Craft Beer puts retail squeeze on ‘Big 3’
By Rob Kalesse
Special to Delaware Business Times
Naturally, as demand for craft beer continues to rise, supply must keep up. But making the decision of what and where to supply all the craft options is something liquor store owners and managers have had to grapple with the last several years.
Frank Pagliaro, owner of Frank’s Wine in Wilmington, has watched his shop morph into a craft beer drinker’s go-to spot over the last few years. His 10 windowed cold boxes, most of which used to feature standards like Moosehead, Harp, Bass and the “Big 3,” aka Miller, Bud and Coors, have seen a major shift to craft.
“Of the 10 reach-in refrigerators, 6Â½ are dedicated to craft beer, while 2Â½ are dedicated to imports, and only one is dedicated to the macrobrews,” Pagliaro said. “We like to call that our “˜NASCAR Door,’ ” he said, laughing.
Pagliaro’s store, which received a total face lift in 2011, now features craft beer from all over the country, as well as large format, 22-ounce bottles that are harder to find at your average corner liquor store, and a growler bar, where patrons can fill 64-ounce jugs of draft beer.
“I never thought we’d have beer on tap here, but the craft industry has seen such an explosion the last few years,” Pagliaro said. “Where your average merlot or cab drinker will stick to their varietals and labels, beer drinkers are willing and want to try everything new that comes down the line.”
In Pike Creek, Premier Wine & Spirits General Manager Mike Whitwell has also experienced a similar shift, and agrees that beer drinkers are up for anything, and many seek out specialty beers.
“Craft beer is dynamically different from wine or other spirits in that way,” Whitwell said. “I have customers who come in here not just looking for Dogfish Head or Victory, but for random beers or new beers; it’s like they’re collectors.”
Whitwell believes the craft beer trend will continue, especially with big name breweries like New Belgium and Oskar Blues opening up regional breweries. To that effect, Premier has altered its sales space to accommodate more craft.
“We’ve renovated our space with more shelving, more coolers and more displays,” Whitwell said. “Just in the last 18 months, we’ve also implemented an entire single beer section, where customers can pick and choose their own six-pack. Not many liquor stores do it, but it’s been a great success for us.”
Premier’s specialty wine tasting bar has also been modified to host beer and liquor tastings, and Frank’s Wine even features a special decal of the state of Delaware on one of his coolers. The quote, “Buy Local, Drink Local” is printed underneath, while the map shows the towns where each Delaware brewery is located. Inside, customers will only find beers from Dogfish Head, Mispillion, 16 Mile, and others.