Add A Comment July 24th, 2012

Buying Beer – A Primer

Posted by Kyle

I just spent $95 on beer. And it’s not a big deal. Because I shopped smart. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most bang for your buck.

Location

Travelling is always a good excuse to drop a some cash on beer. Just think of it as a different type of souvenir. Instead of buying that stupid “I survived this tourist trap” t-shirt that you’ll never actually wear, buy yourself a bomber of something local. Whether you’re going out of town, across state lines, to the other coast, or over the pond, different locations mean different tastes, different distributors, different breweries, and different beers.

Liquor stores are an obvious first choice, but if the one you stop at doesn’t have the best selection, chances are, the employees know where to get the good stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask. They’re usually more than happy to talk shop and direct you to where they stock their fridge.

And don’t be surprised if they end up sending you to the grocery store. More and more, big chain stores like Kroger, Giant Eagle, and World Market are carrying craft brews. Lots of them even have a decent local or regional selection. Again, don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see what you’re looking for. Sometimes there’s a special endcap or separate display dedicated to crafts.

While the Big Bag grocery stores might offer a decent selection, Ma & Pa grocers are usually a gold mine. Take, for example, The Andersons, near the Ohio/Michigan line, where I just dropped a c-note. Not only do they carry great brews from OH/MI (Great Lakes, Brew Kettle/North Peak, Jolly Pumpkin), they stock local Toledo gems (Maumee Bay, Black Swamp), and limited releases from some bigger names (Dogfish Head, Rogue, Great Divide). Don’t underestimate the little guys.

So what do you do once you find the right place to spend some money? You give yourself options, buy seasonally, snatch up those hard-to-finds, and think long-term.

Mix & Match

Anymore, just about every place that sells beer offers Make-Your-Own-Six-Packs. Do it. Next to beer fests and draft flights, this is the best way to experience new brews and discover what you like. And it’s usually much cheaper than those other two options. So mix it up: get six different beers from the same brewery, or the same style from six different breweries. Do three darks and three goldens. Find a common ingredient. Do whatever floats your boat, but try new stuff. Find what you like without committing to a whole six pack. And be sure to keep notes on what works and what doesn’t, so you can remember next time. Or just rate them on Untappd.

In Season

One of the best things about being a craft beer drinker is the changing of the seasons. Changing weather signals changing flavors and breweries are taking advantage of this more than ever. So buy seasonally. Keep an eye out for a brewer’s latest offering and when you find something you like, stock up before it runs out. Like those Christmas Ales in the winter, or the current beer-of-the-moment, Sixpoint’s spring release, Apollo.

Bombers

Just about any time I see 22 oz. limited releases — especially ones I’ve noticed in Draft Magazine or on RateBeer — I buy at least one. And they’re usually pretty expensive, more often between $9-$20. But they’re also not something I’m going to slam down right after work. I’m going to save them for a special occasion, share them with a close friend, or spend some time to explore it and write a review. Looking back, I can remember the situation around damn near every “spectacular” beer I’ve had, most of which were limited release bombers. Plus, they usually showcase the full breadth of a brewer’s talent and knowledge. So for me, they’re totally worth the sticker shock.

Stock Up

Once you find out what you like — and, as importantly, what you don’t — you can feel comfortable committing to a larger load. Whether it’s that seasonal you loved from a mix-and-match last week, or an old standby you haven’t had in a while, sometimes you want to buy in bulk. And it’s always nice to have something familiar in the fridge for those days you don’t feel like exploring. But be reasonable: think about your bank account, your fridge space, and your significant other (especially if that bank account is their’s too.)

After all this, you might still be asking yourself what in the hell did I spend $95 on. And I’ll tell you, but I want to preface it with this: I usually make a purchase like this once every month or two. And what I buy will inevitably last until the next trip, chance encounters and desperate situations aside. But I try to hit all of the above categories in a single trip, depending on where I’m buying and how much I’ve got to spend.

Here’s what $95 can buy you in the craft beer world:

Mix & Match – 12 oz. each/72 oz. total

  • 21st Amendment/Ninkasi – Allies Win the War (limited)
  • Dogfish Head – Saison du Buff (seasonal)
  • Flying Dog – Wildeman
  • Green Flash – West Coast IPA
  • Jolly Pumpkin – Oro de Calabaza (regional)
  • Left Hand – Good Juju (seasonal)

Bombers – 22 oz. each/66 oz. total

  • Dogfish Head – Chateau Jiahu (limited)
  • Dogfish Head – Urkontinent (limited)
  • Great Divide – 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA ( very limited)

Standby Cans – 12 oz. each/192 oz. total

  • 21st Amendment (4-pack) – Monk’s Blood (x3) (limited)
  • Sixpoint (4-pack) – Apollo (seasonal)

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