Booze Banter

Craft Beer Poll: How Would You Organize A Beer Store?

Do you find yourself lost in the beer aisle?

This post is half rant and half “ask the audience”, so strap in and enjoy the ride! The rant and poll revolve around the following two questions:

  1. Do you regularly find yourself lost or hunting endlessly for a particular Craft Beer in a poorly organized beer aisle?
  2. Do you think you could do a better job of organizing a retail Craft Beer store?

Before we get to the poll, here’s my rant…

During my lunch break the other day, I hit my favorite liquor store, Total Wine in Cherry Hill, NJ, to refill my brew fridge. Total Wine has always been a good source for Craft Beer, and they have really stepped up there game when it comes to Craft Beer and whisk(e)y selection. My complaint is not with the selection, but how they’ve chosen to organize it.

Total Wine, like most Craft Beer purveyors, insists on organizing craft singles and bomber bottles in an arbitrary “same flavor” system.  I understand the logic of this since it is very similar to the by region/variety method of selling wine, and is intended to allow buyers to say “if I like this one, then I’ll probably like the one right next to it“, thereby selling more beer.

There are several problems with this:

  • Unlike wine, labeled beer “varieties” aren’t the same (in terms of flavor) from brewery to brewery. They vary wildly.
  • Quality swings from brewery to brewery are extreme.  Some breweries just suck!
  • Most beer drinkers either stick to one beer, or like to explore different types and flavors, so organizing by variety doesn’t really help.
  • The people that stock the shelves don’t know a pale ale from their ass, so any varietal organization quickly falls apart when brews are “orphaned” or lost in the “seasonal brew” or “special reserve” section.

I would prefer that they just keep it simple and organize beer by brewery.  That way when I am looking for (fill in the blank new beer) from Smuttynose Brewery I can just find the selections from Smuttynose and then find the brew I am looking for.

To promote “try something that tastes the same”, shopping retailers could simply color code shelf tags highlighting the dominant characteristic of each brew (think Garanimals for beer drinkers).  You like a little chocolate kick in your brew?  Look for a brown tag and try the Brooklyn Chocolate Stout or Terrapin Moo-Hoo.  Like hoppy?  Follow the green tags to Sixpoint Resin or a Sierra Nevada Torpedo.  Simple and effective.

So how would you you organize the beer aisle? Take our poll and let us know!

29 replies »

  1. I’m actually really surprised the stores do NOT organize their offerings by brewery! I agree with you – that doesn’t make any sense at all (and this from a whisky gal who is just starting to explore beer … something about frat boys & beer pong in college turned me off for a very long time) 🙂 But I say this fully recognizing the fact that I would be walking these aisles a complete novice in this drinking category – to not have it organized by brewery would be wildly confusing and overwhelming for someone like me. Hope the retailers are reading your blog!



    • WW –

      I hope the big stores read our stuff but I doubt it. I have actually been on a few of them for a while as they seem happy to offer discounts and in store tastings for wine drinkers but nothing for craft brew enthusiasts. Shelf disorganization is just my latest rant.


      • I concur! Please know that I support your rants – I think the retailers really do need to pay attention (in the end, it will only help them as it will undeniably lead to an increase in sales!). Keep it up!


  2. Wookie, I like shopping for beer in Wegmans. They have a regional shelf system: Pennsylvania, rest of east coast, west coast, Belgium, UK, Germany, other Europe, and crappy US stuff are the categories off the top of my head. Within each region beers from one brewery are grouped together.

    I agree with you about varietal organization. If you don’t know the difference between IPA, pilsner, and stout, then you probably shouldn’t be browsing the craft beer isle anyway, and any organization will be effectively the same.


    • That’s better than most places and I like the “Crappy U.S. Stuff” grouping, makes it easy to find the Bud Light Lime. I am, however, torn over the region system. A part of me is for it as it promotes “buy local” shopping but the other side of me knows that region has little to do with beer flavor/quality. It’s not like wine or whisky where there are regional flavors or styles (more true in the U.S. as opposed to Germany, Belgium, England, etc..)


