How often do you purchase packaged beer at retailers?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackHorzempa, Nov 8, 2019.


How often do you purchase packaged beer at retailers?

  1. Never

  2. Not often

  3. About 50% of the time

  4. Mostly

  5. All of the time

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,841) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    In a thread in the Mid-Atlantic forum @OGShotzy posted:

    “I hardly ever buy beer in stores anymore. It’s almost always direct from the brewery. Or it’s stuff that my friends bring back for me from their brewery trips.”

    I thought it would be interesting to see if there are other BAs who obtain their beers in a similar manner.

    I mostly purchase commercial beer from my local beer retailers (e.g., Wegmans, local Retail Beer Distributors,…) but I have purchased canned beers from small, local breweries from time to time.

    Are beer retailers soon to go out of business?


  2. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (4,242) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I would say that over the last year, about 98% of my beer buying was from a beer retailer directly. I very rarely have the opportunity to buy beer directly from the source due to the added time and effort to go to a brewery and buy the beer. Most any beer I really want to have I can get locally at the store, or most likely I will just never have it.
    LOL, no. Both because I suspect that people who buy beer from breweries directly is a very small minority in both the craft beer market and the beer market as a whole and because there is way too much money in the 3-tiered system to allow buying directly overtake the current system wherein beer is funneled to consumers through distributors and retailers. Id go so far as to say that we will see breweries banned from selling their beer directly to the consumer before we see beer retailers go out of business.
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  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,841) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Boy, I really hope that never comes to fruition. While I rarely purchase packaged beer directly from the plethora of small, local breweries near me I do think it is a plus that I know these beers are significantly fresher than many of the beers sitting on my local beer retailers' shelves. When I go to my local retailers' I will often purchase seasonal beers since I know these beers are not 6 months old.

    Mrstiffington and Amendm like this.
  4. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,010) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    90% brewery direct here

    in my case this isn’t like a major statement about “drink local brewery only bro”. It’s just I have two young kids and a hectic job, and literally the closest place that sells beer I enjoy drinking is Other Half Brewing. If Whole Foods was closer then that 90/10 number would be flipped.
    #4 rozzom, Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  5. JayORear

    JayORear Meyvn (1,229) Feb 22, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    The interesting twist on this in NYC is that many grocery stores, large and small, now have better selections than most dedicated "beer shops." Plus, there are several great breweries that you can get to pretty quickly via subway. Right now, I'm buying about 40% direct from breweries and 60% from grocery stores, with more than half of that from Whole Foods.
  6. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (4,242) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I agree! I was just saying that I see that scenario as more likely than beer retailers going away.
  7. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,113) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The Brewers Association and Beer Marketers Insights both estimate that the total "own premise" beer sales in the US for 2018 was between 3 and 3.25 million barrels out of a total US beer market of 194.3 million barrels - or about 1.5% of the market.

    So, I'd say: "No". :grin:

    Yeah, doesn't make sense to me. I could make a same-county, beer-run drive to Carton brewery, 50+ minutes (one-way, if it's not rush hour) of annoying local road driving - to buy beer. Or, I can buy Carton beers locally at my nearest beer store - and for less money, as I understand it - thanks to Carton's self-distribution network.
    #7 jesskidden, Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  8. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (4,242) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Yea, I think location is going to play a huge role in this. From my personal experience - when I used to live in the city it was much easier to make it to breweries located near public transportation. Now that I'm in the suburbs, I just don't get to them anymore.
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  9. JediMasterLenin

    JediMasterLenin Disciple (324) Dec 25, 2018 District of Columbia

    Went with "Mostly" here. I buy for the flagship store of a local grocery chain, so ~90% of the beer I buy comes from there. But of course I'd pick up at least a bottle or sixer of something if I'm already at/going to a brewery, especially if I'm visiting from out of state and they don't have distro in my area.
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  10. beer_me_phl

    beer_me_phl Initiate (0) Aug 26, 2010 Pennsylvania

    Great question @JackHorzempa I would say I'm 50/50 at this point in my beer purchases. When I first started drinking craft it was obviously 100% all retail/distributors and then once Tired Hands, Levante, etc. came into the area it titled in favor of them but now I'm seeing myself split down the middle. I don't necessarily seek out beers anymore so if I happen to drive through the area of West Chester or Ardmore, I'll stop at the breweries but I also frequent Kunda or the Beer Yard just as much.
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  11. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,947) Apr 16, 2015 New York
    Society Trader

