Edit 4 years later: Some of this info is slightly out of date, like Ohio’s ABV cap, but the vast majority is still highly relevant.
When I talked to bottle shop and bar owners about my series on the 3 tier system one of their concerns and challenges was dealing with beer allocations. Each store generally only gets so much of each beer. Craft breweries are just too popular and too small to fulfill every demand for their beer in every store in every state. So read on to learn more about beer allocations and, most importantly, for the master magician (that’s me) to reveal his secrets on getting those rarer beers!
The first thing that everyone needs to understand is that you likely can’t buy the rare beer you’re after in your state. Of the top 10 biggest craft breweries only 2 of them are in all 50 states, Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) and Sierra Nevada. Ohio has just become New Belgium’s 35th state, someone as seemingly large as Dogfish Head is only in about half the states and Three Floyds in just 5 states. Seek A Brew is a great way to check this out. That said don’t start bugging your local better bottle shop in Florida for Zombie Dust and us Ohioan’s won’t bug our stores for Cigar City Jai Alai.
Even if you do get a brewery like Dogfish Head in your state there may be some archaic asinine laws regarding ABV limits that prevent beers like 120 Minute IPA from being sold in your state (Ohio caps at 12% ABV). Then if you are one of the lucky 5 states who get Three Floyds you need to know many of their beers are in such limited quantities that stores likely get only 1 case of each beer if they’re lucky. Further, many of these beers are not made all the time like 120 is only made once or twice a year and Zombie Dust seems to be about every 3 months. Once the case of Zombie Dust actually gets to the store headaches begin for the store owners.
When I talked to store owners about beer allocations they almost all sighed in an exhausted and frustrated fashion. Some customers are used to seeing pallets of Budweiser stacked in the middle of a grocery store in the shape of a race car and on some level expect Zombie Dust to be the same. Other folks think they should be able to walk up and pull a 6er of Zombie Dust right off the shelf. I’ve never personally seen that happen even in Indiana close to the brewery. Then you’ve got folks who think that since their cousin’s uncle’s son told them that this store had Zombie Dust they should be able to buy a 6 pack, even though they’ve never been to that store once before.
All these things frustrate store owners. they all want to be able to sell everyone something like Zombie Dust but can’t due to the limited beer allocations. What little they get they have to balance between old, repeat customers and the chance of scoring a new customer for life. How can you know if this person drove down the street on the day you happened to get something rare or if they followed a delivery truck across town and will never come back again? The bottom line store owners said was the more you get in there buying your weekly six-pack of PsycHOPathy the more likely they are to tell you that there’s a bottle or two of Zombie Dust available if you want it.
Behind the Magic Curtain
Why am I revealing my secrets? Simply put I’ve bought, drank, and traded Zombie Dust enough times that I feel bad that other people haven’t had it. The following applies to Zombie Dust and a number of other rarer beers that are available for sale in the greater Cincinnati area but stay to stores back rooms and don’t see store shelves.
- Shop at the same one or two places frequently for your standards
- Talk up the clerk, owners, anyone you can about beer
- Follow them on email, Facebook, Twitter, every service they use
- Repeat steps one and two for weeks, months, however long it takes
- Buy Zombie Dust, KBS, CBS whatever
That’s a general outline that can apply to any store in any city or state, but our loyal Cincinnati readers may want some firmer guidance which I am happy to supply:
- Join The Party Source email list (make sure to check the box for beer) – The Party Source has been great about what is being released when and they don’t hold too much back. Everyone on that email list knew Bourbon County Brand Stout was going on sale on Black Friday at 9 am.
- Follow Cappy’s Wine & Spirits on Twitter for awesome tweets like the below
— CappysWineandSpirits (@LovelandCappys) December 12, 2013
- Follow O’Bryan’s on Twitter
- Like Dutch’s Bar on Facebook
- Like Everything D’Vine on Facebook
- Follow Jungle Jim’s Beer Guy on Twitter
I promise that if you follow these folks and stick to my 5 guidelines above you will, sooner or later, find your hands holding a delicious bottle of harder to get beer like Zombie Dust!