      • I hear you about the regional categories, but I actually prefer it even though I know there’s no real difference between beer style or quality. The reason is that although I’m freakishly obsessive about my whisky purchases, I’m totally the opposite about beer (or wine). I know enough about beer to know what the styles are like, and even the quality of some of the major craft breweries, but I never really care what I’m going to get. I just go and look until something catches my eye. But, I also hate too much choice. I become paralyzed by indecision. If the section I’m browsing is “all US craft beer” that is too large and too much choice. I would not be able to decide, and end up walking out with a case of Bud Light Lime, and then force myself to drink it while quietly sobbing in the corner of the room. So, however arbitrary it is, I decide which region I’m going to look at, then browse that more limited selection.


      • Makes sense to me … narrow down to one region and then look for something that catches your eye. That’s infinitely better than some beer stores that have beer organized in categories like the following:

        – Pale Ales and Lagers
        – Dark Beers
        – Seasonals
        – Special Releases

        WTF? How does that system help anyone?

        I would rather have the Wegman’s “by region/by brewery system” than “We make up our own categories so you have to ask the 22 year-old stock boy to find your beer” system.


  3. I’ve found that most of the smaller stores near me actually do organize by brewery. The larger stores are the ones that seem to split up the beer by style. There’s a new Total Wine opening up in my neighborhood this summer. It’ll be interesting to see how they organize their beer aisle. Your solution sounds like a nice option to help beer hunters like ourselves.


    • Most small guys do keep it simple and group breweries together. The problem I have had locally (South Jersey) is that the small stores lack the selection and there turnover is dreadful. This leads to limited options and old stale beer. This forces me to “beer hunt” the larger fresher dis-organized selections at places like Total Wine.


  4. On this issue, I must agree with the Wookie. If your goal is to make me ask you where my beer is located then you have succeeded. Otherwise, group it by brewery (and, here’s an idea, try it alphabetically) and be done with it.


  5. Nicely done Wookie. While I like the selection at Total Wine, their organization makes me crazy. By country works for me, then alphabetical by brewery. The Garanimals idea is interesting, but do you think they can really pull that off and have it make any sense?


    • I doubt most beer stores could pull off the “Garanimals” tag. The ideal situation would be to have a cyborg version of our ol’ buddy the Ale Monger stationed in every beer store to guide your beer purchases.

      For the Garanimals idea I suggest that every brewer send me every beer they make. I will taste each one and create a retail shelf tag that will guide people in their purchases. I get free beer and the world gets an organized system to guide them in their beer purchases … Everyone wins!

      [BTW … if anyone steals this idea and creates a retail beer promotion label system I want a piece of the action!!]


  6. Greetings all Wookies, G-LOs, Whisky Woman and other beer enthusiasts. I’m Rob Hill with Total Wine & More. Twitter: @TWMBeer.

    G-LO: Very nice blog you have here!

    Wookie: Thank you for shopping in our CH store. I worked with the NJ District Manager last year by going through distributor beer lists selecting brews to add to that store’s portfolio. A strong effort was put into that along with the expansion of the beer section in the store, so I am stoked to know that you recognized the additional brews and expanded selection!

    Your passion for beer and beer arrangement, along with the opinions of many others, is always appreciated and heard loudly and clearly. Your area of concern has been discussed at length in other forums, including this one last summer…

    …and on BeerAdvocate (BA) last fall. The BA forum seems to have been purged with their website redesign, but I will include what I wrote as a separate post here on your blog. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to take a few moments to read these.

    Ryan, who posted twice in this forum above, has some of the science of it exactly right when he says,
    “But, I also hate too much choice. I become paralyzed by indecision. If the section I’m browsing is “all US craft beer” that is too large and too much choice. I would not be able to decide…So…I decide which region I’m going to look at, then browse that more limited selection.”

    Many studies have shown that, when people are faced with too many choices, and the choices are not broken down into smaller categories, then they don’t make any choice at all.

    I’d like to comment if I may on your 4 bullet points in which you outline what you see to be the problem:

    — “Unlike wine, labeled beer “varieties” aren’t the same (in terms of flavor) from brewery to brewery. They vary wildly.”

