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Online Beer Retail Innovations Part 2

UPDATE: As of January 15, 2013 Beerjobber stopped taking orders.

This is the second part in a 3 part series (Part 1, Part 3) detailing experiences with using new and innovative online beer retailers. Many physical retailers have sold beer via an online presence for years, but only recently has the model been updated and focused directly on online sales, and sometimes without an affiliated retail location.

Beerjobber.com

I discovered Beerjobber after a mention in a NYTimes.com article. This site’s focus is to broker transactions directly between breweries and customers. After an order is placed, it is forwarded directly to the brewery who then packages the beer from their own stock and ships the beer directly to the customer.

I placed an order on a Thursday to get a variety pack from Voodoo Brewing Company in Meadville, PA. This enabled me to try 6 different beers from the same brewery instead of 12 of a single beer (you must order a full case). I ended up splitting the case with Steve so we each got to try 6 different beers with no extras – a great way to use this site if you ask me. Cost worked out to be $7.88/22oz bottle. It shipped the next day on Friday and was delivered to Chicago on the following Tuesday. The box arrived intact in great condition. It was packed as a standard 12 22oz bottle cardboard beer box, set with Styrofoam corners inside a larger box. Also inside the box were 2 extra beer lables (stickers) and a handwritten thank you note from the brewery. The beers all tasted fresh and I really enjoyed the White Magick of the Sun the best.

The main drawbacks of this site are the availability and restriction to a full case. The site seems to only work with smaller breweries that make less well-known beers. There are a few above average choices from time to time, but they might not be included in a variety pack – otherwise you need to order a full 12 case of a beer you might not end up liking. Additionally, due to the nature of the site, they might be an outlet for breweries to get rid of older, less fresh beer (for example “Summer” beers being sold in September).

I am less likely to continue ordering from this site unless they expand to include more breweries with good regional names but limited distribution to Chicago. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Episode 139 – Tilquin – Oude Gueuze vs Terrapin – Moo Hoo

Special Guest: Mike Lahti from Figure Eight brewing in Valparaiso Indiana. We talk with Lahti about all things Indiana beer, but specifically Figure Eight’s new brewery.

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Online Beer Retail Innovations Part 1

This will be the first in a 3 part series (Part 2, Part 3)detailing experiences with using new and innovative online beer retailers. Many physical retailers have sold beer via an online presence for years, but only recently has the model been updated and focused directly on online sales, and sometimes without an affiliated retail location.

First up: LetsPour.com  

Founded in Seattle in 2010 as a social wine site, and adding a retail model in 2011, LetsPour combines elements of a Groupon style deal site with a Foursquare style check-in service. The retail portion seems to have been started in an effort to provide good deals on wine (and later beer was added, as the two founders say little about beer in their bios). The retail site is focused on presenting new “deals” on a regular basis (several times a week). Once you signup on the site, you will starting getting daily emails featuring the latest beer deals. There are several ways to reduce the cost of your purchase as well (referrals, coupons, etc). The amount of each beer available seems to be fairly limited and more popular/rare beers listed recently are shown as sold out.

I first decided to place an order through LetsPour after noticing a well targeted ad on Facebook. I decided to order a mix of six different 22oz bombers mostly from Washington state that are difficult/impossible to get in Chicago, but aren’t really high end or rare. Shipping is free with 6 bottles and after a $10 coupon the average per bottle price worked out to be $6.38 – a pretty decent price I feel – but without the coupon it starts to get pricey . I placed the order late on Sunday night and while it was marked as “shipped” on Monday, it didn’t enter UPS’s system until Tuesday and didn’t leave Redmond, WA until Wednesday, and thus didn’t deliver to Chicago until the following Tuesday. If I order something online, I expect it to be shipped out the next business day at the latest.

When the beer did arrive, it was well packed in a proper horizontal bottle packer. The whole thing was wrapped in a large plastic bag (to contain possible leaks in case of a broken bottle?) and also contained a few disposable cold packs (though after a week in transit, were of little added value). The beers were all intact and in good shape. Upon tasting, all seemed to be fresh and proper tasting.

I subsequently placed a second order when they were offering a few beers that I was looking for not readily available in Chicago. This order was made on a Thursday and was shipped the same day. It was delivered the following Wednesday – appropriate processing time for this order.

The 3rd order I placed on a Friday, it didn’t ship until the following Wednesday for delivery the following Tuesday. Way too long a delay in shipping. So 2 of 3 orders were severely delayed in shipping, not a good sign for a place trying to run an innovative online operation to sell beer.

They send a daily email featuring the newest beers available. Occasionally they offer a very rare beer which is usually gone within a few hours (examples select Cigar City beers). However, there is usually a limit of 1 bottle on these beers, forcing you to buy 5 more bottles to fill the box and avoid the $20 shipping charge. I don’t care for this practice. If you are going to offer a single rare bottle, you need to make it easy to buy just that bottle, or maybe 2 bottles, and hope that this leads to an organic growth in sales.

