I might as well stick with it. Let’s call it a trend. Today I hit up 2 Seattle area bottle shops [sic] that I have never visited before. One is very new, the other is newish, mostly “under new management”, or so I understand.
First up was Chuck’s 85th St. Market. I have been following these guys for a little while now via Twitter (am I obsessed?). They go by @chucks85th in case you’d like to follow. I noticed that they have been having a lot of tastings lately and that they seem to get most of the coveted releases, though often a bit later than the big(er) guys. They just tweeted that they got Firestone Walker Double Jack in and I have been in need of that ever since it hit the Seattle market. I had seen the place on many occasions, but never really believed that it would be worth a damn as a bottle shop. In fact, I used to run past it on a daily basis when I lived on Cleopatra Place NW, one block north of The Dray.
Speaking of The Dray, please check out this article at Seattle Beer News about the soon to be opened bar called The Yard by the same owners. I’m super excited!
Back to the bottles. Chuck’s is oddly similar to the Lake Stevens place that I posted about yesterday. It’s a god damn convenience store with a more than normal bottle collection. In this case, unlike that of Norm’s, the selection is, as Tim Webb may say, “smart”. There’s significantly less refrigerators at Chuck’s that are designated to beer as are at Norms, but there is much, much more excitement. Yes, you will find six packs of your standard, slightly cheaper micro varieties, but you will find almost equal parts eye poppers and “trendy” offerings. I walked away with a North Coast Twentieth Anniversary, a HOD Blue Dot and 2 Double Jacks. Great Success!
After a brief stop at 74th St. Alehouse to grab a pint of Two Beers cask Evo IPA dry hopped and infused with D’anjou pears and Pink Lady Apples (drool) I headed over to Seth’s (of Collins Pub/Hudson New American Public House fame) new bottle shop, The Last Drop.
I must admit that I’m massively jealous of what Seth has created here. From the first moment that I walked through the doors of Belmont Station in Portland I knew that pubs and bottle shops were meant to live in harmony, side by side. I promised myself that my bar/brewpub would have an adjoining bottle shop. I stand by that, and you know what, fuck it, you should do it too. The more options the better. Let us beer nerds take over the world…of commerce.
I digress. The Last Drop is a bit stark at the moment, but I have a strong feeling that Seth has made it this way to allow for it to grow organically with time. He was a lot of space to work with, which excites me. I want to work for him and help fill the voids, both figuratively and literally. There is a lot of potential there.
TLD has about 7 (I forgot to count) beers on tap behind the register for growler fills. Some solid offerings, no doubt. There’s a few wine options available as well, but beer is clearly the motif here. If it’s not clear by now, I’m a cranky old snob when it comes to bottle shops. If I want something cheap I’ll go to Safeway and buy a 12er of Rainier. When I go to a bottle shop I want the newest releases and I plan to spend $50. I want to build my cellar or I want to get something that I have never had before. I also work for a living and find it very challenging to arrive on the doorsteps of Bottleworks when this shit gets released. The Last Drop, at least as of now in its infantile stage, fucking rules my life.
It’s clear that Seth was buying/cellaring beers for his bottle shop long before the doors opened. I love him for that. Though some of the rarer offerings have been sicken with an up-charge, it’s to be expected, and honestly, it excites me because it inadvertently offers monetary fortitude to what I’ve cellared in the past 6 months. This is far different from offering horrible out of season beers like Norm’s does. This is offering a virtual get out of jail free card to the lazy or the busy (like myself). If I didn’t already have a 2010 Black Xanthus I’d have picked one up. If you don’t have one, get over to Last Drop now!
Allow me to state, for the record, that I know I can sound highly narcissistic at times when I write these articles. Please understand that that is my role here at beerblottter.com. I’m the uber-nerd that plays to the sensibilities of the Northwest beer connoisseur. For those that are not connoisseurs, please feel free to mock me, mostly for spending nearly all of my meager earnings on beer that I horde away and rarely actually drink. One day, most likely very soon, I’ll die and leave a god-awful amount of amazing beer to some lo-life that has zero respect/understanding for what I have and it’ll be all for naught. I repeat, mock at will.
A few weeks back, a customer at Homebrew Heaven asked me if I had tried Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. I had. After a brief discussion about its merits he mentioned that he had had quite a bit of trouble locating the brew after learning about it via the Discovery Channel show Brew Masters. I’ve still never seen the show.
Anyhow, the customer then went on the tell me that he had gone to the DFH website and navigated to the “fish finder” section. This section of the site allows you to search for DFH brews at stores and restaurants/bars in your area by zip code. Since learning of this I have spent some time on my own with the tool and I must admit that, well…it’s just another little feather in the illustrious cap of sir Sam Calagione and another small reminder of how powerful his empire has become. I don’t know who puts in the time to keep it updated, if it gets updated at all, but it’s a pretty damn fancy and incredibly helpful device.
Getting back to the customer… he lives in Snohomish, as many HBH customers do (the shop is in Everett if you were unaware), and he was directed by said fish finder to Norm’s Market. “What the hell is Norm’s Market?”, I asked. The customer quickly answered, “It’s a convenience store in Lake Stevens with a massive bottle selection.” I knew right away that I had to check it out, but I also knew that it was Lake Stevens that we were talking about (no disrespect meant by any means, great little town you have there) and the likelihood that it would blow me away was minimal. It’s simply not a very populous area. Such a business would struggle to thrive, in my opinion. It’s especially likely that I wouldn’t be blown away because I spend inordinate amounts of time researching places to buy beer and I’d never heard of this place. You’d think that it would be on someone’s radar if it was especially remarkable.
Never-the-less, I made a point to check it out…to make my own opinion.
It became immediately obvious why the place is nowhere on any radar I am aware of (except for DFH’s apparently). Norm’s Market is the convenience store associated with a Shell Station. There is no sign outside, that I saw, that mentions anything about Norm’s Market or that the largest beer selection in Snohomish County is found within its walls. Unless you live really close by or you just happened to stop there to get gas, you’d never know what awaited you inside.
Even upon entering, I thought that I was at the wrong place. I was in a quickie mart for god sakes! Yes, a shade larger than the norm, but a quickie mart none-the-less. A bit more roaming allowed me to find the beer. About 90% of the offerings were housed in the 20+ refrigerators that wrapped around the back wall and the flanking wall closest to the door. The unrefrigerated bottles didn’t seem to have purpose. They weren’t carefully chosen to be left out of the fridge due to any particular classification or because they have been known to age or anything like that. It just seemed as though they had run out of fridge space.
The only Belgian made beers that I noticed were the two or three selections of Lindeman’s. There may have been a few imports here and there, just the standards, but it became quickly obvious that the selection weighed heavy on the domestics and American Micros. Yes, the selection is pretty vast (the manager said that they were hoping to soon carry over 900 varieties), but there was very little in stock that wowed me. It should be noted that a pretty sizable portion of the refrigerators are reserved for the BIG name beers that you would expect at a Shell Station.
The most exciting section for me was the Midnight Sun row that contained bottles of Berserker and Obliteration VII. They also had many bottle of Deschutes Abyss which was surprising. This is also a great place to go if you missed out on a seasonal. I found it most odd that they had a large inventory of Southern Tier Pumking. The DFH Festina Peche peaked my interest as well as it has been off most shelves for months now.
All in all, if you are in the area, you might as well swing through and keep your fingers crossed that they’ll have a few beers that sold out everywhere else long before you could make it to the bottle shop, but otherwise, it’s really just a glorified convenience store. I still respect the effort though Lake Stevens. It could be much worse. You could live in South Dakota.