Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Westside Story: The Reviews Are In...Part 1

I thought I'd start my review of Albuquerque beer stores on the Westside. This decision came about because I woke up that morning and thought that since it was such a nice Indian Summer day, I would take a drive over the Rio Grande and check out the fall colors on the Bosque trees. This idea evolved into starting my promised reviews, but there was one problem: I hadn't brought my camera. So if you are the type who won't read a book that doesn't have pictures, you may want to skip this multimedia-less post. Otherwise, I hope you find this informative. My criteria is based on price, service, and overall selection.

Our first review is of Sunflower Market. Sunflower is a speciality grocery store first, but also has a full selection of beer, wine, and liquor. There are two walls dedicated to beer, one just for single bottles and the other for six and twelve packs.

Price: I found Vertical Epic for $5.99 and Odell's IPA for $8.59, but otherwise Sunflower's beer prices are as inflated as their food prices. All New Belgium beers are $7.99, about 50 cents more than local average. $7.59 for Full Sail beers when $6.99 is the norm. How about $8.99 for Gordon Biersch? Or Tractor Brewing for $8.49? That stuff only travels from Los Lunas!


Service: There were no employees in the alcohol side of the store that day. I don't mind not being approached when I am shopping; in fact I often prefer it, since I know my way around a beer section and don't need suggestions. But I would at least like a cashier in case I want to actually buy something.


Selection:The selection of bombers and 17 oz. imports is impressive, with Stone, Boulder, SKA, Avery and Great Divide as well as German and British singles being featured. At one time, growlers from Tractor were being sold there but I guess that they have been discontinued. The coolers were not unlike a supermarket's selection, with all the usual Odell, New Belgium, Bridgeport,and Sierra Nevada beers, but also held 4 varities from Durango Brewing. A big minus was Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome, which I thought was my first spotting of this year's version but turned out to be last year's. Sitting unrefrigerated. In clear bottles. Please don't buy this Petri dish of a beer if you see it there. Another minus was seeing Sierra Nevada Summerfest, not only still being sold, but for $15.59 for a 12-pack! Overpriced and out of season is not a winning combination.


Sunflower in a grocery store first, but their beer selection is decent, with the singles being their saving grace. My litmus test is: If I were visiting Sunflower Market from an out-of-towner perspective, would I be satisfied with my visit? Looking at it as a grocery store that I stopped in hoping for anything that resembled a craft beer I would say certainly, but not compared to a true beer store.


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