Overall, a decent experience and I would probably continue buying from them if I am looking for specific or more rare beers that don’t come to Chicago easily. 4 of 5 stars.

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Episode 138 – Great Divide – Hoss Rye Lager vs Terrapin – Rye Pale Ale

Post event coverage of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Chicago’s annual Festiv-ale. Different sized bottled make different colored beer? Goose Island BCS release. Red states, blue state, and breweries per square mile correlations that not everyone thinks is entirely on the level. End near for eBay beer sales?

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Episode 137 – New Glarus – Wisconsin Belgian Red vs Rodenbach – Grand Cru

Special Guest: Dan Luksetich. We talk with Dan about Cellarlist, his favorite European beer cities, and of course Rodenbach!

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Episode 136 – Oskar Blues – G’Knight (fka Gordon) vs Weyerbacher Insanity

Steve’s Belgium trip including Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Poperinge Hop Museum, Cuvee Hommelhof. Plus research into Two Hearted from a listener.

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Episode 135 – Founders – Porter vs Three Floyds – Apocalypse Cow

Special Guests: Heather Kundert and Erin Kearns. We talk with Heather and Erin about Festivale, a benefit for the cystic fibrosis foundation.

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Episode 134 – New Glarus – Moon Man vs Furthermore – Oscura

Special Guest: Chris DiBraccio of Brixie’s. We talk with Chris about the current direction of the craft beer world and sample the offerings of Oskar Blues. Also sampling of a special Boulevard/Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita.

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Episode 133 – Brooklyn – Local 1 vs Dark Horse – Double Crooked Tree IPA

From The Great Taste of the Midwest. Recent beer trips.

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BREAKING: John J Hall moving from Goose Island to 5 Rabbit

Issac over at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria just sent us this press release announcing their new Brewmaster John J Hall, of the Goose Island Halls. With their new production facility in the build phase, they have recruited some top talent here to push them to the next level.

Chicago, IL August 10th, 2012

5 Rabbit Cervecería Announces Hiring of John J. Hall as Brewmaster/Production Deity

The first Latin craft brewery in the US, 5 Rabbit Cervecería is pleased to announce that John J. Hall has been added to its growing team as Brewmaster/Production Deity. Hall will be in charge of all brewhouse, cellar, packaging and quality control operations for the brewery. 5 Rabbit’s brewery is currently under construction at their 25,000 sq. ft. building in Bedford Park, the southwest suburb of Chicago located a short distance from Midway Airport.

“We are thrilled John is joining the 5 Rabbit team. The coming months are going to be very exciting for us as we bring all production to our new brewery. We can’t  wait to see our beers reach their full potential now that John is in charge of
production,” says 5 Rabbit partner Andrés Araya.

“Making the best beer is the most important thing for us. We were looking for an extraordinary brewer, a highly creative person and passionate beer enthusiast. From the moment we first met John, we knew he was the perfect person for the job. With John’s addition to the team, we can confidently say that we have one of the strongest brewing teams in the Midwest,” says 5 Rabbit partner Isaac Showaki.

“We’re excited to bring John’s expertise and experience to our collaborative beer development process. The beers have been very good so far, but we expect a real jump in beer quality once we get them optimized for our new brewery with John’s help,” says partner and creative  Director Randy Mosher. “It’s going to be a real fun fall.”

Hall is a Siebel Institute graduate and has spent much of his career at Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, which was sold in 2010 to the global beer giant, AB-Inbev. Starting at Goose in 1997, Hall worked his way up from cellarman to the position of Head Brewer by 2002. Over his 15 years his recipe formulations helped the brewery win numerous medals in prestigious competitions, such as the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), World Beer Cup and the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival. He is active in many organizations, including the Brewers Association, the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and as a Board Member of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. Hall has also been a Judge at GABF, World Beer Cup, and Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers.

John Hall states, “I am so excited to join the 5 Rabbit team. Since meeting Andres and Isaac, I have been impressed by their vision and drive to start a whole new concept in craft brewing. Randy Mosher’s involvement really just confirmed for me this was an adventure the likes of which I want to be a part of. He was one of the instructors at Siebel who not only taught me to open my mind to new flavors and ideas, but to always challenge myself. I look forward to a long future with this unique team, creating new beers that expand the notion of what craft beer can be.”

5 Rabbit was launched in May 2011 with the idea of creating exciting, Latin inspired beers. Their products have found a following both among mainstream craft beer enthusiasts and Latino drinkers looking for something new and exciting. Sales have been increasing ahead of schedule, and the beers are now available in Northern Illinois, Ohio and the Philadelphia area. 5 Rabbit now offers four year-round beers (5 Rabbit, 5 Lizard, 5 Vulture, and the newly released 5 Grass) as well as three seasonal specialties, and will be adding some limited edition brews and additional seasonals in the near future.

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