Grenga here back with another installment of Liquor Store Etiquette, and a handful of new Do’s & Don’ts to help you make it through your harrowing journey to the local packie. Last time I gave you a fair amount of my own background, so this time I’ll just dive right in.
1. Bring Your ID
Do. Bring your damn ID. I don’t care how old you are, bring your ID. You are buying alcohol. This should be pretty straightforward, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve turned away because they look college age and don’t have an ID on them. I can understand how a person in their 50s with grey hair might get annoyed at this, but chances are that person won’t get ID’ed anyway. In case you do, don’t get offended. The people behind the counter are just doing their job, and it’s your job to have documentation that you can legally purchase what it is you are trying to take home. And please do not give me the “ugh, I’m 24” response. Bitch, you aren’t old. I’m not saying that you look 16 when I’m ID’ing you. I’m saying you look under 40…which you fucking are, so shut up. Also, if you’re with anyone who is underage, leave them in the car. There are things called “Party Laws” where everyone in the party needs an ID. Don’t have one? Keep out of sight so you don’t ruin it for your friends. That goes for teenage children with their family members too.
Right after the Patriots completed the insanity that was the greatest comeback ever in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, Geneo Grissom, his wife and two friends came into my store looking for a bottle of wine and a 6 pack to go with dinner at the BYOB place down the street from us. Three of them had ID’s, but Geneo’s wife, a tiny five-foot-nothing blonde who looked like a high school cheerleader, did not. Her response? “Uh, you can google me.” FUUUUCK you….I googled her anyway, and guess what? She was TWENTY-FUCKING-THREE. And the only thing google had to say about her then and now is that she is Geneo Grissom’s wife. Get that arrogance out of my damn face! I wasn’t about to turn away a Super Bowl Champ just because his wife sucked, but I did explain to them that the only reason I was doing so was because they just made the greatest comeback anyone will ever see. What should you take away from that story? Unless you’ve recently won a world championship in something, bring your fucking ID. Also, Mrs. Grissom is a jerk.
2. Store Workers Hate Trophy Hunters
Are you a trophy hunter when it comes to rare stouts, IPA’s, whiskeys and wines? Great! I don’t care. I couldn’t give any less shits about the number of bottles in your cabinet. Also, if you’re dumb enough to buy a bunch of expensive whiskeys, open them, and then never drink them again, guess what? Hard alcohol, like every other kind of alcohol, oxidizes and goes bad over time. It may take over a year to do so, but you don’t have forever. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on rare products, make sure it’s not going to waste. Don’t brag to me about what you have in your cellar, because again, I do not give a shit, and you’re more likely to make yourself sound dumb than cool.
Another thing: if you’re going to be a trophy hunter, it’s a good idea to know at least a little about what you’re asking for and when it’s available. There are idiots everywhere who saunter into stores and expect people to have a bottle of Pappy, Yamazaki, Weller, etc just sitting around. Nobody does, and if you did even a little bit of research you’d be able to find that out on your own. If you are lucky enough to have found one of these online, don’t tell me how much you paid for it. Chances are you paid hundreds more than the initial retail price for a product that is comparable to plenty of stuff on the shelves if you know where to look. I once had a guy brag to me he bought a bottle of Pappy 10 for $500 (when in stock, we sold ours for $65).
Many of these products only get released once a year. When they do the majority of stores either post online, raffle them off, have a waiting list or offer them to their best customers. They NEVER end up on the shelf. If you aren’t loyal to that store, you aren’t getting it. So fuck off.
3. Don’t Try to Out-do the Sales Associate
There’s a lot of people out there who like to sound special when talking about the products they drink. This point goes hand in hand with the points I made about trophy hunters. We don’t care what you’ve got in your basement or how long you waited in line to buy the beer in your fridge. If you want a recommendation on something like Treehouse or Trillium, of course I can help. But if all you drink is beer from those companies, don’t pontificate to me that you understand beer or have any idea about all of the other great beer that’s out there these days. Don’t get me wrong, those companies make excellent beer. However, when you consider you’re spending almost $25 per 4-pack, you wait in line for over an hour at a place that’s hours away, and you’re buying beers with the same hops you find everywhere else (Citra and Mosaic FTW), it’s really difficult for me to get excited for you. Now everyone should try beers from Treehouse and Trillium, among others, because they are great. Personally though, I think of them mainly as a reference point for the stuff you can actually buy at a retail store. Any respectable craft beer shop should have at least 5 beers in the same class. I personally stocked Fort Hill Jigsaw Jazz, 14th Star Tribute, Barnstable Brewing Examen, Two Roads Two Juicy, and IPA’s from Proclamation, Singlecut, Fiddlehead, and way more on a regular basis. All of these products (with the exception of Singlecut) are less than $20 a 4-pack and readily available. Add in the fact that Trillium has been at the center of several controversies, and there’s really no reason for me to get excited about that company.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Return Stuff That Seems Off
This is a tricky one. Unless you’ve had a lot of experience with corked wines or dirty tap lines, it can be hard to tell if a product is off. It can be a little easier if you’re out at a bar, because you can ask the staff what they think (assuming the staff is honest with you). If something tastes off or your cocktail is all ice, it’s okay to send it back and ask for a new beer. Just don’t be a dick about it and maybe try something else next time.
When it comes to returning stuff to a store, be open-minded. I’ve never personally enjoyed handling returned bottles of wine, because I am not an expert in all of the flaws that can arise in wine. TCA, or cork taint, is the probably the easiest of the bunch to identify. If you open a bottle and it smells like a musty basement or wet cardboard, that’s corked. A lot of people use the term to mean flawed, but that is a misnomer. TCA is a chemical that comes from natural corks and can eventually spread to the liquid. This kind of thing happens, so any store should replace this on the spot. This flaw only gets worse over time as well, so if you don’t bring it back immediately it shouldn’t be an issue. For more on wine flaws, check out this article from Wine Folly here.
On the other hand, if you get something that tastes off but aren’t sure, you can bring that back too. However, do so within a day or two of opening it otherwise the bottle will oxidize too much for the wine associate to be able to tell. It also helps to not be an asshole about it and act like they owe you something just because you brought it back. I’m a lot less willing to help someone or give them a refund if they insist that a product is flawed when it is not. If you tell me “something tastes off about this but I’m not sure what it is” then I can work with you to explain what it is you are tasting. If there isn’t a problem, I’ll switch it out for something more your speed. But if you are a dick and don’t want to listen to what I have to say, then you can shove that bottle where the sun don’t shine.
Very rarely do we have issues with beer, but often the problems we do see come from issues on the canning line. We’ll see cans that weren’t sealed properly and leak or cans that lack pressure, both of which leave a flat beer. We’ll also see cans that aren’t filled all the way. These are easy enough to identify right off the bat and can be avoided simply by checking the cans before purchasing them. If you squeeze them and the cans have a noticeable amount of give to them, then just grab the next 4-pack. As for a low fill, that’s pretty self-explanatory. A craft store with a reliable staff should be able to pick these out before they even hit the shelf, but they do get missed from time to time.
Welp, that’s it for round two of Liquor Store Etiquette. I’d love to hear what people think about these posts. If there are any questions regarding maximizing an alcohol-buying experience, or tips on how to avoid awkward confrontations, I’m your guy!