4000 Breweries = Stale beer on shelves?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by hudsonvalleyslim, Jul 7, 2016.

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  1. hudsonvalleyslim

    hudsonvalleyslim Disciple (366) May 29, 2003 Massachusetts

    This is happening way too much. I go into one of my local huge packies (liquor stores) to find a brew I want to buy, and it's a year old. Came to head recently when I was down to about my 6th choice. The huge selection is amazing, but these establishments obviously don't send back old beer. Even when it's dated.

    Is there so much variety now that it's impossible to keep fresh supplies? Have to note that most of my beer now is local brewery filled growlers.
  2. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (3,001) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The stores will have to learn how to rotate stock and offer up the soon-to-be old beer on specials designed to get it out of the store. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later, but for now these guys seem to be stuck in the old mindset of "it'll eventually sell, and at full markup."

    HSUBOWLER Initiate (0) Dec 23, 2015 California

    BeerCraft in Rohnert Park Ca has already started to do this. They have a 22 oz on sale everyday for half price. This way older beers leave the shelves. They also dont have a huge selection so beers dont stay on the shelves too long. Nothing worse than picking up an IPA that has been sitting on a shelf over a year.
    TongoRad likes this.
  4. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (3,001) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Well...buying it would be worse :wink:.
  5. ssam

    ssam Aspirant (284) Dec 2, 2008 California

    and how about drinking it?
    MNAle, laketang, cjgiant and 2 others like this.
  6. ceeg

    ceeg Initiate (0) Dec 16, 2010 New York

    Even at the small shop where I work we put stuff on sale if it's been sitting too long. It gives us a chance to get new stuff!

    You'd be surprised how many breweries don't want to deal with old stock. A few come through sometimes tho.
    tillmac62, MisterB330 and TongoRad like this.
  7. scxcrunner

    scxcrunner Zealot (569) Aug 24, 2013 Massachusetts

    I would think stores not only have to do a better job of rotating and having sale prices but also observing the data of how long it takes to sell the inventory of each brewery. They should order that beer based on those numbers similar to how a grocery store wouldn't order 1 years worth of milk expecting it to sell eventually, they would purchase it based on sales.
    Gemini6 and mikeinportc like this.
  8. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,803) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Around here there's a depressing lack of awareness. BudMillerCoors reps keep that stock rotated, but Craft brands are allowed to sit because those sales make up less than 5% of the trade and so far the customers aren't complaining.
    Gemini6, mwa423 and frazbri like this.
  9. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,997) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I mostly buy seasonals and local beer now. I ran into the same problem at a popular store in MA. I went through option after option as I came across old beer. They're good guys at this store as far as I know too, so I don't feel they're trying to screw anyone over. I think it's just par for the course when you have a larger store these days.

    I spoke with my local beer guy recently asking how he stocks beer with so many options. He said he stocks as much of the local beer as the breweries will give him (typically some of these are smaller breweries and quite popular). Then for regional beers (Troegs, Victory...etc.) he'll keep a few six packs of whatever is seasonal/popular. Of course there's way more formats and types than this (imports, bombers, 750s), but this is what we discussed in our brief conversation.

    If someone asks for something specific he may buy a limited amount. Then of course you have the distributor possibly sending out old stock too...

    @hudsonvalleyslim where in MA are you?
    drtth, cjgiant and surfcaster like this.
  10. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Poo-Bah (2,057) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I feel like living in Pennsylvania with our wide selection of distribution I see this years ahead of different states that just got breweries we have had for years and then the new up an coming local ones also. I'm not exactly sure how it is will all play out but I've been saying it's at capacity for years now. I like to watch nature take it's course.
    Fat_Maul likes this.
  11. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (526) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina

    @AlcahueteJ hit in on the head. This is where places have to decide on how much of what to carry instead of trying to carry every single thing from everyone--i.e. an identity. I really don't care that my store runs out of a favorite--there is another I like and rarely is anything not pretty darn fresh. I find it silly to think that a shop should carry most everything they could and have it <1 month old, oh and yes from 3000 miles away on the whim that someone may want it that week maybe to not get it again for a year. That is the level that some beer geeks want and just not sustainable.