    I don’t know if you are into wine at all, Wookie, but this is a false premise. Chardonnays from different wineries, for example, can and do vary to a great extent. Same for all other wine varietals.

    — “Quality swings from brewery to brewery are extreme. Some breweries just suck!”

    Your favorite breweries are some other people’s “sucky” breweries. Let’s lay out all the choices in Pale Ales for customers and let them decide for themselves what sucks and what doesn’t suck. This is a matter of personal opinion based on personal discovery through experimenting and trying different beers.

    — “Most beer drinkers either stick to one beer, or like to explore different types and flavors, so organizing by variety doesn’t really help.”

    Doesn’t it make sense that when you like to explore different types and flavors of beer, that you be be able to peruse the selections by different types and flavors?

    –“The people that stock the shelves don’t know a pale ale from their ass”

    Certainly there are some people in the store for whom this applies, and that includes many beer distributor personnel. It also includes most customers, which is why there is an effort to categorize the beers for them so they don’t have to try to figure it out (see Ryan’s post above).

    –“…so any varietal organization quickly falls apart when brews are “orphaned” or lost in the “seasonal brew” or “special reserve” section.

    Seasonal beers are the top selling category of craft beer (even above IPAs). Regardless of how the beer singles are arranged, Seasonals absolutely must be merchandised separately for multiple reasons, including the fact that customers are always looking for where the seasonals are, and from an operational standpoint, these beers are constantly “churning” (coming in and then going out of stock), so it would cause chaos in both the 6-pack and Singles shelves to try to keep cutting in the new seasonal arrivals. Same for the Special-Release beers. With the quantity of beers that we carry, It really makes sense to have a designated “home spot” for these beers.

    Thanks again, Wookie. I do hope you will take a few moments to read the link above and what I (will try to) post here separately. I believe it will add some food for thought on this whole subject.



    • Rob —

      Thanks for responding and with such detail. We love it when our thoughts and those who follow our bloggers are read and digested by those we write about. To respond to your comments I have a few points:

      1.) Regardless of the shopping habits of others and what studies show the beer aisle at your Cherry Hill store (particularly the singles section) is just difficult to shop in. While I agree that the singles concept is meant for exploration it is difficult to find specific beers. I went into the Cherry Hill location with a list of 10 beers to purchase and left with three because that’s all I could find. One of my purchases, a Rye IPA, was shelved with stouts and I found it by chance. The variety system is not evil it’s just not executed well.

      2.) I think the “varieties” Total Wine uses could do more to hurt the sale of craft beer long term than help. If you group all the “Pale Ales” together you will find that tastes vary in extreme. Hop bombs alongside lighter brews with citrus notes that only have their color “Pale” and brewing process “Ale” in common. Over time I would see a consumer that gets fruity when they want hoppy getting turned off. Regarding this I used wine organization as an example not to say that all Merlots or Chardonnays are the same, I drink a lot of wine and know they are not, my point is a category like “Pale Ale” or “Stouts” is like trying to sell wine under categories like White, Red, and Dark Red. The groupings tell you nothing about the beer while in wine you at least have a base frame of reference (the grape) to go from.

      3.) When it comes to the by brewery organization system I understand that one man’s “go to” brewery is another man’s “sucky” brewery by pointing this out you make my point. Brand loyalty is discounted by the current system. I, and many others, are more likely to load up on singles from one “good” brewery to see how they do with other types of beer than I am to load up on 6 IPAs from random breweries and play “Russian beer roulette”.

      4.) Lastly I think you underestimate the beer knowledge of your consumer, particularly in the Philadelphia/South Jersey market. Spend a few days at Philly beer week or hit a few pubs in our area and you’ll find that the tap handles have shifted away from the “big beers” to craft beers and people know their stuff. I think this increase in thirst for crew beer is the reason for you increase in craft beer sales not the way you present the beer to the consumer. As craft beer knowledge increases you risk alienating the “craft beer geek” in favor of only new uneducated customers. I would hope that Total Wine would realize that it is better to tap into the $50-100/month I and others like me spend on craft beer than to cater to those who might only spend $50-$100 per year to “explore”. Better yet find a system that supports both groups and create a retail environment that is easy to shop for both the educated and new explorers?

