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A San Diego guide to shopping for craft beer

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Thanks to social media, the second a customer sees their favorite brewery released the (insert barrel aged rare release here), our phone is ringing off the hook. "Did you get it in?" "Can you hold 9 of them for me?" "I just saw someone post a photo from the brewery (1200 miles away) so you guys must have it already." For my business, social media is both a friend, and a foe.
Craft beer is a hot commidity, especially here in San Diego, so your chances of getting your hands on the newest and rarest craft beer bottled release from your favorite brewery are getting slimmer by the minute. Follow these pointers to make sure you’re not missing out on rare craft beer releases.

Ask Questions
The person stocking the shelves of the bottle shop you visit once a week has likely tried or heard many reviews of the beer you came in looking to try. Pick his/her brain and see which is a favorite of the shop or a favorite of the customers coming in that week/month. Chances are if everyone is buying up all the new/seasonal releases or a particular style is flying off the shelves, your hard earned money is worthy of a purchase. Most owners/buyers/stockers are happy to share their opinions on the latest and greatest craft beer. San Diego seems to have a friendly craft beer community, so take advantage of it. I'll tell you very openly which brews I think are great and which ones are drainpours.

Try, Try Again
Talk to any craft beer drinker and they might tell you they despise a particular beer style. It may take only one bad experience with a Belgian-style stout to ruin a drinker’s palate for the style. But with over 140 different styles of beer, one should not stamp a seal of approval or disapproval on just one tasting alone. If you didn’t like the first sour beer you purchased, try try again. If the Duchesse De Bourgogne was too tart for your liking, try a variation like a sour-brown or sour-stout which mellow out the impact a bit.

Be Social
I complained about social media to an extent earlier, but you tag photos of your kids, the meal you just prepared, the shoes you chose to wear to walk to your mailbox, why not post about the beer you discovered over the weekend. Chances are somewhere in the mediasphere another craft beer enthusiast is consuming or wanting to consume the same thing. Instagram and Twitter are full of craft beer geeks just like yourself, and what a current way to meet a new friend or discover new beers you never thought you’d try. And by all means, convert as many lite beer drinkers as possible. Follow me @craftbeerluv619 to see what craft beer I'm discovering. Use #sdbeer #drinklocalbeer #sandiego or come up with your own to help keep San Diego the Craft Capital.

I got five on it
Do not over pay for your favorite craft beer in San Diego. There are too many options available and too many good people running tight businesses. Typical markup on packaged beer can be anywhere between 20-35%, so know what to look for. If you see Firestone Parabola for $15 at your go-to bottleshop and the smaller market down the street is charging $22 that is a big red flag. The brewery putting the hard work into the creation of the beer reaps no benefits from bottleshops price gouging their customers. The only one that profits is the owner of that shop. Read all about the three-tier system here and keep competitive pricing part of the inclusive craft beer community.
The same goes with craft beer on draft. You are not likely to go to the place charging $7/pint for a pilzner when you know you can do right down the block and get it for $4/pint. And to that point...

Shop til you drop
Walking in to any establishment and having the patrons shout your name like Norm from Cheers is great, but don’t let your comfort level be minimized to just one craft beer retail shop. Not all shops will deal with the same vendors or distributors and even if they do, not all will bring in the exact same products. Not to mention your corner liquor store just does not have the buying power that BevMo or Costco has. Stay local to your favorite shop, but also peek at the shelves around town and you might come up on a gem. And if you do find a great random bottle or deal somewhere, let people know.

A few of my favorite San Diego bottleshops:

BevMo (I work there, has to top the list)
K'nB Wine Cellars
Windmill Farms
Bine and Vine
Best Damn Beer Shop
Distillers Outlet
Costco yes they sell craft beer and you dont need a membership for alcohol

Take these helpful tips with you the next time you hit the San Diego streets to find Deschutes' Conflux. But do it quick because I work in the industry and know exactly who has that barrel aged something or other you’ve been wanting to try and when it will be available.

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