    I favor the small guy anyway but the Total Wine near me is an old beer graveyard.
    Seasonal and local now win for me.
    #11 surfcaster, Jul 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
    rgordon, herrburgess, cjgiant and 2 others like this.
  12. sinkas

    sinkas Initiate (92) Jul 9, 2008 Australia

    yeh, here in Australia,
    we pay through the nose for yankee imports that are 6-12 weeks old by the time we get them,
    and then they often sit around fro months, often not refrigerated, there are huge big box type shop,
    with palates of stale IPA sitting in the floorspace, it really is buyer beware
  13. samuraichamploo

    samuraichamploo Initiate (0) Jun 6, 2013 New York

    I get Other Half and Grimm IPA's at (almost) every release. I'll shoot out to Finback and Transmitter when my schedule allows. I've hit OEC, Tree House and Trillium twice in two months. The last year has seen a dramatic turn in my purchase of beer. I buy less (except when I went to Trill, TH and OEC), but I know what I'm getting when I do make a purchase.

    I have three stores I used to shop at regularly within 10 blocks of me. They have Stone "drink by" from April; Maine Beer Co. from Winter 2015; Lagunitas with a layer of dust on it. It goes on. I just got tired of it.
    jrnyc, tillmac62 and FatBoyGotSwagger like this.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,826) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    If the requirement is fresh beer then this is the answer right here.

    Or homebrewing.

    PatrickCT and Lucular like this.
  15. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (14,963) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Society Trader

    I like seasonal stouts. Stouts age well, and seasonals are often not around long.
  16. tempo_n_groove

    tempo_n_groove Initiate (0) Mar 12, 2016 New York

    What if you stumble across a nice beer that can be aged?
  17. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (6,112) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia

    I made the realization that a few have a while ago, at or about the time of the thread "could a brewery survive on seasonals alone?" - edit, I think this is it: Should breweries offer seasonal releases only?

    But as many have mentioned, I generally go for seasonals in a big beer store. Of course, some beers can survive a little age, but generally, it's the new beer displays and seasonal section.

    I also realized that what I like about my local small store is that I can go in once a week and find something new in stock, and know it's fresh. Not always are these new offerings, and I try to buy some staples to help them "pay the dues" to get some special offerings. Even then, they have some things sitting a while, also, but at least they throw some on sale.

    So overall, I think it is an issue in that staples are needed for breweries to help them pay for the "special stuff." These are the things some of us overlook, at least in part due to the wide variety of offerings: good, bad, and new. Overlooking can lead to old stock. So I think I basically agree with the OP's premise, huge variety of selection does sonewhat hurt the ability for fresh beer, at least in the bigger beer stores.
    bluejacket74 and AlcahueteJ like this.
  18. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,180) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    Or travel...
    DoctorZombies likes this.
  19. Strangestbrewer

    Strangestbrewer Initiate (76) Oct 17, 2014 Oregon

    Is it the fault of there being 4000+ breweries or is it the fact that the market isn't growing as fast enough? There's plenty of people to drink that beer before it gets stale.
  20. scottakelly

    scottakelly Zealot (525) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    The couple of years I have bought most of my beer from a local gas station that has a cooler with a small, well thought out, constantly rotating selection. I got tired of going to the other local, who has a much bigger selection, and having to sort through what's fresh and what's been sitting there two years.
  21. scottakelly

    scottakelly Zealot (525) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    You always know how fresh your homebrew is. And if you do it right, it won't last long enough to go stale!
    Wolfhead likes this.
  22. utopiajane

    utopiajane Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    In my local wegmans I am getting more regional beer and most of it is fresher. There are more seasonals in the singles section and that is not the place to clear out the stale beer let me tell you why. You want customers to buy ANY of the beer you sell. So what you represent in the singles and the price you charge is the impression you give as to the nominal price point of your selections. THEN you need to have fresh seasonal beer in there along with the staple beers YOU CARRY so that when someone tries it, they will want another and come back for six. (rant :flushed:)
    DoctorZombies and Squire like this.
  23. Tilley4

    Tilley4 Poo-Bah (2,523) Nov 13, 2007 Tennessee
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    That Maine stuff wouldn't collect dust here... Always wanted to try their stuff...
  24. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,803) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    I'm working the diplomatic angle myself. In one of our local stores the craft beers make up less than 5% of sales so I pointed out to the manager that out of every 100 of his beer customers that would be me and a couple other guys. Also, those interested enough to seek out Craft brands are learning to decipher the bottling codes and we're not buying the out of date stuff. Even though our numbers are small we are more discriminating so it would be in the store's best interest to rotate out the old stock. A week later he put some Southern Tier Old Man Winter (bottled last October) on sale for $3.59 a six pack.
    utopiajane and drtth like this.
  25. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I pretty much agree with those suggesting the problem stems from the retailer not adjusting to deal with the way the beer world has changed. They can't be all things to all people any more.
  26. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,997) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Hey that was me! It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out moving forward in regard to less flagships/staples and more one-offs and seasonals.