      Thanks again for responding and for your comments. It’s great to get both sides of a topic out there for everyone to evaluate.

      The Wookie


      • Great conversation. Love it!

        Regarding your point #1 above, the situation with a beer having been merchandised incorrectly (in this case a Rye IPA in with Stout) is a problem we’ve dealt with all along regardless of the way the beer is set. This may have been a customer picking up the beer and then putting it back on the shelf in the wrong place, or a distributor rep putting it in the wrong place, or one of our own store staff. That kind of thing has always irked the heck out of me but there’s no single solution that we’ve found.

        Also, in Cherry Hill you have one of our beer experts working there, Bobby Davis. If you haven’t met and spoken with Bobby, please do. He’ll want to get to know you as a valued, repeat customer, and help you find what you’re looking for. If it’s in the store, he and others can help find it for you.

        Regarding Point #2, I hope that you’ve noticed that each beer has a shelf tag, and the shelf tags describe each individual beer in detail, giving the state (or country) of origin, the specific beer style, e.g., American Pale Ale, English Pale Ale, Kolsch, Extra Special Bitter, etc., or American Stout, English Stout, Irish Dry Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, etc., along with a write-up about the beer, and at the bottom are key profile words which describe whether the beer is Hoppy, Malty, Balanced, Fruity, or Complex, and then other key words about that beer. Those key words, alone, will tell you if the beer’s Hoppy and Citrusy, or Malty and Cholocaty, or Fruity and Estery, etc.

        So, I respectfully disagree that the groupings tell nothing about the beer. Certainly, the grouping of Stout means quite a lot in the world of beer (just as a grouping of Port wine), and then with each individual shelf tag, you can zero in on the specific beer style and appearance, aroma, and flavor profile of the beer that’s in each bottle. Certainly, the grouping called Pale, Blonde and Golden Ale tells you something about your starting point, and then again the individual shelf tags tell you about each specific beer. Indeed, the style groupings are the “base frame of reference” (beer style, instead of grape varietal) to go from. For customers who know nothing of beer styles (or wine grape varietals), we are there to help them. Then, when those customers have a beer they like, they can begin to learn that that beer is, say, an IPA, and perhaps there are some other IPAs they’d also like.

        Point #3. I agree with you on part of what you say. What I am saying is, you already know what, for you, are “good breweries”, so you have that advantage of just buying beers from those breweries and skipping the others if you so choose. You know beer styles, and you know your breweries, so you know which sections to go to, and which breweries to grab. Most others don’t have that knowledge. Let us not forget one of the points of having a singles section is to lower the cost barrier to trying new beers and new breweries. Kind of a shame to never try new stuff and some unknowns, right? (not saying you do; just making the point).

        I disagree completely that “many others are more likely to load up on singles from one “good” brewery to see how they do with other types of beer than…to load up on 6 IPAs from random breweries and play ‘Russian beer roulette’. To you it may be Russian Roulette, but to most others (I ask you to trust me on this one) they do NOT see it this way. They see a world of opportunity and experimentation, and trying lots of different IPAs from different breweries is precisely what they enjoy. Yes, they’ll buy some from their known go-to breweries, but they’ll also experiment. Often, they’ll buy a whole 6-pack from their go-to brewery, and do a mixed 6 of other beers and other styles.

        Point #4. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time in the Philly/So. Jersey beer scene, so I can’t speak to that directly, but it is actually exactly the point of the style set to help educate consumers on the world of better beer. Take “Joe Beer”; he’s a guy who has always been a fizzy yellow beer guy but one night he had a beer epiphany and had a beer at a bar one night that blew him away. He’s either going to remember it was XYZ Brewing Co. beer, or that it was, say, and IPA (he may even remember both). Joe Beer makes it into our store and asks for the beer by name, or asks us where our IPA is. Either way, we show him all the IPAs on the shelf, together in one spot, and we show him his brand in the mix if he know is (or he sees it and recognizes it), and now he can either buy a 6er of that one beer, or realize there’s a world of IPAs to choose from. His choice, and it’s easy either way in our stores.

