Friday, December 3, 2010

The Session #46: Nothing's Shocking

For this month's Session, Mike Lynch of Burgers and Brews discovered on a recent beer trip that "despite all the amazing stops I planned, one of the best experiences was completely accidental". From this experience, he asks us to write about unexpected discoveries in craft beer .

For the biggest jaw dropping, how the &%$# did that get there craft beer experience, I would have to go with the day I dropped into a 7-Eleven in Carlsbad, located just off of Interstate 5 while travelling on business just to get a Diet Coke. To my amazement, to the left of the Diet Cokes were bottles of Alesmith's IPA and Pale Ale. OK, so I wasn't all that far away from Alesmith's brewery in San Diego, but would anyone really expect to walk into the typical roadside 7-Eleven in one of those tired California strip malls and find something from a small, niche' brewery like Alesmith staring in the face behind the glass doors inside the wall-sized beer cooler?

But since that shock nearly two years ago, I've discovered great craft beer in lots of completely unexpected places like dingy dive liquor stores, a zoo, or at an airport in of all places, Salt Lake City as the craft beer industry continues to grow and proliferate. As I thought about this month's Session, what I found really shocking was that craft beer is now in so many shocking places it's no longer shocking.

For further evidence of craft beer's creeping ubiquitousness, where do you think these pictures below were taken?

Would you believe at my friendly neighborhood Safeway in Belmont, CA, located on the San Francisco Peninsula? And while I'm fortunate to live in a prime area for craft beer, walk into a nearby grocery store, give the beer selection a careful look and ask yourself, did you expect it to look like this five years ago?

Beer Wars? Indeed.


  1. Damn good prices on those beers too! Us east coasters get an additional 2 bucks slapped on the price. Guess it's for gas money :p

  2. You're surprised? 16 years ago I could already buy some pretty good beer at Safeway in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood: Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Bison, and probably a half-dozen other micros whose names I've forgoten (Saint Stan's? And what was that Belgian-ish brewery in Austin TX that got bought up by Miller and then disappeared?) I think a lot of the brews in your photo (Lagunitas, Boont, Stone, and even New Belgium) either didn't even exist back then or couldn't have supplied the volume for distribution more than a few miles from their brewery.

    I don't think Safeway's buying strategy has changed so much---but maybe the number of "micro" breweries out there with the capacity to supply them has expanded.

  3. I agree with Matt. The Safeway on Claremont and College in Oakland was an awesome place to buy beer when I was in college, and that was 10-12 years ago. Orval was always available, although we scoffed at the idea of paying a whole $4 for a beer. He'Brew, Redhook Double Black Stout, Sierra, Boont, Mad River, St Stan's, Mt St Helena, Mendocino and a few others come to mind as regularly available.

    It could be increased availability, it could also be expansion of a strategy employed at certain Safeway's for years.