    I put not often. I occasionally will grab a four pack at the grocery store or gas station. If there was a craft beer store in my area that may be different. The times I do purchase retail it is usually to bring to a friends house or for an occasion (e.g. picnic, beach trip).

    95% of what I drink is brewery purchases or sent in mail from friends or BIFs.

    If I am in the area of a good beer store I usually go in and check stuff out, don't usually see anything I find worth buying.
    #11 jhavs, Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  12. bobhits

    bobhits Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2006 Kentucky

    I don't think I've ever bought a packaged beer from a brewery and I can walk to one. It just never made any sense to do so when they don't tend to have the best prices. Just easier to buy it from a store.
  13. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,416) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    I seek out good beer and buy it wherever I find it.
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  14. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,853) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Same boat, but I voted All the Time. My retailers happen to be pretty excellent while my locals are only good for the occasional change of pace. Plus, with the excellent regional brewers like Industrial Arts, Kane, Carton, etc. I can their stuff down the block, so why bother going to the brewery if I'm not in the area already.
  15. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Mostly retail stores for me. Most of the beer at brewery is growler refills does that count as packaged?
  16. thedaveofbeer

    thedaveofbeer Aspirant (249) Mar 25, 2016 Massachusetts

    My beer buying is strategic: 1: NEIPAs and stouts direct from the Brewery (a large part of what I drink- Tree House is the main source by a good margin ) . 2: Lagers, Wild Ales and Barrel aged stouts from Beer/ grocery stores. The current mix is probably about 70/30
  17. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,976) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    My vote was "All of the time", and that is overstating it only very, very slightly. I've bought 3 beers (bombers) directly from the brewery in the past 2 years. That was a brewery-only beer that I wanted to try, and the brewery is not far off my commuting route home.

    Fact is, like the variety of brewers and styles available at a retail liquor store, and I don't like growlers or crowlers. In MN, you can't buy "normal" packaged beer at the brewery, (although the law is pretty loose on what a "growler" actually is, hence I was able to buy the bombers mentioned above) but even it you could, it likely would not change my buying patterns much.
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  18. joerooster

    joerooster Initiate (0) May 15, 2018 Virginia

    Mostly from retail stores, my local breweries are all into the $20/4-pack thing and I can't justify spending that for all my beer purchases. Growler fills cost even more per ounce which makes no sense to me but I guess I'm missing something.

    That said, I'd buy mostly local if their prices were competitive with the stuff I can get at the grocery store or total wine.
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  19. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (4,167) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Society Trader

    Voted "all the time".

    There are three local breweries that I'd love to have their products in my fridge, but only two of the three offer to-go cans. Unfortunately, one of those is popular enough that a can release requires waiting in line to obtain - which I avoid. Personally, I opt to visit the day after a release to get the beer on draft.

    Whenever the third brewery starts canning, I'll be keeping a tab on their offerings. They have strong fridge stocking potential with their diverse lager options.
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  20. scream

    scream Meyvn (1,338) Dec 6, 2014 Wisconsin

    About the only time I buy packaged beer at a brewery is when it is not something I can buy at a retailer. The price is generally higher at the brewery as they do not want to dissuade retailers from carrying their product by undercutting the usual price.
  21. officerbill

    officerbill Defender (611) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    I think you'll find this to be the determining factor for responses.
    Folks in metro areas with several conveniently located canning/bottling breweries vs suburban/rural consumers with few, if any, local choices.
    Growlers don't work for me, but only one of the four breweries within 1/2 hour of my house has a canner and they specialize in styles I don't drink. So, for me, at home beers come from retail stores.
  22. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,947) Apr 16, 2015 New York
    Society Trader

