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Buying beer: A guide to shopping for your favorite craft beers

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With the growing selection of amazing craft beers here in San Diego and all over the country, tasty brews have become somewhat of a commodity; some highly sought after and even collectible.

With such demand, novices and seasoned beer geeks alike can have trouble tracking down their favorite suds if they aren’t careful. In a city filled with creative brewers and growing amounts of craft beer fans it can be easy to miss out on the newest brewery releases if you don’t follow a few simple pointers when shopping for beer.

Be Adventurous
Being a fan of craft beer allows you to try many different styles and flavors. If you claim to be an IPA lover, venture outside your comfort zone a bit and try an E.S.B from Alesmith, or Mission's El Conquistador pale, both which have enough hop character to keep any hophead happy, but are balanced enough to not destroy your taste buds.

If your brother only drinks whichever-Lite beer, dont be afraid to buy him something with a little more flavor to help break him out of his mass-produced drinking shell.

And try a canned beer. Today's canned brews are not the metallic tasting fizzy yellow stuff your father used to drink. Technology has helped improve the taste of modern canned beer, and more local breweries are turning to cans for the packaging of their beers (Stone in 2014?). Try the Black House coffee stout from Modern Times and Swamis IPA from Pizza Port.

Get To Know “The Beer Guy”
Even your local grocery store is likely to have someone in charge of the flow of beer on the shelves, someone who has likely sampled many of the beers sold in the store. Get to know the types of beers he drinks, what he likes and does not like and you might find a wealth of knowledge that will help you down the road when trying to choose a new beer.

Most “beer guys” are more than happy to lend a few suggestions because the more they share their likes or dislikes, the more likely you are to be a repeat shopper and feel good about spending your hard earned money. (Replace the word guy with girl in any of these instances, if you like)

Seek The “Special” Stuff
Just like the urban legend of asking the local butcher what he’s “got in the back,” there is no harm in asking the clerk if they have anything good in the cellar. A special release like The Abyss from Deschutes often gets to the retailer in limited quantities, and shops often limit customers to one or two bottles, if it's even on shelves at all.

Chances are your favorite beer store has cases of specialties in the back room, available upon request only. For the retailer, this helps ensure that a wide variety of people can enjoy the beer. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if your coveted brew is ready to be taken home.

Be Prompt
Because of limited quantities, you need to be quick on the draw when it comes to tracking down the beer you want. Chances are if you are reading about the release of Firestone Walker’s Parabola in March, so are hundreds of other people.

The customer that asks for that beer in April is likely left with an empty glass due to the high demand and limited quantity. Act fast and you won't miss out on amazing craft beers like Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, which causes Disneyland-like lines when released locally.

Be Social
You use social media for everything else in your life, why not craft beer? Breweries across the globe use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as advertising/marketing tools, updating drinkers on what beer they are brewing and what events or festivals they are participating in.

Most brewery websites include yearly beer release schedules, so you can know just when that special IPA you covet is being released.

Attend a bottle share or beer festival and be social with other beer drinkers face-to-face. Only the true beer snob is not going to want to share his love of the craft with a newcomer, and its a great way to expand your knowledge of what is bottled (or kegged) with someone who has already been through the ringer.

Also, “friend” fellow beer drinkers, even ones you've never met face-to-face, to see what they're drinking. You may discover someone is drinking something you have been wanting to try and you can decide if you want to buy it yourself based on the feedback of others.

And remember, you may have your favorite craft beer shop, but visit other local shops and get to know a different branch of the brew community.

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