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Voting with My Wallet: Where I Buy and Why

We got to talking in the comments yesterday about the new Sam Adams small batch beers, and during lunch I popped into a liquor store near work to see if they had any on hand.  They did, but as I reached for one I paused, because I had seen the same beer at the liquor store near my house.  I decided on the spot to buy it there instead.  Why?  Because it turns out that I’m training them to be excellent. 

You see, up until about two years ago, my local beer store pretty much sucked.  They carried all the major beers and imports, some “microbrews” like Sam Adams and a few bottles of Stone. It was a joke.

But then things started to change, and they set aside one half of one shelf and a small spot in the cooler for craft beers.  I immediately began voting with my wallet.  Whenever possible, I’d buy my beer at the local store to show them that stocking craft beer is good for business.

I must not have been the only one, because the selection continued to grow and grow.  Now they have a four-door cooler full of craft beer, plus two full shelves in the store. They even have cases of goodies in the back room – I scored two cases of Mad Elf there.

I’m often surprised by what I find there and it’s become my mainstay beer shop.  I’ll still go to the bigger places when I’m looking for something unusual, but most of my go-to beers are now purchased in town, which is an awesome option to have.

I don’t think I was entirely aware of my positive-reinforcement plan with my local bottle shop until I was reaching for that Sam Adams at the place near work.  I’ve probably had the thought a dozen times, but it’s become so second nature that I simply feel like I’m screwing up if I don’t buy local.  Now I just have to convince them that installing a few taps is a good idea…

Do you vote with your wallet as well, and do you feel your efforts have made a difference?

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle

Author:Jim

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

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29 Comments on “Voting with My Wallet: Where I Buy and Why”

  1. johnking82
    November 18, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Yep. I have Old Town Liquor a block away from my house and generally tend to frequent it at least once a week instead of going to Liquor Barn (huge massive liqour/party warehouses in the Louisville/Lexington area) or Whole Foods for my beer selection. The guys know me there by name and when you are considered a regular, things get saved/put in the back for you. I inturn, give the guys a bottle of my homebrew here and there for looking out of me.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      The still like you, even after being “treated” to your home brew? 🙂

      • johnking82
        November 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

        I need to start reading new blogs.

        • November 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

          There’s a good one about woodworking with found objects I can recommend… 🙂

  2. Brendan
    November 18, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    It’s definitely positive reinforcement, for both you and the store, so you are mutually reinforcing each other. It’s probably symbiotic, too, but I’m a psychologist, not a biologist.

    It’s also pure capitalism, which is pretty cool, and it’s a good example of the potential green impact of buying choices.

    For example, I love Rogue and Anchor Steam, but here on the East Coast, when I buy those beers, even though the environmental impact of shipping them across the country has already happened, my purchase is a step toward triggering an order for the next shipment.

    The store is going to order the beer after it has sold enough to have reason to think that the initial outlay will pay off. The big stores are more likely to have the wide selection at first, because they have space to risk on a few things that don’t sell as often, but the smaller stores are more likely to be responsive to frequent customers seeking niche products.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      I usually don’t consider the environmental impact of my beer choices, but I do love me some PA breweries, which are pretty close.

  3. Joe Lehr
    November 18, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    I agree with you. I’ve had a few conversations with the owner of our local store over the past few months. I’ve thanked him for stocking craft beer and encouraged him to look for new ones to bring in. There is another store close to my office that has a very nice selection. I went in a couple of weeks ago and felt guilty. I felt like I was cheating on Mac. Here I am encouraging this guy and I’m going to buy from someone else? I walked out and went to see Mac.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      Funny how that’s changed. I used to hate buying local because the selection sucked and I wanted to punish them for not “getting it.” Now that they’ve caught on, I share your guilt for not supporting their transformation with my $$.

  4. November 18, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Living in DC there is a liquor store on every corner. I actually live across from one that has something none of the others have: a small parking lot. The biggest business these guys care about is selling cheap beer to the poor people that come in. So they stock pile Icehouse and other things of that nature. Therefore, even though I could buy a few okay things, I really wouldn’t make a blip on their radar when it comes to how they stock their store.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      DC and other urban centers are a whole different animal when it comes to such matters, I think. I guess you got to wait for the place to get gentrified!

