Out of Code Beer and Etiquette

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by jparizo, Feb 5, 2016.

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  1. SCW

    SCW Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2004 New York

    These people are not leading the industry; they are following. ;-)
     
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  2. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer Aspirant (232) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Trader

    Without followers, the whole thing is just a pyramid scheme :astonished:
     
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  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Mostly true but not entirely true. Two examples:

    · Stone Enjoy By details a code length of 35 days by prominently displaying a best by date as part of the beer label; (e.g., Enjoy By 02.14.16)

    · Sam Adams Rebel Raw: “Rebel Raw is a limited release with a 35 day shelf life.” - See more at: http://blog.samueladams.com/tag/rebel-raw/#sthash.LsTzFzop.dpuf

    It will be interesting if other breweries create and distribute hoppy beers with similarly short best by timeframes.

    Cheers!
     
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Is Bernie now in the craft beer business!?!:confused:

    Cheers!
     
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  5. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer Aspirant (232) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Trader

    It's also quite doable if you buy local.
     
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  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yup, a few weeks ago I bought a case of Troegs Nugget Nectar that was canned on 1/20/16. Last year I bought a case of Victory DirtWolf that was bottled 1 week before my purchase date.

    Cheers!
     
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  7. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (2,393) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts
    Society

    There are many good replies here, and I think the OP's questions have mostly been answered. I'll add my 2 cents though.

    A beer is not necessarily out of code if it is older than 3 months. Strictly speaking, a beer is only out of code if it is older than the freshness period designated by the brewery. These can be vastly different. One brewery might put a 90 day code on their IPA, while another might be comfortable with how theirs tastes over a 6 month period. Some beers/beer styles are just more hearty by nature, some breweries have efficient bottling/canning lines that can keep beer tasting fresher longer. There is no hard and fast rule.

    The three month period that everyone talks about is more of an unofficial guideline. Many people feel that freshness in the more delicate beer styles tends to tail off after three months. What it comes down to is personal preference. In my experience, this can even vary from beer to beer. I've had a canned Pilsner from a reputable brewery that tasted great four months out (still within the brewery's freshness period). There are also IPAs that, in my opinion, fall off outside of two months and are still within the freshness period.

    My advice is this: if you see a clear best by date and the beer is on the wrong side of it, don't buy it. Also feel free to point it out if you feel so inclined. If you see a bottled on date, there is no real way of knowing if the beer is out of code or not without knowing the brewery designated freshness period. This is where you should proceed with caution. If you've never had the beer before and it is a more delicate style, then I would try to buy it within three months of bottling. There is no reason to go pointing it out to employees or making a stink about it if it is older than three months though. Not unless you know the brewery designated freshness period and the beer exceeds it. That said, if you see a beer that is far out of season or a beer that is of a more delicate style that is 6mo+ in age, you can be reasonably assured it is out of code.

    Maintaining beer freshness is everyone's responsibility across the three-their system. However, the onus of the burden often falls to distributors and retailers. A good retailer will keep an eye on their stock and try their best to rotate product and maintain freshness. A good distributor rep will likewise watch the product they sell in to a store and work with the retailer to ensure that it turns over and freshness is maintained. Good communication and a good working relationship between the distributor rep and the retailer are key. However, this is not a perfect world and beer will inevitably go out of code sometimes. Who should eat the cost? That's really situationally dependant, but the majority of the time the distributor will pick up out of code product and credit the retailer somehow. The out of code product is disposed of and there is often a bill-back to the brewery and the cost is shared.
     
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  8. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (2,393) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts
    Society

    This is a matter of personal preference then.
     
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Do you work in the beer industry? Do you have data that for the craft beer industry the majority of instances of beer being "out of code" is rectified by the wholesale distributor and the retailer is compensated?

    I have no data to substantiate this but my guess is that what happens for the majority of out of code beer is that an unsuspecting (knowledgeable) customer buys the old beer (or the retailer swallows the cost).

    A wise and conscientious retailer will properly monitor their stock and as the beer approaches its out of code date will discount the beer to ensure that it is purchased prior to going out of code.

    Cheers!
     
