Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Power of Craft Beer

Here is an article worth reading from the Atlantic on a Seattle convenience store that is thriving due its owner's decision to promote and sell craft beer.  The article's author, Christopher Solomon, sure knows his craft beer, and knows how to write about it.  He describes the scene at the Super Deli Mart in West Seattle, which has become a community destination due to good craft beer: 
Min Chung (owner) saw this new revolution coming and jumped aboard. Chung, 38, is a son of Korean immigrants with a business degree, a nose for marketing, and a mouth that loves to talk and drink good beer. He can usually be found wearing his preferred uniform of cargo shorts and running shoes, a sport vest stretched a little taut across a midsection that hasn't been denied the occasional pint. Chung bought the tired convenience store in early 2009 with the vision of sprucing it up and, among the Slim Jims and Red Bull, selling bottles of high-end brew to the Amazon workers and Boeing engineers who live near Puget Sound. Soon he thought, Why not pour beer so people could taste first? "Would people pay 11, 12 bucks a bottle if they didn't know what it is?" he asks. After much back-and-forth with the nonplussed Liquor Control Board, Chung got licensed as a restaurant (the "deli" in Super Deli Mart) and started pouring beer that August -- a first in the state for a mini-mart, as far as he knows.
What Chung didn't predict is what happened next. By last summer Super Deli Mart was burning though up to 25 kegs per week as people came to the store not just to pick up a six-pack of Dale's Pale Ale and a Snickers, but just to quaff pints and hang out.
 Min Chung was able to obtain a keg of Pliny the Younger:

In the last two years Chung has served beers that are near the top of the list for any beer snob, from Dogfish Head's 120-Minute IPA, to Port Brewing's Older Viscosity, a dark strong ale aged in bourbon barrels. He's tapped beers brewed with figs. Beer with blueberries. "We even had bacon beer," he says. "I think customers tasted more of that beer than any other beer."

His biggest coup yet was last March, when acclaimed California brewer Russian River released Pliny the Younger, a triple IPA that Beer Advocate has rated the best beer in the world. All of Seattle received about 20 kegs, by one estimate (Russian River declined to provide numbers, not wanting to spur discord among bars); people nearly rioted at bars like the Dray to get a small pour. Super Deli Mart got one of the kegs.
It's amazing the impact that craft beer can have on a store or restaurant.  Who ever heard of hanging out a convenience store on purpose?  I'll be the first to admit that if the 7-11 down the street from me served pints of Pliny the Younger and Stone's Double-Dry Hopped Ruination, I'd think all kinds of excuses to go knock back a pint.  If a store or restaurant has a thoughtful, varied selection of quality craft beer, people will visit, repeatedly. 

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