Another Saint Arnold Divine Reserve release has come and gone, and now that the dust has settled a bit I thought it might be worthwhile to offer some suggestions on how this process might be improved ever so slightly in the future. Before I get to that, some background points.
First, I’m not in the industry and I can only imagine the enormous challenge the three-tiered system offers to manufacturer, distributor and retailer when a limited release high demand product is put to market. Even when managed well these challenges are often shifted on to the consumer in the form of shortages and a complete lack of transparency on availability. Each release seems to offer a slightly different look at the inefficiencies in the system that gets beer to the consumer in Texas. DR12 was no different.
Second, I realize that changes in how this beer gets to market won’t fix the basic issue – an imbalance in supply and demand. There are more people out there wanting it then there is beer – that’s why it sells out so quickly. However, I think there are three things that could be done to make ‘the chase’ for this beer more fun, increase the profile of the beer itself and perhaps improve the chances that everyone who wants to try it gets the chance.
Finally, these suggestions would have to be implemented across the tiers – manufacturer (Saint Arnold), distributor (Silver Eagle, et.al.) and the various retailers would all have to be willing to make the changes I am proposing. I think it would be worth it for all of us – the fourth tier.
Suggestion one – release the beer on draft for a period of time before it is at retailers
This would give people a chance to actually try the beer before they go drop $16 on a six pack only to discover they don’t like it. I recognize this could be a bit counterproductive, as many of the DRs are intended for aging and so don’t often taste especially great on release day. However, I’ve gotten DR from many friends who bought it blind only to realize they hated it. Those friends typically never buy another DR release again. I would suggest this be at least one week ahead of retail release.
Suggestion Two – Hold bottle/growler release ‘parties’ ahead of retail release at on-premise accounts that can sell to-go
Bottle release parties on brewery grounds are how limited release beers are done at other breweries, and they are awesome. Unfortunately, this amounts to dock sales and so is clearly illegal in Texas (although we’re working on that). Today DR release day is a giant chase around town, passing time in line at grocery stores and hoping a lead pops up on Twitter. Imagine for a moment it instead is a beer festival at places like Hay Merchant and Petrol Station. Special beers are tapped all day, DR is on cask and draft, and a limited amount of bottles and growlers are sold for takeaway. Kegs could be allocated specifically for growler fill at these locations. It would be, in a word, badass. There would need to be careful coordination between retailer and distributor here to avoid running afoul of three-tier restrictions, but this is done regularly with special casks and during pub crawls. Why not have a ‘bottle release’ – just not at the brewery?
It seems like there’s a chance this would alienate important accounts that have full liquor licenses and so cannot sell to-go (places like Flying Saucer, Common Table and Avenue Pub … ) but that’s what suggestion one is about. I would take a vacation day to enjoy an event like this even if it were on a weekday. That leads me to …
Suggestion Three – release bottles at retail accounts on a Saturday
Again, I’m not in the industry so I don’t know how much more expensive/hard it would be to roll trucks on a Saturday to release the beer to the various accounts – but as a consumer I’m absolutely begging to get the release day off of weekdays. I can afford to spend a Saturday morning driving around a little looking for Divine Reserve. I work during the week. I will not take vacation to do it on a Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s not fun (see above), and usually I am buying it without having tried it. No thanks.
Those are my suggestions. What do you think?