  10. BeerKarmaNYC

    BeerKarmaNYC Initiate (0) Sep 13, 2015 New York

    Maybe. But as someone who prides himself on sharing the joys of great craft beer I think you're doing people a disservice by not drinking great hoppy beers withing a few weeks of packaging.
     
  11. BeerKarmaNYC

    BeerKarmaNYC Initiate (0) Sep 13, 2015 New York

    Enjoy By. Let's not forget about that.

    And you're right, don't listen to me. I'll continue to buy and drink super from IPAs and be a stickler about wanting fresh beers in my trades and the rest of you can drink malt bombs that have been sitting on shelves or in someones fridge for too long.
     
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  12. honkey

    honkey Disciple (319) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Brewery Trader

    At least with all the distributors my brewery has worked with, we are always asked to provide sale sheets on our beers. THe sheets get sent to the retailers when they order our beer. The info they get on the sheet includes our recommended shelf life, storage conditions, IBU's, SRM, ABV, and a description of the beer. If a retailer doesn't know that info, it is because they didn't read the sheet.
     
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  13. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (2,393) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts
    Society

    Haha. I do work in the beer industry, and on the distribution side. I don't think the data you speak of exists, and I don't think it'll ever be possible to collect it. I can only speak to how things are (ideally) handled in my neck of the woods. Anecdotal to be sure. I don't know of many retailers that will knowingly eat the cost of their breakage/expired beer though. If they know it's there and affecting their profits, 9 times out of 10 they will push to have it picked up.

    "A wise and conscientious retailer will properly monitor their stock and as the beer approaches its out of code date will discount the beer to ensure that it is purchased prior to going out of code."

    We are in agreement here. And a wise and conscientious distributor rep will help the retailer with this. My commentary was framed more around this type of healthy working relationship. Hence I use the terms "good retailer" and "good distributor rep" and "good working relationship." Of course there are less desirable scenarios.
     
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  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Will those distributors remove old product and compensate the retailers for that old beer?

    Cheers!
     
  15. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (2,393) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts
    Society

    You're speaking of a very specific business model and applying a blanket statement based on that to the rest of the beer industry. There's a basic truth to what you write. Hop-forward beers are often better the fresher they are consumed. But that doesn't mean you have be a nazi about it. There are many IPAs that taste fantastic months after bottling. It's really dependant on the beer and how it's packaged and handled. Saying all hop-forward beer should be consumed within 35 days of bottling is frankly laughable. It's not a very realistic thing to achieve unless you're a very small brewery that sells their beer out at the door.

    You can keep trading for the freshest beer possible, but at the end of the day your beer is probably arriving at your door via FedEx or UPS. It's getting jostled around in a hand-packed box and exposed to all kinds of fluctuating temperatures and environments. This is just as influential on the freshness of your beer as time is. Food for thought.
     
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  16. honkey

    honkey Disciple (319) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Brewery Trader

    Without getting too much into the politics of doing so, no they will not. If they have to do so, then we pay the distributor back. Typically if that happens, it is because the distributor sent the beer to an account that really should be selling our beer. It is frustrating to see us not able to keep beer in stock at our good accounts and then find out that another account has year old beer.
     
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  17. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Naw, he went big on Ponzi (before heading up the river). :wink:
     
  18. SCW

    SCW Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2004 New York

    Jack -

    One other thing to note, which I thought you might find interesting. Was talking with a couple of wholesalers this morning, and they remarked how they were "sitting on a ton of product" from breweries that recently sold out, as were some of the retailers in their area.

    One thing some folks on BA might appreciate - but breweries don't count "sales" as when the customer buys their beer. Rather, sales (revenue) is counted when a brewery ships the beer to the wholesaler. 100% of the sale is accounted for at that point.

    But we all know that is not true and complete - after all, the wholesaler has to sell the beer to the bottle shop/grocer/bar/restaurant, and that entity also must successfully sell the beer to the consumer/end user. Only then is the sale truly "complete."

    Seems like there was a lot of incentives to push as much beer out to the wholesalers as possible shortly before the sale, thus making the financials of the company look better than they actually are. The entire downstream supply chain is affected by this, as there is an accumulation of stale and old product clogging up the shelves.