        I’ll end with this: Last Friday a customer of our Baltimore store (called Beltway Fine Wine) took some time to give us feedback. Now, this guy is a BJCP certified beer judge, an avid home brewer, and he drops your kind of bucks on beer when he shops. He REALLY knows his stuff and spends a lot of time around beer. The first thing he said to us is that we should arrange our beer singles by beer style (the Beltway store he shops in has not yet been converted). From his viewpoint, he said true beer enthusiasts want to see beer arranged by the various beer styles (especially when there is as much on the shelves as we have). He believes that is how you can really get in, explore, learn, and appreciate beer. Not get stuck on one or a few breweries and rarely branch out. The “good breweries” who brew great beer (you and I already know who they are)…those breweries are going to rise to the top in the end, regardless, because even novice beer drinkers will ultimately figure out the “good” from the “bad”.

        Thanks. Let’s toast some good beer one day up your way!!


      • Rob — Love the conversation too. Here’s my rebuttal (I’ll try to be brief):

        Point 1 — The Rye IPA was right by it’s shelf tag so it wasn’t put back incorrectly by a customer. It was placed their by whoever stocked the shelf. This is one of the keys of my frustrations of a system that relies on the grouping to guide you to the beer. If the beer isn’t in the right group in the first place should I believe the shelf tag?

        Point 2 — Carrying off of point 1 let me clarify further on the variety grouping. I am not completely opposed to the “by variety” grouping but I would argue the varieties don’t tell the consumer enough. There may be 100 stouts on a shelf, to go to that section have to read every shelf tag to find the 5 beers that have the “chocolate notes” I may be looking for is a bit daunting. Wouldn’t Total Wine be seen as a leader in retail beer sales if say all the hoppy beers had green shelf tags? With a quick glance you could zero in on the flavor (by color) you were looking for. Add the brewery logo to the tag and you got everything you need regardless of how the beer is organized.

        Point 3 — Yes, I know the breweries I like and consider a “good” brewers. The problem is without canvasing the whole aisle I cannot find them. This is not an advantage it is frustrating. I was in TW Cherry Hill standing next to a customer shopping for singles. He asked me “Where do the keep the Dog Fish Head beer?” He wasn’t a “Beer Geek” has was just one of the “They” you refer to that was looking to explore beer and a friend had suggested trying different styles of DFH. He left without making a purchase.

        Point 4 — I agree that the getting educated on any product, beer or otherwise, is a good thing but the shelf organization does not help in education. It promotes “me like pale ale, me buy other pale ale” consumerism. But your job is to sell stuff so I get that. To turn your example around say “Joe” had a Victory Golden Monkey at his brew pub and heads to your store to grab more and perhaps others from Victory. The store is very busy and Joe can’t get help navigating the aisle. So Joe figures he’ll look for Victory or Golden Monkey. Joe doesn’t know beer by type and doesn’t know where Golden Monkey fits so by variety doesn’t help. He looks for Victory but doesn’t know the label and the aisle is a sea jumbled brands. Joe walks out with a 6 pack of Bud instead of a much more expensive mixed 6 pack of Victory. The system needs to allow shoppers to shop from different starting points.

        To wrap up: Like your Beer Enthusiast customer in Baltimore I see the value in variety shopping but I think when the few gems are buried in confusing, sometimes misleading, categories it leads to frustration and steers people away from craft beer. Sure, a shopper could always ask for help but a consumer should be able to shop without an employee as his “beer guide”.

        For what it’s worth, responders to the silly little poll on this blog seem to prefer by brewery with some sort of flavor tag over by variety. I am not saying Total Wine’s reorganized system is bad but it seems to be created with the spirit of “let’s dumb it down to get new beer buyers, hop heads and beer geeks will just figure it out”. Why not create a system that works for both the new buyer and beer geek at the same time.

