WhichCraft Beer?

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A couple of days back I saw a new sign on South Lamar. I mean, it isn't like there isn't already a ton of signage on Lamar, right? But this one said "Beer store". Yes please? Two? Please?

It took a couple of days, but I finally got a chance to investigate that alluring sign. Turns out it was put there by one Jody Reyes who is the owner of the brand-new WhichCraft Beer store. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “In a state blanketed by HEB’s, Specs and Twins, why do we need another bottle shop?” Well, trust me, dear reader… there’s a purpose that Jodi has and its a good one.

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Nestled in between the Blacksheep Lodge and Bird’s Barbershop is a small store that has, wait for it, nothing but beer. Over 800 different kinds, to be exact. Of course the exact number may fluctuate depending on what’s on the shelves, but count on way more beers than you can ever take home in one trip! As you can see from the pics WhichCraft is nothing but an open space, some shelving and tons and tons of beer. Some is chilled, most isn’t, but the breadth of Jody’s treasure trove is amazing. And much of it is available in singles. Oh, rapturous joy!

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So why another bottle shop? Well, in going into a place like WhichCraft you can bet that not only does the staff know beer, they’ve probably tasted the one you are asking about. You have to appreciate the clarity of vision. No deli. No liquor. No Pampers on ailse 12. Nothing but purity and simplicity. And get this… Jody informed me that there isn’t another pure beer bottle shop in town. Hard to believe, eh? Well, I strongly encourage my readers to check him and his crew out. This is a lovely offering to the busy Austin beer-scene.

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Oh, Jody took some time out of his busy schedule beer-mongering to answer a few questions…

What’s your beer background?

My beer background before starting WhichCraft was strictly as an enthusiast.  I grew up on the west coast (Seattle area) where craft beer culture has been ingrained for decades.  About 18 months ago my fiancee got her dream job down here in Austin so were planning on relocating anyway.  I wanted to be done with the corporate world and strike out on my own, so WhichCraft is the culmination of my passion and my background & experience.

How did you get the idea? What were your motivations?

As I mentioned, I grew up on the west coast, where bottle shops have operated for decades.  When I was researching the craft beer scene in Austin about 18 months ago, I was very impressed by the growth, innovation & passion of the scene in Austin but I was surprised there was no dedicated craft beer-only bottle shop, so I thought I'd be able to fill that niche.  My motivation is to create a destination store where customers can not only find the best selection of craft beer in central TX, but to also help educate customers who are new to craft and encourage everyone to take the next step in their craft beer journey, whether that next step is discovering craft after having a Blue Moon, or exploring Belgian gueuzes now that a customer has had Jester King.  

How long did it take you to get Whichcraft setup?

All in, working full time on the concept & planning, it took a year.  A lot more went into it than most people would guess.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge without a doubt was finding a location that had the right zoning from the city.  Since I don't have a hybrid model and I sell only alcohol (as opposed to food or gas or furniture or anything else), I had to have the same zoning as liquor stores do.  And those retail locations are very hard to come by.

Tips for others setting up bottle shops?

Research, plan, know your market, understand local dynamics, and budget out everything you think you'll need.  Then double your budget and double the amount of time you think it'll take you to get open.

How many SKU’s do you normally carry?

We typically have a minimum of 800 different beers in stock, though that number fluctuates regularly due to a number of factors.

Favorite beer?

Picking a single favorite beer is impossible!  I tell people when they ask me that it would be like picking a favorite child!  I love big, citrusy, fresh IPAs.  I absolutely love Belgian yeast, and adore the Belgian Trappist classics from Rochefort, Westmalle, Chimay, etc.  You can pair them with so many different foods or drink them on their own.  There's a Belgian beer for every mood and meal!

First beer you feel in love with?

Gosh, another tough one.  I like to think of particular beers in my life as "gateway" beers that opened up a new genre for me completely.  Things like Mac & Jack's Amber Ale, draft only in Seattle.  That was one of the first craft beers I ever had and was deliciously sweet & malty and just a touch bitter.  New Belgium's Trippel (sic) was a gateway to the Belgian classics.  Duchese de Bourgogne absolutely blew my mind and introduced me to sours.  so many gateways!

Oh, and note that their website is WhichCraftBeerStore.com, and NOT WitchCraftBeerStore.com. Not that I fell for that, or anything. :)