Trader Joe’s – I Got My Eye On You!
My most favorite place to grocery shop is Trader Joe’s. In the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, I have 5 of their stores nearby. Besides their quality meats, vegetables, snacks, cheeses, they carry a few beers I drink on the reg. I am proud to say my go to beers are both Mission Street Pale Ale and Mission Street IPA.
Both of these beers are private label brews made by Firestone Walker Brewing Company. As I’ve mentioned before any and all beers I drink must be fresh as previously mentioned. So the first thing I do before I pluck a 6 pack of Mission Street is check the neck for the bottled on date. I don’t like to go out farther than 1 month if I can help it. See, Trader Joe’s doesn’t want to be a liquor store, so in order to deter the winos, they keep their beer on an unrefrigerated shelf. I can understand that.
Trader Joe’s does a great job of keeping their dairy and produce nice and fresh, but I can’t say the same for all of their beer. I have had many past prime Anderson Valley and Mendocino beers, to the point I don’t bother with them. I have watched Full Sail’s dated seasonals sit on the shelves well past their “enjoy by” date and collect dust. As a craft beer enthusiast and a fresh snob, I make educated decisions on what beers I know will probably suck at Trader Joe’s. Because I am not in love with stuff like Anderson Valley or Mendocino
Lately, Trader Joe’s has been stocking more big name craft brews such as New Belgium Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager. To my surprise, they now carry Firestone Walker DBA and we just got word that Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard, Pale Ale and IPA are slowly hitting the shelves. Hitting the unrefrigerated shelves that is. This strikes a cord with me, as I hold the beers both companies make near and dear to my heart. Two things that my pessimistic brain initially thought was 1) Trader Joe’s isn’t going to rotate out these beers quick enough and 2) People who don’t pay attention to the bottling information are going to pick up these beers, not be impressed, move on, and remember these beers as lackluster.
The first people I contacted were Stone, to verify they are in fact directly dealing with TJ’s. Due to California law, neither Stone or Firestone can announce partnering with any retailer in the name of unfair favoritism. Stone confirmed they are dealing directly with TJ’s and that their product can withstand sitting on a room temperature shelf within it’s “Enjoy By” date. Stone also told me their sales reps spot check to make sure product is properly rotated out. Ok, I can dig that. Then I contacted Firestone Walker. In a slightly different situation, Firestone Walker DBA clearly states on their 6 pack holster, “Please Refrigerate.” Firestone Walker’s stance was they are under the impression Trader Joe’s will take good care of their product and that they burn through inventory quick enough that this shouldn’t be an issue. While it’s too early to debunk that theory, I referred to my experience with Full Sail’s and Anderson Valley’s stock at my local TJ’s. As of press, the six packs of DBA were bottled on 4/10/2010 and it is nearing June 1, 2010. A low alcohol, unpasteurized beer at room temperature doesn’t have much longevity as the clock ticks.
So, while I wasn’t so concerned with a hopless Hop Ottin IPA, with Stone and Firestone, I will say this — “Trader Joe’s – I’ve Got My Eye On You!” I will be making phone calls to Trader Joe’s asking them to treat craft beer with the same respect they treat their dairy and produce. I encourage you to do the same thing, whether it be TJ’s or any other place you buy your craft beer.