Three Threads

Three Threads by | Apr 2010 | Issue #39

Whether it’s clearly marked, requires a decoder ring or is void of any form of freshness dating, out-of-code beer appears on shelves quite frequently. Consumers risk not experiencing beer the way the brewer intended, as well as wasting money, while brewers and stores often get a bad rap. But who’s to blame?

abankovich (Ohio)
Disclosure: I am a rep for a distributor. The distributors have a large level of responsibility when it comes to maintaining fresh product inventory. Ordering the right level of product into the warehouse from the beginning and then maintaining that product in proper condition until it gets to the store is all imperative. As reps take orders, they should also be mindful of what account they are selling to and the life of the beer they are selling to the store. Every brewery has a clear idea when they want their beer consumed by (no matter how they date or code their bottles). It is up to the individual sales rep to know the dates on the inventory they are selling and how quickly they think that store can move the product.

Once that beer hits the back stock room or the shelf, it is still up to the rep to follow up and make sure that product is being rotated correctly. Watching BMC distributors in my area, I see them constantly in stores checking dates and rotating product, and I think that is a great habit to be in. I agree with the other arguments that the retailers have a responsibility, as do the consumers. However, I see myself and other distributors as the ones with the largest responsibility because we have the most tools available to us to influence freshness.

HardTarget (Texas)
Brewers. They are ultimately responsible for the condition of their beer when it reaches the consumer. The three-tier system has been distorted beyond its intent, but that does not excuse the brewer from checking on their product in its final, ready-to-be-sold form on the store shelf. If the distributor is not storing and moving it quickly enough or correctly, the brewer needs to find another distributor. If the store is putting the beer in windows and skunking it, they need to be educated and monitored, and, if need be, dropped if they consistently damage the product. Sucks, but brewers need to be ready to have their product pulled from shelves and destroyed when it goes out of date. Anything else rips off customers and degrades the brand.

drtth (Pennsylvania)
If a customer buys out-of-code beer, it is their own fault. Regardless of the role the brewer, distributor or retailer play in making it possible, it is the customer who bought the beer. All the information the customer needs for a buying decision is available. If the container is dated, the customer can choose not to buy the beer. If the date code cannot be easily understood, the customer can choose not to buy. If the container is not dated, the customer can choose not to buy. Responsibility and blame lies squarely with the customer. Everything else is a collection of reasons why it is possible for the customer to buy out-of-code beer.