. So rational people would think that there would be enough to have another round of dessert the next night. That was never the case in the Galligan household. Between the latenightpartiers coming home and midnight snackers that pie was gone by morning.

  9. May 13, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I think hoarding is acceptable in and doesn’t break “beer-geek code” as long as you share some of the bottles you purchased. In the case of something like Pliney I think the store should set a limit. A brewery in Birmingham, Al releases small batch beers every now and then and the one store that sells them limits purchases to two per customer. I say share one with a friend and you will be absolved.

    • May 13, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Oh, I love to share. I don’t always get the chance (we don’t get out much) but when I do, sharing great beer is a joy.

  10. May 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    He who snoozes…Loses!

    • May 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      As the title pic says!!

  11. May 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I’ve definitely snapped up the last bottle of a hard to find beer (For example: Russian River Consecration, some Bruery stuff, and probably a Mikkeller beer or two), but I don’t feel bad about that. I don’t know that I would really wipe a store out of more than one or two at a time though. Unless I see Pliny the Elder or something. Then I’d totally get as many as I could. But I don’t suspect that would happen that often.

  12. Ryan
    May 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I almost had a similar experience earlier. Went into a bottle shop looking to get a decent mixed 6, and what do I see–Dogfish Head’s latest special, Hellhound on my Ale. I saw two of the incredible 750ml bottles and grabbed them without a second thought, who cares about the price. Go over to the cooler and there are 10 more. Phew, I’d hate to have robbed somebody of such a glorious Robert Johnson Tribute.

  13. May 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Jim, your wife is awesome. I’ve never cleared out a place like that, but if I did I don’t think I’d feel that bad about it. Maybe I’d leave one for the next guy!

  14. Mark S.
    May 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Not sure what your problem is up in the boonies of NJ, but in the Clinton/Flemington/Whitehouse area we’re practically swimming in Dragon’s Milk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it out of stock at any of the local stores I frequent. I usually pass it up in favor of the harder-to-find stuff! Funny what a difference 20 miles or so can make…


    Oh, and yes, I’ve been guilty of hoarding. Last winter I was looking for Fegley’s Rude Elf Reserve, and a local shop had 2 six-packs squirreled away behind some other winter ales. Almost like someone was trying to hide them. Did I hesitate? Yes. Did I buy both six-packs? Yes!

  15. Mike A
    May 14, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I don’t really see a problem with grabbing the beer you want to drink. Since I am in PA I generally have to buy cases anyway. Since the beer store/distributor is in the business of selling beer the quicker they sell out the more likely they will be willing to devote shelf space to them. Having the bottle linger doesn’t seem like an attractive option for anyone. That said, buying beer you won’t consume seems wrong. I am also lucky to be in Troegs country so their stuff is very common. I will think about this the next time I am at te store though.


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