    Definitely location plays a huge role for me. I live in a rural area. There are a couple craft beer stores within an hour of me. The grocery store is about 40 minutes away, they carry a very good craft beer selection. Recently the gas stations have Heady, Focal, and Lawson's etc. too. It is usually just as easy for me to stop at a brewery as it is to go to a retail beer location.
    I'd say probably 80% of the beer I buy is brewery only (River Roost and Hill Farmstead).
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  23. JediMasterLenin

    JediMasterLenin Disciple (324) Dec 25, 2018 District of Columbia

    Words cannot express my envy at this statement....
  24. Jacobier10

    Jacobier10 Poo-Bah (2,370) Feb 23, 2004 New Jersey

    Exact same situation for me, resulting in opposite buying habits. Two kids and a job, which makes is nearly impossible for me to get to local breweries during their limited hours. There is a store 5 mins from my office with a great selection and prices, so it's more convenient for me to make beer runs on my lunch break once or twice a week.
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  25. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,947) Apr 16, 2015 New York
    Society Trader

    It is definitely convenient, but sometimes I miss the good old days when Heady could trade for anything!
  26. Justonemore91

    Justonemore91 Zealot (503) Nov 24, 2018 New York
    Society Trader

    Breweries aren't selling 6 packs of beer at 9.99 or 4 pack cans of pilsners at 5.99 so yeah retailers aren't going anywhere. You get more of a better selection at a retailer than any brewery
  27. officerbill

    officerbill Defender (611) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Those two breweries are 1 1/2 hours apart. Are you saying that you drive at least 45 minutes, one way, to buy 80% of your beer?
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  28. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,947) Apr 16, 2015 New York
    Society Trader

    I live 30 minutes from WRJ but am in that area weekly. I work about 40 minutes from HF and go there for almost all limited releases.

    45 minutes isn't much up here, nearest store of any kind is a gas station across the border in VT is about 15 minutes. Grocery store is about 40 minutes from home (unless I wanted to shop at WalMart in the town where I work which is 35 minutes from home).

    This is why location is a big factor for the OPs question. If I wanted to drive to a beer store, the closest is in WRJ in the same parking lot as River Roost. The next closest is 70 minutes away (Waterbury VT) and I only stop in there if I am already in town for some reason.
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  29. Beerbadger55

    Beerbadger55 Initiate (102) Aug 29, 2017 Wisconsin

    I'm fortunate to have some really good beer retailers in my area so nearly all of my purchases are made with them. I do like a growler or crowler fill on occasion, however, $20 or more for a growler fill or $15 for a crowler is a bit hard to justify any more and that seems to be the going rate in town. It has to be a very special beer only available at the brewery.
  30. PrimustheOne

    PrimustheOne Initiate (61) Nov 23, 2016 New Hampshire

    I used to buy most of my beer from dedicated beer shops, but after a while, I got tired of paying $16+ for a 4 pack of beer. So now, I purchase most of my beer from the grocery store, which has a decent selection.

    I'm sure many people here will defend the $16+ 4 pack, but the relative quality just doesn't justify the high prices for me.
  31. Cait612

    Cait612 Initiate (0) Nov 8, 2019 Pennsylvania

    So this is a tricky question because I don't buy from a grocery store or place like that almost ever. But I rarely go direct to breweries either. I buy from a local bottle shop. Love the owner and I can get singles of almost every new release in my area.
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  32. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (644) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    @JackHorzempa Sorry in advance if this comes off as picking on your poll choices... but I think the "mostly" and "All of the time" categories could use additional breakdown or clarifications. For me I'm guessing my beer purchases are retail 95% or more, but since it's not technically all the time I answered "mostly," but understand how others are debating the line....
    The discussion is still fine to have, I'm just not sure how much insight the poll will give.
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  33. officerbill

    officerbill Defender (611) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Sounds like my grandparents' place in Alabama. Closest place to buy any beer is a convenience store almost 1/2 hour away. The closest stores with anything approaching a decent craft/import selection are better than an hour drive.
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  34. mogulskier

    mogulskier Initiate (119) Feb 3, 2019 California

    Most of the time, I buy my beer at retail out of convenience. So many bottle shops around here. The good stuff never lasts more than a few days anyways, so freshness is never an issue.

