What makes a great beer retail store? We asked our beer friends about the best places to buy beer, and their comments read like a how-to list for any beer retailer who aspires to be the best.
The dream store stocks—and lovingly tends—a range of choice vintage beers.
Broken down to the basics, here are the elements of greatness, in order of rarity:
Diversity: The retailer offers lots of choice. Locals are happy to find rare domestic and imported beers, and visitors are happy to see local beer well represented.
Beer Care: Beer is kept cool and out of harmful light. The beer is fresh, never outdated.
Customer Service: The store hires great staff who are passionate and knowledgeable about beer. The staff will place special orders, or contact beer enthusiasts when special beer arrives.
Education: The store hosts beer tastings for the public. There is information wherever you look. The store stocks a selection of beer literature: books, magazines, newspapers. The retailer supports experimentation by encour-aging mixed six packs or single bottle sales.
Other Products: Great food doesn’t hurt. Kegs, party planning, food and beer advice are all welcome additions. The store stocks appro-priate beer glassware and other breweriana.
Exceptional Education: The store conducts tastings to educate its own staff, and helps out staff members who want to improve their beer cred-entials through homebrewing, judging, or travel.
Service Above and Beyond: The dream store stocks—and lovingly tends—a range of choice vintage beers. It reaches out to customers through the web or newsletters. It supports visiting speakers, lends it name to festivals and beer events, organizes beer dinners, serves as a catalyst for beer advocacy, and offers classes in cooking with beer or homebrewing. The store is a resource for local restaurants and bars that are interested in the best in beer, as well as homebrew clubs. A great retail store has a welcoming atmosphere—it’s fun to visit!
All the stores in this list have some of these qualities: a small number have mastered them all, and set standards that others can strive to reach, and beer lovers can support.