        Thanks for being part of the conversation. I will try to connect with Bobby at the store. And one parting thought, if Total Wine is truly into education and growing their craft beer customers how about some beer tastings and loyalty rewards discounts. Each week I get Total Wine’s emails with notices of wine tastings and wine discounts but never anything on craft beer.


  7. Dear Fellow Beer Advocates,

    Here is what I wrote on last fall:
    Dear Fellow Beer Advocates,

    All of your comments above are VERY much appreciated. If there is one universal truth about us beer advocates, we are a passionate bunch. There is not enough room in this forum to write about everthing that went into the beer set, however with your indulgence I offer here the below:

    We moved your cheese.

    Yes, we are guilty; we did move those single bottles of Allagash White Ale in the beer SINGLES aisle to be set among other WHEAT beers. We moved your Stone IPA and put it next to all the other craft IPAs in the IPA section (along with Stone Ruination). And we separated out those sought-after, special/limited/rotating release, non-year-round beers into its own Special-Release Beers section.

    There are many ways to do something right, and not everyone will be happy with how it’s done, no matter which way. This is change, and I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I am not always happy with change. I get that.

    While this forum is not conducive to a full, detailed write-up on the what’s and why’s regarding this change, there do appear to be some misconceptions in the posts that bear clarification, and I’ll try to give an outline of what’s going on and why.

    For clarification: all Total Wine & More stores have domestic craft 6-packs set alphabetically by BRAND, import 6-packs set alphabetically by BRAND within country of origin, import singles set alphabetically by BRAND within country or world region of origin, and in new stores opening, along with some existing stores being reset, the domestic craft SINGLES ONLY are set by beer style or style groupings. This means that in these stores, of the four major segments of the overall beer set, only 25% of it is set by beer style.

    We tested this set in several stores beginning two years ago. Here’s what we learned or verified from that test:

    — Most people –the vast MAJORITY of customers buying beer in our stores, including beer singles– are not beer geeks

    — The beer SINGLES aisle is used by customers for experimentation and discovery. Mix & match, build your own 6-pack. (I love that, and I know you do, too)

    — Our beer singles sales increased by double digit numbers, actually nearly 1/3 over historical sales, starting the first week after the test stores were reset, and we have had many (in fact a majority) positive comments from customers

    — Customers were not only purchasing MORE of the popular brands that were already strong sellers, but also purchasing a wider variety of product SKUs overall. That meant people were experimenting more and discovering more. That meant they were discovering new brands and new styles they hadn’t yet tried. That seemed to us like we were doing our part in beer advocacy

    Our objective with this test, which remains today, is to better service a larger number of customers. This set, and the resulting increase in the depth and width of beer sales, was an indicator that the set was more conducive to MORE CUSTOMERS than the previous set was. It told us that by providing customers with greater context for the large selection of beers before them, they were able to dive in and make even more choices (selections of beers to buy) than they were prior.

    There is much more behind this, including many studies done on people making NO choice when presented with too many choices (without context; a way to break down and categorize the choices), and studies and statistics about the influence of women on purchases, and women and beer in particular, but due to space I won’t go into that here.

    So know this, my fellow beer geeks; indeed the style set was developed with the non-geeks in mind – to better serve the majority of beer consumers. Some of these consumers will one day be geeks like us, and I trust by that time they will be able to navigate their way around any beer aisle they happen upon.

    Thank you for your passion. Thank you for patience as the craft beer industry grows and evolves, including the retail tier. Thank you for understanding that, while not at all perfect, the set is very helpful to the majority of beer consumers based on the overall feedback we’ve received. Thank you to those of you who advocate for beer and help other customers while in the beer aisle. Thank you for your business.

    Please feel free to Beer Mail me or tweet me @TWMBeer. I hope to talk with some of you directly.

    Total Wine & More


  8. I way prefer sorting by brewery since. I just wish my local stores were more adventurous and could order a wider variety of craft beers. I realize I live in a relatively small market compared to metropolitan centres, but when we can’t even get a limited run craft brew that is made 200 miles away we got problems. I’ve requested beers from the local store that has the widest variety, to little response.

