Beer Hunting can sometimes be a cut-throat game; keeping track of release dates, waiting in long lines, taking off work early, and often paying top-dollar for limited editions . Its basically the NBA draft (no-pun-intended). You have to scout for prospects and be willing to trade valuable assets for future picks.
There are however some de Garde-ian angels out there, helping those of us that devote our spare time to release day road trips. Craft beer has become a seriously lucrative business and no one needs to give a funk about anything having to do with us craft enthusiasts aside from our wallets, but many small business owners do. Why? Because they love quality brew just as much as the rest of us. They've likely been standing behind you in some of those release lines...
The hardest part about giving props to the exceptional owners, managers, and clerks at the bottle shops out there, is that sometimes to really help someone out you gotta bend a few rules. So let me just state first and foremost I am not aware of anyone or any business doing anything illegal in any way. Secondly, no specific names of anyone who has pulled any strings, saved any bottles, or gave up any privileged information will be included in this article. I don't want to start the next Beerily Clinton scandal...
The following list is of exceptional bottle shops across the country of which I was told of a heroic tale of beer do-goodery. Since details have to be held confidentiality, I'll just list a few reasons why they stand out among their competitors. If you ever find yourself traveling within close vicinity of any of the following, do yourself a favor and definitely pop in for a peek at their shelves; you never know, you might just end up with a special story of your own!
Ballard Beer Company Seattle,WA
Classy isn't a word often used to describe a bottle shop/beer bar, but Ballard Beer Company definitely fits the bill. It belongs on a super short list that I would actually bring a date to. Besides their smart decor and relaxing ambiance, Ballard also knows their shit, keeps an exceptional tap list and a large stock of quality bottles on hand. Often in the beer world classy can equal snobby, not the case here, their customer service is down-to-earth and judgement free.
The Package Store Hebron, CT (Ted's plaza on route 66)
The package store has gone above and beyond, decades before the craft beer boom exploded. They care about their customers and have stayed on top of the latest services. In fact, The Package Store was one of the first shops in their area to feature inventory and special ordering online, way back in the "You-Got-Mail" early days of the internet.
8 Degrees Plato Detroit, MI
Most bottle shop owners and workers know their stuff. I haven't had too many experiences with beer doofuses, sans the time at Wholefoods beer store in New York, when I asked if they carried any Oregon beers besides Rogue and the guy took me to the "organic" section. The owners and staff at 8 Degrees Plato though, these guys are the google of beer shops. They know when things are releasing that you didn't even know existed.
Mekelburg's Brooklyn, NY
When beer-centric tourists visit New York City they're given a notebook full of recommendations of places to get great beer. I can almost guarantee Mekelburg's is not included on any of those lists, and for the locals, that's a good thing. If you want a true taste of Brooklyn, stop by and pick up some local-organic groceries, maybe some artisanal cheese, and talk beer with some nice people that have a love for the craft.
Parker Payless liquors Parker, CO
This might be the largest beer selection in the country. I would guess that its surely a top ten contender of most refrigerated beer, if not over-all. To put it into perspective I spend approximately 30 to 45 minutes browsing at a large bottle shop upon my first visit. At Parker Payless I lost track of time and was in there over two hours before I even checked my phone.
Bodega Ramos Chicago, IL
Pictured below is a craft beer tour group that makes a regular stop at Bodega Ramos. At first glance this shop seems much more wine focused than anything else. They definitely do have more wine there than beer. That said, I would trade better over bigger any day. Chicago has ton's of good shops to get great beer, but Ramos will set you up with quality choices and superb service...Plus you can bring home a killer bottle of wine for the wife without having to make an additional stop on the way home.
There are hundreds of other special shops out there doing great things, but if there's one that holds a special spot in your heart, definitely leave us all a note about them in the comments section below!