April 30, 2012

If Wine Is Not Unlike Toilet Paper to Costco, What is Beer?

Just a quick post about the buying practices of Costco from a segment on CNBC called, "The Costco Craze: Inside The Warehouse Giant". Behold this exchange between the host, Carl Quintanilla and Costco wine buyer, Annette Alvarez-Peters on wine's place as a product.
Alvarez-Peters: "Is it more special than clothing, is it more special than televisions? I don't think so."
CNBC's Carl Quintanilla: "Certainly it's different than toilet paper? Or different that tin foil?"
Alvarez-Peters: "Why?"
Quintanilla: "Because it's personal."
Alvarez-Peters: "People can look at it that way. But at the end of the day, it's a beverage."
It should be noted that Alvarez-Peters is responsible for over one billion dollars in sales though she did not appear in the Daily Meal's, "America's 30 Most Powerful People in Drink". As Eater points out, Alvarez-Peters heads a team of seventeen international and domestic buyers which sets the price of wines of smaller retailers across the country.

I've taken some flack for being skeptical of big box retailers and beer-centric restaurant concepts before because I think these places tend to treat beer as a commodity. Are places like Copper Blues, World of Beer, Thirsty Lion, Whole Foods, Total Wine and Bevmo more detrimental than beneficial? I don't have an answer. We see here what the effect of purchasing power in it's extreme with Costco. It makes you wonder about the hidden effects of larger places on the brands that they select.

See the CNBC segment here. The longer piece is actually at the bottom of this page.

Disclosure: I seldom, if ever, buy beer, wine or spirits from Costco. Coincidentally, I did just yesterday buy a brick of Kirkland select toilet paper.

Update: Hat tip to Jason Petros for the link and Beervana for making me aware of the Beverage Power Ranking.

April 27, 2012

Growler Law | More Thoughts.

Yesterday, I re-capped the change to Title 4 that makes growler sames by bars and liquor stores possible.

Here are some more thoughts on the matter:

This change makes it legally possible for bars to sell growler or anything they have on tap, however, there are reasons why they may not want to for certain beers or for certain breweries or at all.

Everyone in the industry wants to get the best beers in your glass, but each business has the right to decide what to do with this rule change. We should respect that.

There is a cost to having an inventory of glass growlers on hand. They take up space, they take longer to fill, there is beer loss in pouring them. No one wants to show up for a special pour only to find out that 3 or 4 people bought growlers and kicked a keg.

A point that I did not give too much attention, was the new power given to the DLLC Director to request floor plan changes to clearly delineate license and non-licensed areas. Could the director request that a bar have a growler checkout area more in line with a grocery store? It certainly seems possible.

It's already legal now for bars to serve half-pints though some do not. I actually support that idea more than growlers. Variety and moderation are great things.

The breweries had a special relationship with all of you thorough the growler. I encourage you all to buy from the freshest place available... the source... the brewery first.

April 26, 2012

Growlers To The People | Rule Change This Summer

Update: We got a big traffic bump due to Four Peaks, Mouth by Southwest and Reddit. I have more thoughts on the growler law here. If you love Phoenix and good beer, please re-visit us and comment.

The growing number of quality beer bars and retailers will soon be able to sell growlers of beer just like the breweries. Right now, only breweries are able to sell growlers and they are restricted to selling the brands that they brew or contract brew. Bars like Flanny's are not able to sell growlers. Places like Papago Brewing and 1702--beer bars that either brew on premise or by contract--were restricted to selling beer from their own product line. Want a growler of Elsie's from Papago? Sure. Stone Arrogant Bastard? No Dice.

This made little sense to the consumer and probably to many beer bars.

Enter HB 2606, an omnibus bill which amends Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes and has a mix of new definitions and clarifying language. There is this particularly relevant amendment to §4-244 Unlawful acts and the exemptions that allow us to buy and take beer off-premises:
4-244.  32
c) A Bar, Beer And Wine Bar, Liquor Store, Beer And Wine Store Or Domestic Microbrewery Licensee Who Dispenses Beer Only In A Clean Glass Container With A Maximum Capacity That Does Not Exceed One Gallon And Not For Consumption On The Premises As Long As:
(i) The Licensee Or The Licensee's Employee Fills The Container At The Tap At The Time Of Sale.
(ii) The Container Is Sealed With A Plastic Adhesive And Displays A Government Warning Label.
(iii) The Dispensing Of That Beer Is Not Done Through A Drive-Through Or Walk-Up Service Window.
There is a provision for the Department to report to the Governor and the Legislature on July 1, 2015 on the effects of this particular amendment.

The upshot:
  • The inclusion of bars, liquor stores and beer and wine stores means that all taps are legally OK. 
  • There is no self service (I can live with that). 
  • There is a government warning label required, but no branding requirement (looking at you California).
  • No drive through service. That seems restrictive, just for the sake of restrictions or perhaps a kowtow to MADD.
  • Glass?
The glass thing was not as forward thinking. We're on the verge of the era of Stainless Steel growlers. Our environment here is unforgivable when it comes to glass. Parks and outdoor areas ban glass and rightly so.
My message to you is don't mess this up. Don't sneak glass into places where it is banned. There is very little in the way of craft beer litter on the sides of Arizona's Highways. Don't make me go all CSI (fingerprint ENHANCE!) on you if I see a broken growler. 
Broken Growler by http://www.mybeerpix.com
The bill passed the House and Senate last week and is expected to take effect sometime in August. Other provisions include a definition of a guest (houseparty rule), what defines a member of a club, official sample of liquor increased from 1/2oz to 1oz (whee!) and the ability for the AZDLLC Director to require physical barriers on floorplans to ensure safety, limit underage access and control licensed and unlicensed spaces.

We welcome anyone who can help us parse through any of this legal word salad.

Hat tip to RK!

April 16, 2012

Dr Slactivist | Or How I Came to Accept the Poll

I woke this morning with an email blog post from the Brew Bros on the Beer City USA poll. Oh dammit, the damn poll. I hate that poll.

Patrick writes,
"Phoenix will be this year’s Beer City USA champion."

There's a Facebook page too wherein several arguments are made as to why Phoenix has a growing beer culture and poised to win. Some of the arguments on beer culture are made by me... It's uncomfortable.

In the 3 years that I've been aware of the Charlie Papazian Beer City USA poll, I've mocked it. It's an internet poll after all--subject to internet shenanigans, foolishly daring to quantify the un-quantifiable.

Who can forget this poll?
Charlie Papazian

It's been a two horse race between Asheville NC with Portland OR and San Diego trading places. Last year, Portland bloggers called in a boycott or encouraged votes for Portland ME. The upshot is that, Asheville is the three-time winning Beer City USA titleholder with the rest of the top 10 not caring all that much. Third place has never breached 10% of the vote. Ft Collins, racked up 210 votes in 2010 despite being home of New Belgium Brewing with it's 300 employees. That spells quite a bit of disinterest from an fairly interested party just an hour north of Boulder. No intended disrespect for New Belgium. More on New Belgium below.

April 6, 2012

The Session #62 | What Drives Beer Bloggers

This month's Session comes to us from Brewpublic, one of a handful of beer blogs that inspired the mission we undertake here at BeerPHXation. Angelo asks that we explore why we beer blog.

I remember very clearly why we started because we had a clear vision as to how it would end. This may be the only beer blog that started with an exit strategy.