    I asked her about 4 different beers and 1 specific brewery and she (the manager) told me no. Not no to this one and I’ll get back to you about the others. Just no.

    Frustration builds. Good thing I have a couple of road trips planned for my beer consuming journey.


    • Sounds like you need a relocation more than a road trip. Just out of curiosity where are you located and what beers were you looking for? Sometimes it isn’t a lack of adventurousness on the store but a legal or distribution issue that is preventing a brew from getting to you.


      • Im in Campbell River, BC. If I had the option of relocating I would but my work is here. I asked about Golden Pheasant, A couple of Lighthouse Brewery limited runs, I also wanted to try the dogfish head brews (ever since seeing beer wars). I don’t know if it links it from my name, but I’m doing a leapbeer project where I drink and blog about 366 different beers. I am trying to get all of the available beers locally (vancouver island) that I can.

        Good thing I have a sister in Victoria who’s providing me with a care package of some stuff from down there.


      • Your location is probably most of your challenge but that part of BC has plenty of other redeeming qualities so moving is not an option. You’ll have to stick with the care packages and the occasional road trip to stock-up.

        After you finish your Leepbeer Year you might just have to start making your own brew.


  9. Just a couple thoughts based upon my own evolution as a budding Beer Geek (click here for the Evolution of a Beer Geek info graphic courtesy of the Beer & Whiskey Brothers)…

    As the old adage goes, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. That is the conundrum that most retailers, regardless of product line, must face. Their job is to move product and turn a profit. Given the massive amounts of beer variety that is currently on the market, trying to make sense of it all so that the consumer can make good decisions can’t be easy. But Craft Beer, unlike other industries, is truly different. There are no big budget ad campaigns on radio and TV. I have never seen a commercial for Stone, Dogfish Head, Founders, Brooklyn, etc.. I heard about these breweries from other hardcore Beer Geeks (The Alemonger), from conversations with the other Booze Dancers, and of course, from other bloggers. The Craft Beer Revolution has been fueled by word of mouth and by the brewers going out and bringing their products to the people (community outreach?).

    Prior to discovering Craft Beer, I would rarely buy beer to keep in the house, and when I did, it would be a four pack of Guinness or perhaps some Stella Artois. I doubt that I ever spent more than $200 per year on beer. Thanks to this blog and my Craft Beer loving circle of friends, I probably spend about $40 to $80 per month on Craft Beer (sometimes more, sometimes less). And that doesn’t include money spent at bars and restaurants. I have no brand loyalty, though there are brands that I like better than others, and I rarely buy more than two or three of the same beer at the same time. Much like the late, great Michael Jackson, I have become a Beer Hunter (and a Whisky Chaser)!

    While I am pleased and very impressed by the expansion of Craft Beer selections at our local Total Wine, I must concur with The Wookie. The organization of your offerings baffles me. Perhaps a hybrid organizational structure might help. Break it down by country, and for huge places like the US, break it down even further, i.e. by geographical area and then by brewery.


    • Yup. I don’t think any system is perfect but when organizing stores need to pic a system that allows for two things:

      1 – Finding a specific brew easily
      2 – Exploring similar styles

      The breakdown in the “by style” system comes with who defines the styles. One store may have a separate section for IPAs and one may just lump them all together in a Pale Ale section. Then all the oddsballs keep mixed in. I keep finding myself standing there in the beer aisle looking for a specific brew and thinking “… now what style would they have put a black rye IPA? Dark beers? IPAs? Special releases?” Very frustrating!


  10. When our total wine did this it annoyed me to no end. Luckily we have a great craft beer store in town (Charleston Beer Exchange) so I’m not stuck with them but I still go there occasionally. Still annoying.

    Their whisk(e)y arrangement is a little better but they still have ryes way on another isle from bourbon which kind of annoys me too.


    • It think you can tell by the post that it annoys me too. I understand some of the logic behind what Total does and I am glad that Rob from Total Wine was kind enough to share their point of view in his response to the post above but there has to be a retail merchandising solution that allows educated beer drinkers and new explorers to both find what they are looking for without alienating one group or the other.


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