Monday, January 16, 2012

Craft Beer Purchasing Styles

It is common knowledge that craft beer drinkers vary dramatically in background and reasons for loving our favorite fermented beverage.  Intelligent brewing companies and marketers must learn this fact and find their niche in advertising to the growing number of craft beer drinkers, or quickly find themselves out of work.  However, I am not sure how many people have devoted research to the actual purchasing styles of their consumers.

Lets take a hypothetical situation.  Imagine a massive beer retailer, the size of a large grocery store.  This beer store has beer from hundreds of breweries and perhaps thousands of brands on its shelves.  The variety of beer is stunning and features brands from almost any country that exports beer to the United States, as well as half the store is devoted to the Unites States craft beer market.  Further, this beer lover's dream allows almost any beer in the store to be purchased by the bottle, six-pack or case.  As you, our stalwart reader, enter the store, you ask yourself how will you choose what beer brands to take home and enjoy.

Just this situation presents itself to my wife and I every time we visit Rochester, NY to visit my family.  Rochester is home to Beers of the World, a wonderful bottle shop located 15 minutes from my parents' house.  Beers of the World began when Tony Angotti purchased a small beverage company back in 1982.  He envisioned a retail business that would introduce area drinkers to the enormous variety and beer flavors that existed around the world.  The first Beers of the World store opened in 1987 and has expanded since to three locations in the Rochester area.  The store offers a mind-boggling array of beer brands, and also sells cider, specialty sodas, wine, and even homebrewing equipment.

My wife and I have very different methods to choosing the beer we bring home when going to this store, a highlight of our trip north.  Our general process is to each fill a six-pack of beer that intrigues us, and then pick a few bottles together to share or that have special interest to both of us.  My wife loves IPAs and they tend to make up the bulk of her purchases.  She walks around the store with her iPhone set to the Pintley app and looks at all of the beers that it recommends for her (see our post on Pintley here).  She tempers its recommendations with brands that she already knows, but tries to pick some things she cannot get down here in Virginia.  At the end of this particular trip, her six-pack contained four IPAs and two ciders.  From the six-pack, her favorite beer was Green Flash's Hop Head Red.

I tend to enter Beers of the World with a theme in mind.  The theme varies dramatically, but this time I wanted to find several Rochester-area beers.  Like most cities in the past few years, a number of small craft brewing companies have opened their doors.  Because many of these brewing companies do not distribute outside of the Upstate area, I thought it would be neat to truly "buy local."  I have also been enjoying a fair number of Belgian-style beers lately, so I wanted to pick up a few of those as well.  Winter also puts me in the mood for stouts, so I wanted to find some unique dark and roasty beer brands.  I ended up with two beers from each category, and a bomber of a local Rochester beer to have with dinner that night.  My favorite beer of the bunch was North Coast Brewing Company's Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Abby Ale.

There is certainly no "correct" way to respond to the Beers of the World situation.  My wife and I have had several interesting discussions on how our beer-selection methods reflect on our personalities.  Have you visited a bottle shop with a similarly huge craft beer selection?  If so, how did you spend your hard-earned money on wonderful beer?  How do you feel this reflects on your personality or beer-drinking habits?  We would love to hear from you.




  1. Perhaps a tad predictable I check out what their lager selection is like, followed by seeing what Scottish beers are available (other than BrewDog though).

    I tend to shop more of a whim than anything else, rarely with any forethought.

  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts, Al. I think that people's shopping methods in bottle shops probably vary greatly and can make for some interesting discussions.


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