    I believe you are correct in that flagships/staples help fund special offerings. But I don't necessarily think it's on you to buy these staples. Flagship beers that make up the largest percentage of a breweries' sales (especially the bigger breweries) are likely being purchased mostly by your average craft beer drinkers. Not the beer geeks or those who frequent this website. That's why it sells in higher volumes and helps pay the bills. These widely distributed, well known, "cheaper" beers in 12 packs/cases are reaching a broader audience.

    Another dynamic that perhaps is going overlooked, is the amount of beer being sold on-site at local breweries. I've read a recent statistic (I forget where, so I apologize if it's inaccurate) that 50% of one of our popular local breweries' sales are on-site at the brewery/tap room. Slowly, but surely, it appears more and more cities/towns in the US are developing an actual "beer culture" akin to something you might see Europe. Less liquor store sales, and more on-site drinking in a fun, relaxing atmosphere. Plus, you can then take fresh beer home with you when you leave.

    This is part of how it has begun to "shake out" in my opinion. Larger breweries expanding as far as they can, and then either being bought by an AB-InBev, or attempting to set up shop in Europe as Stone did. Either way, the need to expand to markets other than the US is apparent. In other cases, like Dogfish Head a few years ago, they pull out of some states to focus on a smaller market. And smaller, local breweries, stay small and make their money off of the locals.
    bluejacket74, cjgiant and LeRose like this.
  27. GameOfBeers

    GameOfBeers Initiate (0) Jul 21, 2014 Pennsylvania

    I think some breweries need to can/bottle less. Yes, I said it. It you have a 10 beer tap list at the pub and can all but 2, your going to have beer just sitting on the shelf. But, if you can your most popular 4-6, people will buy those from stores and come to your pub to try the newer stuff. More people in the breweries door = More money for the brewery to diversify their portfolio.
    Wiffler27 likes this.
  28. jparizo

    jparizo Initiate (0) Jan 16, 2011 Indiana

    I've been conditioned to check the date on every purchase that freshness matters. If there is no date, I don't buy it. Another reason I've been drinking seasonals more often. Great selection is a double edged sword. On the other hand, I'd rather be complaining that there is too much beer and some is old. I'd rather drink an old pale ale every now and then vs. not having the selection in the first place.
  29. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,803) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    In times of plenty it's easy for me to sit back and talk about standards because there are choices. If times were lean and there were only a few 5-6 month old Pale Ales on the shelf would I buy? Yes I would, at least to try them, but I don't like the idea.
    jparizo likes this.
  30. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,322) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I sure hope we don't have a rash of old homebrew complaints!
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  31. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,322) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Retailers and wholesalers share in the responsibility to keep fresh product on the shelves. Buying everything (retailer) or selling too much (wholesaler) can both cause problems. Retailers need to move time sensitive product along and wholesalers need to have a realistic grasp of a retailer's needs. For a retailer to maintain a good reputation it may sometimes require taking a cut in normal margins. Move it out! I've seen salespeople "load em up", selling way to much of certain items. This never works and inhibits a good working relationship. Simply put; if a retailer that wants a huge selection doesn't watch beer dates like a hawk, he/she will have old beer sooner and later.
    #31 rgordon, Jul 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  32. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,803) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    I would add some unhappy customers as well.
    rgordon likes this.
  33. LeRose

    LeRose Poo-Bah (1,819) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
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    In stores in my corner of MA (and I'll include RI since I mostly shop there) it is a real crapshoot. I was in a high end store last week that had KBS on the shelf - if anybody wants it, it's at Eno in Providence. OK, I can see that but maybe not at full price at this point time and not for those who've never had it and would want to try it fresh (like me). But also in a crate were bottles of Pumking. I know...pumpkin beers launch early, but obviously this is last year's run and still at full price. I'm not the biggest date nazi in the world and Lord knows I have enough beer aging in the house already, but seeing that in a store of that caliber makes me wonder what other evils are lurking. Sometimes I check the dates (or try to) and sometimes I don't knowing that some brews are OK with some dust on 'em and sometimes I just take my lumps.

    The sell-through just isn't fast enough. I watch people in stores - it's fun - they pick up a bottle, stare at it, put it back, repeat. And then I realize I do exactly the same thing... But do some math - 4000 breweries and say each produce 5 beers for 20K sku's right there and I can't think of too many breweries making only five beers...then seasonals and whatever "specials". I fail to see how so many beers can be expected to sell. And yes - not all of those 4000 breweries have wide scale distribution, but it's still too many beers to my way of thinking. At least if it is local brewery sales and the beer is "hot", they can just sell it a run at a time - when it's gone, it's gone.