    This is yet another reason why (IMHO) to err on having not enough inventory vs. having too much. Of course, as already note, that is often easier said then done!

    cheers
     
  19. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Hadn't thought about this before. Now a couple of things I've heard/seen might be making a bit more sense.
     
    #99 drtth, Feb 22, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
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  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Shane, is the Brewery to Wholesale Distributor sales relationship a 'push' or a 'pull'? In other words do Wholesales Distributors place an order with the brewery (a 'pull") where they request x pallets of brand A and y pallets of brand B and... Or do you as a brewery just ship product to a Wholesale Distributor (a 'push') and they are contractually obligated to receive what you send them?

    It would seem to me that the dynamic of 'push' vs. 'pull' could greatly influence the balance of how much old beer is out in the marketplace (both the Wholesale Distributors warehouse and the retail stores).

    Cheers!
     
  21. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer Aspirant (232) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Trader

    Exactly. "Stuffing the pipeline" is always an issue...whether breweries sending a ton to the distributor, or the distributor overloading a restaurant or shop towards the end of the month. Both are obviously the opposite of "quality first," and tend to result in older beer on the shelf.
     
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    I can't comment about NC but I have gotten to know the owners/managers of several of my local beer retailer in PA very well and the principle sales process is that the retailers 'pull' the product; they order what they want from the Wholesale Distributor. I was in one of my local beer stores when the manager 'educated' the person who was delivering beer that several of the cases on his dolly were not consistent with his order. He made the guy put those cases back on the truck. In this instance I think it was simply a case of the wholesale distributor person screwing up the order sheet.

    Where things get 'dicey' is when the Wholesale Distributor tries to influence the ordering process. A classic story is that the Wholesale Distributor will promise x cases of Goose Island BCBS if the retailer would also purchase x pallets of Goose Island IPA/Honkers Ale. The retailer will agree to do this so they can provide some BCBS to their rabid customers. The retailer then discovers that the pallets of Goose Island IPA/Honkers Ale is a few weeks from going out of code. In othere words the Wholesale Distributor delivered a few cases of BCBS so that he could off-load pallets of product soon to go out of code (or maybe even already out of code). These sorts of 'wheelings and dealings' can be rather unsettling.

    Cheers!
     
  23. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (2,393) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts
    Society

    It isn't quite that black and white. Technically it's a pull relationship, as the distributor does put in an order with the brewery. There's definitely push involved in some situations though. The bigger and more influential breweries especially can dictate what the distributor will take to some extent. Generally there's some back and forth though.
     
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  24. SCW

    SCW Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2004 New York

    Hi Jack,

    This is a good question. In general a wholesaler will order based upon "pull" which is the anticipated demand based upon a weighted trailing daily rate-of-sale. However, with craft beer having wildly volatile and unexpected surges in demand, a wholesaler can sometimes be out-of-stock and also sometimes sitting on a ton of product if there is a massive "push" to jam as much product out into the marketplace.

    This is a very similar component of what took General Motors down. Their "sales" looked great but in reality they were just stuffing their wholesalers with cars they could not sell. Then wholesalers colluded with banks to sell cars to non creditworthy borrowers (i.e. subprime auto loans). Of course, the whole thing came crashing down and ended in disaster in the end...

    Jack -

    You have highlighted one of the reasons why it is "a big deal" if large brewing conglomerates keep purchasing independent craft brewers. They will use the coveted and rare specialty items as a lever to jam other product into the trade, which ultimately crowds out other suppliers and leaves lots of stale old beer on the shelves. Its a tactic that ultimately hurts the beer customer, which is never good.
     
  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Shane, my personal response to the specific scenario I discussed previously is that the retailers need to 'step up' here and not permit the wholesale distributors to manipulate them. If was the owner of a beer store I would state to the Wholesale Distributor who has 'strings attached' to providing me with BCBS to keep that beer since I have zero desire to accept the 'old' Goose Island IPA/Honker's Ale.

    And while I recognize the broader picture you are bringing up concerning "large brewing conglomerates keep purchasing independent craft brewers" again the retailers need to 'step up' here as well to ensure they are properly serving their customers (the end cusotmer).