  5. November 18, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    My local liquor store is awesome and I always feel a little guilty if I shop anywhere else. Whenever they get in anything new, the manager will flag me down and give me the chance to be the first kid on the block to buy it. He will also set aside some of the very rare stuff for geeks like me. I guess I’m the beer store equivalent of what casinos refer to as a “whale.”

    Although it’s a small space, their selection of craft beer puts most liquor warehouses to shame. They even have a dedicated walk-in “beer cave,” where they store most of the hard to get bombers. The best part is that their prices are often lower than the other stores in the area. For those in the Denver area, the store is Little’s Liquor on Downing and Wesley.

    • November 18, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      Oh, and to answer your question: this place was great before I started shopping there, but their beer selection has gotten better and better since then. I’m sure I’m not the primary reason for that, but you never know. 😉

      • November 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

        I used to have the same hookup at a store, but my buddy there got sick and had to take a break for a while and we kind of drifted apart. He used to put me on the list for all of the goodies and actually referred to me as “a whale” when I walked in one time. But that’s faded, and my local store has stepped up so that’s where I’m spending my dough (mostly) these days.

    • November 18, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      I keep meaning to stop in there, from what you’ve told me about it before. My parents live in that general neighborhood, so I’ll have to stop in the next time I go see them.

      Thanks for reminding me!

  6. November 18, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    I fortunately live within spitting distance of a couple of liquor stores (one is just a block & a half), unfortunately they have very limited selections and cater to the bums, frat boys, and other riff-raff that hang out on Colfax. I use them only in dire emergencies, like when I’m too lazy to get in the car and actually drive to a good one.

    Other than Argonaut (which is the only good place on Colfax), I frequent a liquor store called Joy that is eight blocks from us and always has a good selection. I talk to the owner every time I’m in, and he has said that the interest in craft beer spurs his buying decisions. He also shows his commitment to it by offering a build your own six pack, you can can choose any combination of cans and bottles to fill it out, and it’s always the same price.

    Jim,

    On another note… How bout them Broncos? 😉

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

      I don’t think any of the Jets will be Tebowing any time soon.

      But even as a Jets fan, I root for that Jesus boy. It was cool to watch their comeback.

      Plus the Jets haven’t been dominant this year and deserved to lose that game.

  7. November 18, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    due to the fact that my local store of choice is actually about 10 miles down the road from me, i mostly buy from a lot closer large store…but, i have to say that they do their best to order as much craft beer as possible…so, that does keep me happy…but, whenever i’m in the area, i definitely will stop in at the local store of choice…they are relatively new to the area and are trying to get in as much as possible a wide, and excellent, variety of craft beers…so, because of the fact that i’m so far away from them, i have to go to the bigger store…

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Sometimes it’s a balancing act, and with how quickly the craft beer movement is shifting, that balance might shift pretty quickly…

      • November 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

        the kicker is that whenever i go to either store…they all greet me by name…but, i’d venture to say that the smaller store would try a bit harder to keep me coming back…

        • November 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

          A smaller pond makes it easier to be a big fish.

          Wow – you’ve turned me into Jimfucius!

  8. Michael
    November 18, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    I live in Atlanta, Ga and to say we were late to the craft beer market would be a horrible understatement.

    When our alcohol cap of 5.9% got lifted back in 2004, our liquor stores and grocery stores were very hesitant to place orders for all these new products that weren’t from AB or Miller etc so we were limited to at first maybe Chimay and Unibroue. I’d imagine players in the craft beer market were nervous about shipping product down to the South in a market that had no experience with their products.

    Slowly but surely, we bought these products in droves and with each new brewer, our market got better and better. First Dogfish, then Stone, then Bells/Founders and now Cigar City….Along with our locals Sweetwater/Terrapin.

    Our liquor stores did exactly as what was described in the initial blog post with the craft beer section going from a small shelf to large amount of floor space and in some cases beer cellars.

