Beer Scout: The gift of brew

SUDS ON THE SMALL SCREEEN: Bruisin' Ales' updated inventory system enabled a new website as well as check-out via iPad at the shop. Pictured is owner Julie Atallah. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

If your favorite way to shop is at home in your pajamas, there’s some good news this holiday season: You can now buy beer from Bruisin’ Ales that way as well.

“We’ve shipped beer for years, but it was becoming unmanageable to keep doing it by email and phone,” says co-owner Julie Atallah. So when the store needed to update its point-of-sale system, it just made sense to go with an option that included e-commerce.

One of the main advantages of the custom store is that it functions as a sort of discovery engine. Bruisin’ Ales’ e-commerce site helps customers find not only the beers they want but also new brews they might like to try, she says. Thanks to listings with commercial descriptions, style information, ABV and plenty of other data, once you’re on the site, you can search for almost anything. Trying to find that beer you had in Florida? Filter by state. Or if you’re looking for a sour beer, just search for one.

“With more than 1,150 items in-stock and listed online, even we can miss a good recommendation on the fly,” says Atallah. “So it’s an amazing resource for our own team as well.” Once you’ve found the beers you want, you can ship them to your house for a fee. However, for locals who want to save a few dollars, local pickup is just a check box away.

Going from online to in person, Appalachian Vintner is in the midst of a large expansion. Once staff finishes installing the remaining shelves, the store will have nearly 2,000 bottles in stock — up about 700 from before the expansion, says co-owner Geoff Alexander. Appalachian is also keeping 21 beers on draft, including sought-after selections like Stone’s Enjoy By IPA and Allagash Confluence.

But the focus this holiday season is on giving back, says Alexander. “Every year we have a silent auction that benefits multiple local charities. This year we’re giving to Art for Life and Mission Children’s Hospital,” he says. The auction will include rare out-of-market beers, including some from Russian River Brewing, as well as limited-edition local beers, merchandise and more.

Alexander also recommends a gift certificate for barrel-aged beer lovers. “We have eight wine barrels with Wicked Weed and another three brandy barrels filled at Olde Hickory,” he says. “All of that barrel-aged beer will be back here [in the new year] and part of the proceeds will go to charity.”

Alexander, who has a son on the autism spectrum, is spearheading a new autism-related charity that will benefit from the barrel-program sales. “We could sponsor a kid for summer school, buy art supplies for after-school programs. … We’ll try to sponsor a good variety of things,” he says.

From beer to brewing

If the beer lovers on your list seem ready to take their obsession to the next level, perhaps it’s time to shop at one of the area’s homebrew stores.

At Hops and Vines, owner Alex Buerckholtz is offering a combination gift for the beginning brewer. The deluxe equipment kit, which includes all the equipment needed to brew that first batch except the kettle, can be purchased together with a two-part homebrew class at a discounted price through Christmas Eve.

“We brew at the shop and we go through the whole process,” says Buerckholtz. “The nice thing about seeing it done is that you’re almost guaranteed to brew good beer on your first batch. … There’s much less risk of trying something and having it not work out, or thinking brewing is not for you [because of a bad batch].”

Since every class meets once to brew, then again a few weeks later to bottle, there’s another benefit for students. Everyone leaves the class with a six-pack of beer. Upcoming Sunday-class options include New Zealand IPA on Dec. 28, black IPA on Jan. 11 and double red ale on Jan 25.

Over at Asheville Brewers Supply, owner Andy Dahm is offering a discounted “Ho-Ho-Ho-Homebrew” kit, which includes all the basic equipment as well as a 3-gallon kettle and the ingredients needed to make about two cases of beer. Asheville Brewers doesn’t package classes with the brewing kit, but it does offer free brewing classes twice a month. Irish stout is the next one up, on Sunday, Dec. 21, then the next two classes follow on Saturday, Jan. 3, and Sunday, Jan. 18.


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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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One thought on “Beer Scout: The gift of brew

  1. Anne Wenninger

    Hi Julie!

    Just had to write! Worked with your Mom at BHHS for a few years! Saw her the other night and we of course talked about you and your business. Also I had to bring up the BEARS.. yeech lots of times I picked them for you two, but this year YIKES!!! OH well the Eagles have been as predictable as the weather too! NOT!!

    The site is cool and I will have to give it more a a do over when I am not running around like a cat shot in the butt!

    Have a wonderful Holiday season and I will check out your beer line!!! God knows I love my beer!


    P.S. you look like your Mom! :-)

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