It's not easy being a craft-beer lover in Georgia. Considering the fact that we only just eight years ago raised the ABV limit, and are somehow still clawing our way out of the dark ages where stores can't sell alcohol on Sundays, small breweries understandably don't find the Peach State's borders all that hospitable. Granted, some laws are slowly getting tweaked, albeit in ways that only dubiously benefit brewers, not to mention the fact that the oppressive three-tier distribution system remains intact for the foreseeable future.
While Georgia's craft-beer selection — both local and from all over the rest of the globe — has expanded exponentially in recent years, there's still the frustration of the adventurous, variety-seeking drinker. How to try regional brews from all over the country — craft beers that don't have the reach of a SweetWater, a New Belgium or a Sierra Nevada? Enter Beerjobber, the self-described "world's first brewery fresh craft beer market," which launched in mid-February. The idea is pretty simple. You pick from Beerjobber's 30-brewery selection (about 30 more are in the process of joining the service), then the beer comes straight from each brewery's door to yours. You get to try something you can't get in your 'hood, and a brewery across the country potentially earns a new fan and a some cash. Beerjobber founder and president Sean Nevins was happy to explain further, answering a few Creative Loafing questions.
Can you talk a little about the name?
Before prohibition, a “beer jobber” would pick up beer from the local brewery and carry it to where it needed to go. This was back in the days where cases were made of wood, and the beer was delivered fresh. Prohibition, wholesaling, the homogenization of products, and the addition of chemical preservatives to beer eliminated the need for beer jobbers, as the number of breweries in the U.S. declined from over 1,700 in 1900 to under 100 by 1980. Beer could now be mass-produced, stored for long periods of time in large warehouses, and served up to the masses using funny ads to make up for the taste.
Thirty years later, the need for a beer jobber is greater than ever before. We are the beer jobber of the 21st century, so the name seemed fitting.
Was there a particular moment when you decided this was a necessary service?
Many, many frustrating experiences standing in front of a “wall of beer” at a retailer. Wondering what to try. Not having any idea whether or not I would like a beer. No reference or description, or easy way of making a selection. Picking a few beers and being disappointed, only to learn that it wasn’t necessarily the beer that was bad, but sitting in a warehouse, then sitting on a store shelf that kills the original taste and skunks many beers. Learning about beers on various websites, excited to try a few, only to learn they are unavailable in my market was also a constantly frustrating experience. There had to be a way to learn about what I would like, and then actually be able to get it, brewery-fresh, tasting the way the brewer intended.
Can you explain the process to me, from order to delivery?
The customer places the order, which is transmitted to the brewery. The beer is packaged in our special packaging that allows the beer to safely make its trip. We arrange for the beer to be picked up from the brewery and delivered directly to the customer.
Aside from the obvious service, Beerjobber is striving to serve as a community and recommendations service as well. How does that work?
Our ratings are our best guess at how we think a member will like a particular beer. Our market is customized to each member’s unique taste, based on the questionnaire they complete at registration, and the beers they rate. Members can read reviews of other members, and shortly in the future, will be able to read reviews of their friends.
Have you had any breweries who have refused to be a part of Beerjobber?
Most of the brewers on our site are operating at capacity, but have agreed to work with us anyway as a service to their fans, and as part of their own expansion plans. Some brewers have no desire to make any more beer, and are content with selling enough beer to pay their bills. Some of these breweries have decided not to work with us.
On your blog, you write that you "already subsidize a large portion of the shipping charges." Can you explain that?
Our members pay $9.95 to $19.95 for shipping. An example is that the normal cost to ship 30lbs of beer is $41.44. Our members pay less than half of this.
Why should a brew aficionado choose Beerjobber over one of the many beer clubs out there?
The model for a typical beer of the month club is to source beer for less than what wholesalers pay. This means brewers earn less, and therefore there needs to be a compelling reason to do this. An example would be that the beer would be going out of code prior to realistically making it to a retailer’s shelf. Beerjobber’s beer is brewery-fresh. Also, customers can pick whichever beer they want to receive from our selection. With beer of the month, people get whatever the club decides to send. And these clubs also sell thousands of different "something of the month" clubs. Beerjobber only deals in on item!
How many breweries does Beerjobber currently feature, and how many are you in the process of confirming at this time?
We have over 30, with about 30 more in process. We are very careful with who we work with because we want to ensure that every beer on the site is high quality. So we actively respond to requests of our members in our decisions.
What other difficulties have you encountered so far, aside from the ones mentioned above?
We built this for ourselves, and it has taken an unbelievable amount of work. It has been a labor of love, and we are thrilled and excited that so many people share our passion and excitement for what we are doing, both for our members, and for the craft beer industry in general.
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