Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Beers of the World: Rochester, NY

After working two hockey games and visiting an outlet mall, it was time to get over to Beers of the World to peruse the many aisles featuring beers from all over the world (hence the stores name).

I had read the reviews on Beer Advocate and A Good Beer Blog and they provided me with a visual image of what I was to expect (an helped build excitement), but reading about what one person thinks of a place doesn't do justice unless you experience it first hand. And I'm glad I did.

The shop is located in a strip mall not far from the highway and was just 5 mins down the road from where the hockey tournament was taking place. We drove into the mall area after dark and frantically searched through all the florescent lights to guide us in the right direction. I started to get anxious though when we didn't see anything. Were they closed? Did we have the right address? We finally located the faded sign of the store front and noticed the flashing open sign above the door. We were now in business.

Once inside, I grabbed a cart and stood before the thousands of brands available and just took a moment to take it all in. I have never been to a beer store like this before. Not to Consumer's, not to Premier, so you can only imagine my excitement. The store didn't look large from the outside; however, it was long and wide and had rows and rows of shelving holding beers from all over the United States, Belgium, Canada, Germany, England, Thailand, Japan, China, Italy, Scotland and practically any country that brews beer. It was awesome.

What Canadian beers were available? Boy, our representation was just pitiful. With the exception of the great beers of Unibroue and McAuslan's, there was Moosehead, John Labatt Classic brands, Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian, Molson Golden, and Sleeman's. I mentioned this to the big burly dude behind the register and he told me they have problems getting the good Canadian stuff. He said that they used to have a bunch of Dieu du Ciel's stuff but could no longer carry it because of something to do with the State of NY's trade policy (or something related to their area in NY state)? I didn't understand. I asked him if many people come in asking about any Canadian produced products and said, "not that I'm aware of."

One thing that I did notice was the cheaper price of some beers that the LCBO currently carries in Ontario. A bomber of Koningshoven Triple retails for $6.95 here at home, while it cost $10.95 at Beers of the World. There were some other stuff like Chimay Rouge and Westmalle that were more expensive there than at the LCBO, as were a number of gift sets. But I'm not one to complain and really, who cares about the prices when you've found your oasis. Southern Tier IPA was $7.35 for a six pack!

Beers of the World doesn't just sell beer; they sell books, home brewing supplies, glassware, posters, mirrors, beer memorabilia, accessories and more. It was like a Shopper's Drug Mart of beer. The shelves holding the glassware were pretty impressive and I almost left with a boot (a flash back of college). There were steins, pint glasses, mugs, pilsner chutes, chalices and weissbier glasses. Some came etched with logo's of various breweries, some were blank and the pricing was very reasonable. I have never seen so many different styles of beer glasses anywhere. Very cool.

It wasn't terribly busy, but a couple of long line-ups formed at various times at the cash register. I was surprised to see so many young people shopping in the store. And they weren't going for the Budweiser's or the cheap 28 packs of Labatt Blue. No, they were shopping for the same stuff I was looking for: Dogfish Head, Allagash, Cantillon, Victory...and others. It was nice to see. I don't think that the citizens of Ontario are as aware of the beer scene surrounding them as our neighbour's to the south are. Everyone seems to know about the smaller craft beers and are interested in trying as many of them as possible. Hell, even the female front clerk at the hotel knew of the place and said it was the best beer store she's ever been in.

We spent a total of one hour browsing through the neatly categorized aisles and could have easily spent a couple more, but we had to get back to the hotel. We said that we would head back in the morning to grab some other stuff, but as I took the cart back into the store I noticed that they weren't open on Sunday's. Touché! Probably for the best though, as my wallet was already screaming in pain. It was a terrific store and one that I will plan to head back to next time I cross into the US.

Now why is this sort of retail outlet not allowed in Ontario? I already know the answer but it makes me mad as hell thinking about it.


Alan said...

Excellent description of the feeling of seeing one of these places for the first time. For a while I had a five minute rule: touch nothing for five minutes until the heart racing stopped.

Buttle said...

It's weird that proximity has little to do with availability. Until very recently, BotW carried very few Midwestern beers. From neighboring Ohio, they couldn't get Great Lakes, but CA and OR were always well represented. Latvia has about as much available as Canada.

Troy Burtch said...

Alan - thanks man. To me it was heaven, an amazing site indeed. I now plan on going back (when the cash flow increases a tad) and grab even more.

Buttle - It is weird. I expected to see a bit more of a Canadian selection. But what do I know. I wasn't there to buy Canadian anyway, but it would have been nice to see more available to American buyers.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Beverages and More, a chain of booze stores in California. Really like a Toys'R'Us for adults. There were aisles and aisles of micros, in addition to all the great California wines I'd become used to. But surprisingly a great selection of wines and beer from all over the world.
And if they didn't have it, they'd get it for you. Not some vague unclear LCBO-type deal either. They would order it for you.
It's time Ontarians stopped accepting that Big Brother is doing us a favour. Somehow folks in other jurisdictions haven't fallen irrevocably down Gin Lane without having the Beer Store et al. controlling our lives.

Love your writing, Troy.
Lager Bore

Troy Burtch said...

Lager Bore - thanks for the kind words.

Teena in Toronto said...

I'd never get Gord outta there! He'd be moving in!

Zach said...

I just want to say how nice the write-up is that you gave the store. I'm the guy that was working the register when you came through. It's always good to be able to talk beer with people who really appreciate it. The major issue New York has with getting a lot of Canadian beer is that every brewery has to register with our LCA and then they have to register every brand. Lots of smaller breweries, even ones in neighboring states, choose not to do this because they don't want to pay the licensing fee or they don't have the facilities to keep up production for their area plus us. The most commonly asked for Canadian beer, outside of the stuff we're able to get, is Alexander Keith's. I've drank this in Ontario and really enjoyed it and hope that one day we'll be able to carry it. Sadly, all the stuff you saw is what we can get in New York currently. Some has made it into NYC, like Dieu de Ciel, but we have no distributor for them in upstate New York. But I digress. It was really nice to read the write-up and we're thankful for the kind words. Please feel free to stop in next time you guys are state-side. Hopefully we'll have more time to shoot the breeze and talk beer.

Troy Burtch said...

Hi Zach - thanks for checking out the blog. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed reading the profile I posted. And thank you for clearing up the Canada/US beer issue.

As for Alexander Keith's, it's placed in the same category as Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian and Budweiser here in Canada and us beer geeks don't really have much time for it. However, to each his own.

And I suspect that you will be carrying it in the not to distance future as Labatt has started to scale back on Blue in NY state and has introduced Keith's Lager to which I believe is a mirror beer of Blue.

Again, thanks for reading.


Zach said...

Hey Troy.

It's all part of working at the store really. I hear all this hype about a lot of beers that people fawn over, and when the opportunity arises, I have to give them a try just to see what the hype is all about. So beers like Alexander Keith's, New Belgium Fat Tire, and Shiner Bock all made the list for me.

I think it's silly how every brewery and brand has to register, but that's why they make the laws and we only sell the beer. I actually procured a bottle of Dieu de Ciel Peche Mortel from a mail order site. Really looking to trying that one out.

Again, thanks for the awesome comments and hope to see you guys in soon. We've gotten about a dozen or so new beers in since you guys were in the first time.

Cheers man.


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