I love beer shopping. Not much left to say about it really. I can’t tell you how excited I get walking through the store and picking out what I want. Just like when I was a kid wandering in and out of candy stores trying to decide what kind of “goodies” I could find. I get almost giddy days before I know I’m going. What cool treats will I come home with this time?
With that being said, I want to share with you a recent trip that I took to Chuck’s Wine and Spirits in Bowling Green, KY. (chucksliquoroutlets.com)
I live in a “dry” county, so it’s not like I can just get in the car and take a trip to the corner when I get a hankering for some good beer. The closest place for me to get well made, “craft beer” is in this small Southern Kentucky town.
Now, Bowling Green is approximately 50 miles, one way, from where I live. It literally turns into a planned event that takes up half my day when I decide to do some “pickin’.” When I do make the jaunt, which is about once a month, I stock up!!! I will always pick up a few of my favorites plus grab a few bottles that I have never tried before. I am like a kid anticipating Christmas when I make the trek. I can’t wait to see what’s new on the shelves.
There are a few establishments in Bowling Green to get craft beer, but the only places I ever visit are the Chuck Evans Liquor Outlets. They have been in business since 1976 and currently have 4 stores in the area, however the most spectacular establishment was opened in 2001 and is located at 386 Three Springs Road, right off I-65. That’s where I’m headed.
On this particular trip, I thought it would be interesting to take my camera and snap a few pictures to give you an idea of what I get to see and some of the choices I’m faced with.
Now, I was unsure of how management would react when I walked in carrying my “lens.” I guess the worst thing they could say would be, “Not a chance, Bud!!!” It was worth the embarrassment, I thought.
I walked in and I found a woman stocking shelves and asked her if it would be alright if I snapped a few pictures. She said, “Let me get the manager.” I thought, “Oh boy!!! Here comes the big fat ‘No’!!!” I waited around for a second. Then, the store manager, Shelby Hays, walked up to me and I introduced myself, shook his hand and explained my intentions. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He seemed extremely open to my idea and said with a smile, “Make us look good!!!”
I will do my best!!!!
The craft beer isle is chocked full of various singles along with 4, 6 and 12 packs. Just about every brewery has graced these shelves in one form or another and at one time or another. The store has implemented a great little tactic of “create your own six-pack.” Which, works well for me when I’m reviewing beers. If I run across one I don’t like. I’m only out one beer. It’s a win/win situation.
As you can see from the picture below….. The choices are almost endless.
Some of my personal favorites and “go to” beers from Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Stone. Yumm…. delicious!!!!
Some excellent choices from Unibroue.
Chimay, Westmalle or Duvel anyone?????
A plethora of imports tempting the customers…..
Fullers Vintage Ale: 2004 – 2010. Nice!!!
Switzerland’s own handcrafted Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. ’06, ’07 and ’09.
A world class selection of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. Wow!!!
Now before I go any further I must introduce you to Blake Layne (“Steamhead” on BeerAdvocate.com if anyone is interested). He has been serious about craft brews since 1999 and has been with Chucks for the past eight years. I have had the opportunity to meet Blake a few times and believe me, if you haven’t had that chance, it’s almost worth the trip to Bowling Green just to pick his brain regarding all things craft beer. He is a Certified Specialist in both Wine and Spirits and is currently working toward his Certificate in Winemaking through UC Davis. He has been a homebrewer for 12 years and is a member of CASK (the Cranky Alers of Southern Kentucky). Besides that, he is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on all things craft beer.
As I was snapping a few pictures, Blake approached me and asked how I was doing and if I was finding everything alright. I cautiously asked if he could give me a little tour of the “back rooms” so as I could peruse the contents and take a picture or two. He basically said, “No problem, man.”
This is going to be a treat.
Here are a few of the items that he profiled.
How about a couple kegs of Founders Imperial Stout and a Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel?
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. (This is one I want to try soon!!!)
Is Bell’s more your style? Oberon or Expedition Stout?
A tantalizing Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Hell Hath No Fury.
Three Floyds, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Moerlein IPA.
Goose Island Dominique.
Austria’s Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier.
Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter. (I bet that’s tasty!!!)
Fresh cases of Founders Centenial IPA and Double Trouble along with Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Sierra Nevada Torpedo.
Finally, quite possible the establishments most prized possession at this time…. A cask of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 2009.
I’m not at all a wine connoisseur, but I couldn’t help notice the exquisite selection.
How ’bout a funky, little Bell’s Hopslam tap handle?
A rare Dogfish Head tap handle. (Of which Blake said was fetching upwards of $500 on ebay. Ouch!!!)
The “tasting” bar. (It has quite the unique back story, too!!!)
After I had my private tour, Blake asked if I would like to sample a brew. I, of course, said, “Sure.” He proceeded to pop the top on, what else? A J.W. Lees 2002 Vintage Harvest Ale!!!
Here’s Blake demonstrating the proper pour.
Coaxing the last drop from the bottle.
A thing of beauty.
“Ready for a taste????” I respond, “No doubt!!!”
As we sipped and pondered the brew, Blake said, “What’s better than sipping a J.W. Lees at 11:00 on a Friday morning with Van Morrison on the stereo???”……… I would have to say….. “Not much.” Cheers.
Tastings are a common thing at Chuck’s. Wine tastings are held every Friday and Saturday from 4-6 p.m. cst. Beer tastings are by announcement. Last year they were the first retail store to host the Goose Island Beer Academy and they also hosted a Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Celebration tasting. Not bad for a small town store, ‘eh?
Before I left, Blake made a point to tell me that one of the most important aspects of the store is to keep things fresh. No out of date or “skunky” beer here. Always ripe, prime product. If it’s not, “send it back,” he said.
As I was walking out, I made sure to thank Blake and Shelby for the opportunity to get an insiders look at the operation. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate what they and the rest of the staff at Chuck’s do for the consumer. I already can’t wait to go back.
I have only been enjoying craft beer for about 4 1/2 years, so I still have a lot to learn and a lot of beers to try. One fact that I have realized is the old adage of, the more you know… the less you know. That has never been more evident, in my case, regarding the world of craft beer. Each visit to Chuck’s gives me a little more incentive and desire to expand my knowledge as much as possible about this art. Without the help of good folks like Blake and Shelby, I would be lost.
Thanks again guys. It was truly a great experience.
Oh by the way……
The bounty I brought home. Needless to say, it was a good day.