    Much of business is a negotiation in some form or another. In the context of the craft beer industry we beer consumers are also part of the puzzle. I participate in this 'negotiation' by discussing with my retailers my personal wants along with my broader views. I actually state to my retailers that I haze zero interest in purchasing BCBS for example (since the whole sh@* show associated with a Black Friday release is unappealing IMO) so maybe in my small way I am relieving some customer demand pressure here. In the context of 'old' beer I tell my retailers that I will personally not buy beer that I consider 'old' (and certainly out of code beer is old) and I will negotiate to see if they could obtain a desired beer in fresh condition (it took nearly a year before a local retailers could get me fresh FW Union Jack for example).

    I do not have any magical answers on how to 100% solve a systemic problem of so much 'old' beer on retailers shelves but I will negotiate as best I can within the exiting situation with the hope that collectively we can improve the situation.

    Plus continue to homebrew; I will be bottling a batch of Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager) tomorrow for instance.


    Cheers!
     
  26. CassinoNorth

    CassinoNorth Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2013 New Jersey

    I'm sure the college kid making $9 an hour really cares about the age of your IPA. :rolling_eyes:
     
  27. SCW

    SCW Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2004 New York

    Jack,

    Perhaps do a beer trade for some of that dark lager? :-) Haven't had a good dunkel since I left Munich ;-)

    [​IMG]
     
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  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yup, it would be my pleasure.

    I have a Classic American Pilsner carbonating right now. Next is a Bohemian Pilsner (which if lagering right now) and thereafter another reconstruction of an 1896 Michelob Lager.

    Let's negotiate!!:slight_smile:

    Cheers!
     
  29. gothedistance

    gothedistance Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2009 South Carolina

    Yes, we get notified if you report it. I'm speaking as a distributor.
     
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  30. BrewsingBuffalo

    BrewsingBuffalo Initiate (0) Jul 6, 2015 New York

    Thanks, I appreciate the response. Cheers!
     
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  31. evilcatfish

    evilcatfish Defender (612) May 11, 2012 Missouri
    Trader

    Even though I do still trade, I'm with you 100% on this statement. I really don't think a lot of folks take this in to consideration, and are fine trading for that hip new IPA as long as its "fresh." One could catch a fish and put it out in the sun to rot, then technically still call it "fresh caught" a couple hours later when the stink sets in.
     
  32. Giantspace

    Giantspace Champion (848) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Depends on the beer. Some IPA drops off a lot after 60 days. Some is just fine at 120 days. Try then fresh and with age and you will find what you are ok with. Don't base taste off of what you had on tap either as that can be fresh or old and to me tap IPA taste different than bottles no natter how fresh they are. Never had a good bottled sculpin even at a few weeks. On tap it can be amazing. Sone IPA gets better with age , burton baton and 90 minute are awesome with a few years or more.



    Enjoy
     
  33. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    The problem I see here is that from what I've heard this tactic is, and has long been, a routine for Breweries of all sizes, i.e., giving more of the popular limited supply beers to distributors who sell the most of their other products. I've also been told that often the importing distributor relies not only on their own numerical sales records but also on information provided by Sales reps as to which retailer has sold the most beer from Brewery X or should get the limited supply beers. So we're talking about needed a fundamental change in the distribution system that I'm not seeing on the horizon any time soon.
     
  34. GenericForumName

    GenericForumName Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2013 Pennsylvania


    Why should that change? If a store carries no bell's beers all year, they should just be able to order as much hopslam as they want and short a store that actually sells it?
     
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  35. Oktoberfist

    Oktoberfist Initiate (0) Nov 26, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Deactivated

    The last 2 cases I bought were "out of code" - both were RIS. Both were awesome!
     