    But luckily in the Bay Area, there are many great breweries within distance, and some others are a bit of a hike, but doable. Nice to visit them to try different beers on tap, and grab some favorites to take home.
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  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,841) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The poll is still very young but at the time I am posting this reply about 25% of the folks have polled they purchase there beers 50% or less from beer retailers. I am personally intrigued by this since the majority of my packaged beer purchasing is via the 'traditional' source of beer retailers. Perhaps this is a indication that over the next decade or so there will be a significant shift in how craft beer consumers purchase their packaged beer?

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  36. teal

    teal Initiate (0) May 3, 2012 Wisconsin

    Mostly but realize most of my beer is bought at a bar, rest is brewery tap room (rare) and homebrew.

    When I think of total beer consumption.

    Usually out at craft bars, 2 cases a year from a package store and then a case or 2 at a brewery and several gallons homebrew. As annual totals.
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  37. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (11,733) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I think I might have an interesting personal spin on this.

    I am, for whatever reason, constantly looking to try new and different beers, even if they're bad. You can't rate a good beer unless you've had bad beers right? And truth be told, you can still learn a lot from a bad beer, and perhaps even more than you can from a good beer.

    I'll more than willing to try what I assume will be a bad to very bad beer from Costa Rica or Latvia, but I don't want to try a bad beer from a local brewery. That leads me to buy most of my beer from a retailer.

    Part of not wanting to just try a new beer from a local brewery is due to the cost, but part of it is that when I do get a bad beer I'm disappointed that the local brewer hasn't done better.

    THEREFORE, I tend to stick with local brewers that have proven themselves. I'll give anyone a first spin, but after that even if I visit again I'm probably not going to buy a 4-pk or crowler unless I've tasted it and liked it.

    Is it wrong of me to be tougher on local breweries than oddball breweries from around the globe?

    More importantly, why do most breweries not sell their canned beers as singles? That makes no sense to me. I'll gladly buy one to try for $4 but I don't want to spend $16 and find out I've got 3 beers to fridge-bomb someone with.
  38. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (93) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    I work in beer retail, thus I buy a lot of retail packages. Not exclusively though, thus I voted mostly.
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  39. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,682) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    About half the time for me. The other half is a mix of random drafts from restaurants or at the breweries themselves. Mainly the ones close to me (Dry Dock, Comrade, Bull & Bush, Station 26), but I'll occasionally trek to the other side of town, too.

    My retail purchases are very different from draft purchases, though. Usually at tasting rooms I go with whatever is new and unusual. At the store I stick to known quantities when possible. It's a lot easier and cheaper not to finish a pint vs. dumping a 6-pack.
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  40. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,147) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Society Trader

    Thanks Jack, good forum conversation topic.

    Most of my beer consumption comes from stores and drank at home or bottle shares...probably 90%+ of the time.

    Mostly when I visit breweries it fits into 3 criteria:
    1) its for entertainment purposes...something to do on the weekend that I enjoy
    2) sometimes I'll check my local brewery taps and see something really interesting and stop by to sample some one-off brewery only beer
    3) When I'm traveling out of my area, if there is a very reputable brewer and the only option is a brewery only purchase, then I'll buy some world class beer to mule home.

    If breweries sold on-site individual 12oz or 16oz bottles/cans across most of their on tap options in the range of $2-$5 each where the pricing was dependent on beer style...I'd frequently stop by brewers to pick up 6 individual different 12oz or 16oz beers of theirs for $10-$20 for at home consumption. I have yet found a brewery that offers the variety and pricing that I can get from retail stores purchases.
    #40 bubseymour, Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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