Craft beer drinkers are finding better and better beers available in more places than ever before. And a big reason for that is large-format stores like Target, Costco, and, here in Chicago, Jewel-Osco. These big stores are looking for ways to connect with their customers on premium and locally-sourced products. The whole food and beverage industry is shifting local, not just craft beer.
But for some longtime craft beer fans, that’s an uncomfortable development. I’ve heard smaller retailers lamenting the competition and criticizing these larger stores as greedy opportunists. I’ve seen drinkers describe the craft beer they see at the grocery store as corporate sellouts, boldly claiming they won’t support breweries they see on those shelves. But let’s not kid ourselves: every culture has its self-inflicted know-nothings. For the rest of us, being able to grab a six pack of a super-fresh local beer when we’re swinging through for milk and eggs is a godsend.
More importantly, the people behind the decisions of who does—and does not—get on those shelves have their own perspective on what’s exciting in beer. In this case, it’s Sandy Vox, who’s been at it for 15 years. And she’d never trade in the current chaos of craft beer proliferation for anything.