Monday, October 24, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

I made my own six pack the other day. Six IPAs from six different breweries—$8.95, plus tax and deposit.

Here's the thing, I "built" that six pack at a supermarket—the Slingerlands, New York, Price Chopper, to be specific. Individual bottle or can sales isn't anything new. I've seen forties, 22-ounce bombers, 16-ounce pounders and tall boys sold in groceries (and gas stations) for years. Sure, small neighborhood markets or boutique stores may be known as having great beer selections, but what I'm talking about are full-size, multiple location, supermarket chains. Obviously some stores have better, or more beer than others, but this make your own six pack—at the same location you can buy a whole chicken, toilet paper and a gallon of milk—is a whole new idea, around these parts.

The selection isn't anything to laugh at either. Price Chopper's make-your-own area sported U.S. craft-breweries like Lakefront, Otter Creek, Flying Dog, Middle Ages, Sierra Nevada, and Full Sail. Unfortunately, the import selection is a little lacking, with a modest showing of only some of the larger and more well known breweries across the globe—like Carlsberg, Heineken and Guinness.

Kroger's beery offerings.
I decide to do a little investigative work, to see how widespread this phenomenon is. When I say "investigative work", I really mean, just Googling the phrase make your own six pack and grocery store—and seeing what comes up. Got it? No real work being done. What I did find was, what seems to be a growing trend of large, grocery retailers offering, single, 12-ounce bottles and or the option to make-your-own sixer. From my seven minutes of searching, I found that the eastern U.S. grocery chains of Wegmans (New York), Food Lion/Bloom (Southeast U.S.) and Fresh Market; the mid-western chains Jewel (Chicago) and Woodman's (Wisconsin/Illinois); the Texas based HEB; and the national chain of Kroger, all offer make your own six packs at some, and I stress some, of their locations. There are probably more stores doing the same thing, but seven minutes of research is quite enough, thank you.

I do have one question, and it's a question of economics. How will this trend of single-bottle, craft beer availability, in chain grocery stores, effect local beverage centers, that specialize in craft beer sales? The average (U.S. craft brew) single-bottle sale price, at most of the beverage centers in this area, is $2.50—making the cost of a make-your-own sixer at those stores, about $15.00 per six pack. Granted, the selection at local beverage centers is far greater than that of the one or two Price Chopper's that have this offer going, but a $4.00 difference is quite a big margin.

As much as my loyalties lie with Oliver's, I will admit it is nice to see the hangover cause sold in the same location as the hangover cure.


  1. I found build-your-own 6packer sales at the Brewers Yard Kroger store in the Brewery District of Columbus, Ohio.

    The selection of American craft beer was good. The selection of American craft pilsner, not so much.

    Further, this Kroger have a taproom / eating area for deli meals. There were 06 taps with a fair selection. Five American craft beers, one a Columbus brewing co., and Stella.

    The Whole Foods Market in Columbus filler growlers from 6 taps.

  2. The taproom growler fill-up is brilliant! I know a few small groceries in NYC are doing that, but big-ups to Kroger!

    Martyn wrote a short post about a place in Brooklyn, Duane Reade, that offers growler fill-ups. You can check it outhere