Field Research

grocery beer

Every so often I’ll post a story discussing the recent mass proliferation of American craft breweries.  These days, you can’t go more than a day or two without reading a story somewhere on the internet discussing which state has the most or which state has the best.  Ordinarily, these stories are accompanied by some whiz-bang interactive graphic, or at minimum, a nicely color-coded map depicting the story’s analysis.

Oftentimes, stories about such breweries are more subjective than objective when it comes to naming the best brewery or state.  Hard numbers are difficult to find and most data is unreliable or unhelpful longer than a couple of years back (before the so-called American craft beer renaissance).  So opinions and preferences are included, which is all fine and good in the grand scheme.  A controversial and strongly opinionated article will create a bigger stir, that in turn results in more web traffic and more comments, which are all good for online business.

These thoughts were bouncing around inside my head the other day as I wandered through my neighborhood grocery store, which my wife and I affectionately named “Emergency Giant.”  You see, this Giant is unlike others: it’s much smaller than most groceries today and more importantly, its décor appears to date from the early 1970s.  So we only go there for emergency necessities.  Yet this Giant, for whatever reason, takes its beer seriously, especially the microbrews.  In the short time I’ve lived in the neighborhood, the beer section has slowly expanded onto the floors and in the center of several other aisles.  Beer has slowly taken over an entire corner of the store.

On a recent trip, the emergency in question was a gallon of milk for my son, who just transitioned from formula to whole milk (also known as the best milk ever).  As my grocery list was short, I casually perused the beer, just because.  And it was here where my mind wandered freely about all those microbrew stories I’ve recently read.

I didn’t purchase anything that day – I’m still working through a half case of Fat Tire.  But I did pick up some gummy worms along with the milk and decided to conduct some impromptu field research: how was craft beer selling in my neighborhood?  With what kind of beer were shoppers leaving?

My snack in hand, I sat on a bench outside the store and spent ten minutes or so enjoying a light breeze in the waning afternoon sun’s warmth.  Sunlight was just beginning to filter through the treetops and shadows were long.  And I, watching neighbors come and go, took note of their beer preferences.

A few minutes spent researching led to a few simple observations.  First, I finished my bag of gummy worms shamefully fast.  Terrifyingly so.  I think the bags must be smaller now than when I was a kid.  Second, micro and craft brews were the clear preference of those leaving the store with beer.  One pair of guys bought a 12 pack of Bud Light and I saw some Guinness too.  But by and large, it was six packs of craft brews folks were purchasing.

My observations complete and snack long finished, I grabbed the milk and headed toward the car.  Dusk was settling over the suburbs and it was time for dinner.  If only I were hungry for it.  Damn worms.

Published in: on September 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm  Comments Off on Field Research  
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