    If the system isn't there to monitor and the stores/distributors aren't taking up their part, it isn't going to get better. What's the urgency for change? As @Squire123 said it's five-ish percent of the overall business and it sells at a slow bleed - nobody's going to worry when the bulk of their business is BMC and that is well-managed. There's too many beers and loyalty doesn't carry the day - it's almost like every sale is that first sale and there's generally minimal repeat purchase. I think that is only a slight exaggeration. Say what you want, the BMC crowd is buying cases and we're mostly buying singles or four packs. And if all that old beer starts bouncing back to the distributors and the breweries, then what's gonna happen? Can a small outfit deal with the financial impact of these unsold goods?

    I think the model is shifting to buying fresh from locals, which I view as a double-edged sword. It's great to support locals where it makes sense - meaning the beer is good. Without trying too hard, I can think of a handful of small, local breweries that do not make good beer yet they remain in business because of the rabid locavores. I'm not talking about the beer is just an OK brew. I mean, if I can easily identify a flaw, then there's a flaw because I don't even know what all the flaws could be. On the other end, you have a Trillium selling product faster than they can make it and every sip I've had from them has been at least very good leaning to outstanding. How can both ends of this spectrum exist? Is the "low" end the equivalent of BMC for the hip crowd and they don't know any better?

    It will certainly be interesting to see what shakes out in time, but I feel it is going to polarize and there might no be a "middle".
    cjgiant likes this.
  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,826) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Permit me to add the breweries to your list. It could be argued that the breweries are 'over-producing' beer and it would be likely that the breweries are doing their best to 'push' that product to the wholesalers (e.g.,providing discounts for buying a full truckload of product). Maybe the various craft breweries should consider dialing back their production numbers.

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  35. invertalon

    invertalon Zealot (507) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio

    I won't buy beer unless I know it's fresh per date on the bottle. If it's an IPA, I go about 3-4 weeks tops for buying (It takes me a few weeks to drink a 6-pack, so I want it fresh in that time period). Other styles maybe 2-3 months. Otherwise I just don't buy and drink my fresh homebrew instead!
  36. Fat_Maul

    Fat_Maul Initiate (0) Jan 24, 2014 Pennsylvania

    The industry is growing so fast, these bottle shops are popping up all over the place. I don't think most know how to deal with this. The distributors probably are the ones who need to step up. They should have the best information as to what will sell and what won't.
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,826) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Larry, permit me to take a crack at this. I would suggest that rather than using the words "don't know any better" that perhaps more appropriate verbiage would be "have differing tastes in beer". There are millions of people who drink and enjoy beers like Bud Light, Miller Lite, Bud, Coors Light,... which we BAs would view as being 'sub-par' beers but for those consumers these AAL beers are exactly what they want to drink. It seems to me that the "ends of this spectrum" can exist in perpetuity as long as there are beer drinkers that are buying and enjoying beers like Trillium (e.g., the beer geek crowd) and beer drinkers that are buying and enjoying the non-Trillium beers.

  38. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    This is a good idea. I have a few times in the past liked a beer a lot. It would sell out at the beer store and I would have to wait for another shipment. I cant get that beer I like all the time but it's a good thing because I know its always fresh. The breweries making the beers in question eventually expanded and now the beers sit on the shelves. Its too bad.
  39. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Poo-Bah (2,057) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    We as consumers helped create this, the most popular and best selling styles are pale ales and india pale ales. I remember making a post over a year ago listing all the really good options available at a single given time to me and the list was at 30+. It would take a lot of dedicated beer enthusiasts to drink all that before it goes stale.

    I'm not sure how a Distributor would step up other then dropping brands from their portfolio which will eventually happen. @rgordon summed it up nicely a few posts up, with common sense and realistic outlooks.

    And the wild card is that a lot of the people who used to eagerly chase pale ales and india pale ales have become disillusioned with shopping for beer traditionally and opt for locally sourced stuff direct from a brewery rather then a bottle shop or distributor. It should be glaringly obvious when it is easier to stand in line for hours on end to obtain fresh beer then it is to find it in stock.
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  40. Fat_Maul

    Fat_Maul Initiate (0) Jan 24, 2014 Pennsylvania

    Well sure but they are the one's not adapting to the situation. Our distributors are super aggressive making us probably a top 5 state when it comes to number of brands sold. That variety creates a culture of people like me who sometimes won't even buy a six pack because I won't be able to drink all six before they aren't as fresh as I would like them. Clearly they are buying beer at a pace that consumers aren't keeping up with and it's basically impossible for them to rely on past results when re-ordering beer from breweries. I don't want to see the variety go away but something has to give.
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