    It’s been a struggle but through the free market, liquor stores now have to compete to get limited releases and be more beer dork friendly than it’s competitors.

    Soon we’ll be able to buy beer on Sunday. Gotta love the South.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      Wow – you’re almost up to 2008! 🙂

  9. November 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Hmmm…interesting post to think about. My issue is that the two bottle shops I frequent most are not necessarily the ones with the best prices. I can hit the downtown co-op that has a great craft beer offering and get it for 10-30% less. And I sometimes do, especially for pricier bottles. But the people at my two bottle shops are just more fun to hang out and talk beer with. So I venture to guess, while it’s not fiscally responsible, more of my money goes to those two bottle shops.

    • November 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      Price is a factor, but not the only one. If I’m buying a 12 pack, I’ll go to the cheaper place, but my local store is so much more convenient (like 10 miles closer and next to the grocery store) that I usually just go there.

      Anyway, it’s not a bad thing to spread it around a bit and save where you can. Just tell Rick that’s you’ll buy EVERYTHING from him if he matches the Co-Op. He’ll love that suggestion!

  10. Mark S.
    November 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Where I live I am spoilt for choice in terms of beer stores, and their selection. I try to spread the wealth as equally as I can. Though it’s always weird passing up bombers of stuff like Schafly’s Reserve 2008 and New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Stout in favor of the “new” stuff.

    • November 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      I wouldn’t know what that’s like… 😉

  11. Wayne
    November 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    I’ve tried to ‘buy local” for as long as I can remember. But it used to be difficult to do so when buying beer. There just wasn’t much real choice nearby. About the only ‘craft’ beer you could find was Sam Adams.

    But “the times they are a changin’.” First a little hole-in-the wall place a mile from me started getting stuff from Oskar Blues; then a place within 5 miles of me, that had been Budweiser Central, got a new manager–someone who was really savvy (he helped eddycate me quite a bit); and then I rediscovered a place about 10 miles away that has truly become craft beer heaven–a whole wall of nothing but bombers plus a daunting selection of six and four packs.

    Things were definitely looking up and got even better when just this past week I got an ad from a new place only 2 miles away from me that was touting its craft beer selection. I went to check it out yesterday and found that It had a modest selection of craft sixers, but the only bomber they carried was Fat Tire. I talked to the manager for about 30′ and found out that he really likes good beer (and likes to talk about it), but is fairly new to the craft beer genre. I recommended he join B&WB and seeing as how he already had some Victory products, asked him to order some Victory Oatmeal Stout for me (thanks for the tip Don). I also recommended a few other good brews (both hi and low ABV, by the way), and pushed the idea of carrying a selection of bombers. He said he intends to follow up, so I’ll be watching closely.

    In a related vein, the owner of our local waterin’ hole was telling me that he was considering adding a brew pub to his establishment but given what he had seen w/ other brew pubs wasn’t sure it was a good investment. I passed on some of the opinions/critiques you folks had posted about brew pubs in the past and recommended that he check B&WB’s archives for posts on the subject.

    So yes, we are educating each other and growing. And as a result, I may just end w/ a a reliable source of a variety of good beer w/in 2 miles and a brew-pub about a mile from home!

  12. dianne budde
    November 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    We are a small restaurant and bar with amazing craft beers. It is because of our local “beer guys” who helped guide us in the right directions. Its been four years now, and thank goodness they are buying local. Folks need to be reminded how much buying local helps. I will repost this to remind my Peeps how important that is. We love your blog and you are usually, maybe always spot on.
    Thanks so much.
    Dianne Budde

  13. Jeff
    November 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    There is one store in my area that has been steadily becoming more craft oriented, particularly recently. They’ve just implemented a ‘build your own 6-pack’ program. I was speaking to the owner yesterday about his plans for the near future. It put a huge smile on my face when he pointed out a section currently dominated by a massive floor display of the usual 30-packs and told me it was all on the chopping block in favor of additional shelving to be dedicated to a large expansion of his craft beer selection. He also intends to expand his home brewing section a little furter down the line. I vote with my wallet there every week.

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