BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
December 7, 2006

The Culture of Beer:

The Beer Guy Always Rings Twice

John’s Grocery is willing to ship great craft brews to just about anywhere in America, as long as you call them up and talk beer with them first.
by Baby-Boy Jackson

Baby-Boy Jackson is just here for the beer.
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A mom-and-pop grocery store in Iowa wants to make sure that beer lovers everywhere can get great craft brews from anywhere.

John’s Grocery, in Iowa City, has 2,578 different beers in its coolers, and they are willing to ship them just about anywhere in the United States except Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, and Utah. Doug Alberhasky, whose title is the Beer Guy, said the store will ship to anyone who actually calls them and orders a good beer.

“We’re only shipping out good stuff to beer lovers across the country who are looking for their favorite beers,” Alberhasky said.

Because the company specializes in craft brews, being in Iowa is also an advantage, because it is smack dab in the middle of the country. So, it is easy to ship beer anywhere in the United States.

Doug “The Beer Guy” Alberhasky (far right) and family in front of John’s Grocery.
“We’re kind of strategically placed in the Midwest so we can offer things not only from the Midwest but from the coasts as well,” he said.

Although the building John’s is in has been standing since 1848, last year the company had to build a 44-foot-long walk-in cooler to properly take care of its stock. Alberhasky said he wishes he had built one twice that size because already he is running out of room for all the beer he has.

You can view their selection online at johnsgrocery.com. Loyal readers will remember that this site was offered as a solution for Illinois residents who want to get some Bell’s beer since Bell’s stopped shipping to Illinois in October. John’s was very accommodating about sending me a six-pack of Bell’s Oberon and Bell’s Porter. Although I did grouse a little about the shipping price, Alberhasky has suggestions on controlling costs.

He said it is most cost effective to order at least a case at a time. Also, because John’s uses UPS to ship its beer (it is illegal to send alcohol through the U.S. Post Office), it is cheaper to send the beer to a business address, he said. If the order gets to be over 200 pounds, which is about six cases, John’s will offer a slight discount.

The company got into Internet sales about nine years ago, and at first was selling only beer glasses. It has been selling beer for about five years, and that business was made easier once the Supreme Court ruled in May 2005 that interstate shipments of wine could not be prohibited.

“I contend there is not any difference between a grape and a grain,” Alberhasky said.

The new beer room at John’s Grocery.
He said requiring customers to call is how he makes sure that he is not shipping beer to anyone under 21. He said he has gotten e-mails about ordering beer from people and was sure they were kids. He said that over the phone he can tell when he is talking as one beer lover to another and so he knows he is shipping to adults of legal age.

“We actually talk to the customer directly—we’re not going to be getting into a situation where we’re going to be shipping a 13-year-old kid a six-pack of Bud Light,” he said.

John’s Grocery is not the only company selling beer online. Beergeek.com, an Illinois-based company, will ship to most states. It sells through a Yahoo store and requires that the buyer show identification to the Fed-Ex delivery driver.

When I searched for other online beer sellers, most of the results focused on home brewing supplies.

Calling John’s highlights one thing that sets it apart—good customer service.

“We give such good service, we’ll come over and help you drink it,” Alberhasky said.



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