  36. KOP_Beer_OUtlet

    KOP_Beer_OUtlet Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Perhaps I can shed some light here...this is a difficult process for us as a retailer...to set the stage we can only sell in 12 packs and cases as a PA retail distributor
    • First we do everything in our power not to sell old beer...if a case gets by us we refund no questions asked
    • Certain wholesale distributors in this area are notorious for sending old beer to us...as @JackHorzempa mentioned we check everyone of those shipments at the dock and send back any out of code beers and any beers we feel we can't move before it is out of code...FYI we send back at least six cases a week...the drivers for these wholesalers who are super cool and patient with us while we check codes say few if any other stores do this...just to let you know in one instance I received the same out of code case of beer four times over the span of nine months...how do I know? I marked it after the second time
    • Other wholesalers will pull expired beer from our shelves and move it to a dump site or give us credit
    • We order conservatively often time running out of trending beers to avoid having this problem in the first place so be wary of store that has a shit ton (sorry for the industry jargon) of a particular beer... watch that pile as you frequent the store...and don't be afraid to ask some one at the store... a few times our regulars have pointed out our own oversights...we were red-faced but grateful
    • We do our best to monitor our inventory...old beer gets pulled and we mark it down...we are all familiar with our inventory (I am very fortunate to have smart craft beer loving employees) we do our best to check inventory at the register...if a case happens to be out of code we alert the customer and offer to mark it down for them or help them choose a similar beer with better codes
    • We have a out of code section with old beers that are marked down sometimes by almost 50% selling them at a loss...I will also add that many many people have purchased year old beer from our discount pile and come back to buy more stating that the beer was fine...as employees we have also sampled many of these beers and while they are different many of them are still enjoyable to drink
    • I have found personally and through feedback from customers like Jack that some beers change or even fall off a cliff while in code...so there is some experimentation involved...if you have a favorite retailer share your experiences with them
    • If you catch old beer on their shelves let them know...if you buy old beer a good retailer should refund or exchange...without making judgements the retailers who would be most afraid of a policy like this probably don't have a rigorous code policy
    • That being said be patient with us...it is difficult to police so many beers and beers do get by us

    The difficulty for us is to offer a wide selection to a very fickle market...I can go for 3 months without moving a case of a certain beer and then suddenly it shows up on tap close by and everyone wants a case...or as many of you know the "it" beers suddenly gets forgotten when the next "it" beer hits...very difficult to predict how to order to make customers happy and keep our margins

    Also don't short change a shop that doesn't have the beer you want on the shelf especially if it's not popular...give them an opportunity to order it for you and ask them to check the dates upon delivery...I recommend this to many customers and often turn away their orders on delivery because they are out of code...in this scenario no one really gets stuck...

    Hope this is helpful even though it is long winded
     
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  37. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I wasn't really suggesting a change so much as asking about whether it was an inherent situation in the three tier distribution system that would require change for all players if there were to be any change at all. Which I don't foresee happening.
     
    #117 drtth, Feb 23, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016
  38. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    It is very helpful post and an illustration of how, in my experience, the better retail outlets are run in coping with the flood of new beers and the one-and-done crowd. I never fault a place for not having the beer I want and long ago found that places where I am interested in taking my business will indeed do their best to order something for me if it gets into PA in bottles or cans. But, if they can't be bothered, neither can I.

    But you have also just given me a new litmus test I didn't realize I was occasionally using, i.e., when looking at the stock in a particular retail outlet. See what their reaction is to having out of code beer brought to their attention. I know of at least one fairly well regarded bottle shop where they had an out of code bottle on the shelf but I decided to gamble with it anyway as it was a style of beer I'd never tried. Later when I brought to their attention the fact the bottle was out of code, pretty well degraded, and should be pulled I basicallly got ignored and they wound up just moving the remaining couple of bottles to a new location in a different cold case. Needless to say I buy less beer there than I used to and if I'm shopping there I check every single date on any bottle I consider buying.
     
    #118 drtth, Feb 23, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016
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  39. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,877) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    @RobH there is an excellent post by Joe (@KOP_Beer_OUtlet) above that I would encourage you to read.

    Cheers!
     
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  40. KOP_Beer_OUtlet

    KOP_Beer_OUtlet Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2013 Pennsylvania

    The craft beer market is a demanding one...I don't understand how some places stay afloat without understanding this...in fact when I shop anywhere I don't understand how retailers don't understand the benefits of "bend over backwards" customer service
     
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