‘Choice.’ Is that the real other c-word? You can be as crafty as you like, but giving your customers as broad a range of reasons to shell out their money seems like an obvious move. Take – for the purposes of this blog post – bottle shops. Edinburgh is blessed with at least half a dozen fantastic examples, each with their own particular leanings. None, to my knowledge, offer something that I first saw on a recent trip to New York. There, the Breukelen Bier Merchants in Williamsburg gives you the opportunity to crack open your purchase there and then, or even sit down and have a beer.
With a range of around five hundred bottles, that alone would make Breukelen Bier Merchants a fixture for the local beer scene. However, the fact that they also offer sixteen keg beers on tap was something I hadn’t seen before in a bottle shop. Over in the US, growler sales are more ingrained in the drinking culture – and although they are available at some bars here (and off licences, which I will come back to), there’s not the same mentality with regard to their use in the UK. Growler stations such as New York State’s Consumers Beverages (which has been going since 1948) are a reasonably common way for Americans to get hold of beer.
I’ve written about growlers before – for this post, I was wondering about the other aspect of Breukelen Bier Merchants – the fact that you can sit down and have a beer there, or open up the bottle you’ve just bought. Would that work over here? Clearly, the licence issues would need to be resolved – but once you had the papers to cover on- and off-sales, would that system attract people? I asked a few of Edinburgh’s bottle shop owners – all seemed to think the principal could work – although most were guarded in whether they would like to actually offer it – “I wouldn’t want to be the first – it sounds bloody terrifying.” said one.
At least two of Edinburgh’s bottle shops already offer growler sales – the Beer Hive in Cannonmills being the first (and I believe Great Grog now have something similar). However, both are for takeaway purposes only. If each had a couple of tables and a few seats, would that persuade you to have a few beers there? Or is our drinking culture so different, so pub-centric, that there’s no need for that option to be there? Is Breukelen’s ‘craft beer shop and tasting room’ too American a concept for the UK market? Or, does their slogan hit home? “Drink a Draught or Bottle in the Shop, or Buy Some to Take With You; Your Choice”
NB – There may be some bottle shops in the UK that do offer on-sales, it’s just I’ve yet to cross their beery threshold. If you ever find yourself in Brooklyn, then head to Breukelen Bier Merchants, as they certainly do have an enormous range. Follow them on Twitter here