Beerthief is a Newfoundland based artisanal beer club that makes special orders of craft beer not regularly offered in Newfoundland. I recently exchanged emails with one of the club’s organizers, Mike Buhler, to learn more about the club:
Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB): Tell me about your club.
Mike Buhler (MB): Beerthief is a name I pulled from a single title in my punk rock past and I’ve taken it as my brand going forward with my agency for the NLC and the beery wanderings I get up to.
The NL Artisanal Special Order Beer Club is just that, my friend Tom Beckett and I started working on it 2 years ago as a means to get access to more and better beer in Newfoundland. We knew there were going to be some hickups along the way but finally we’ve gotten the first offering from Dieu du Ciel out to our members and our second offering from Charlevoix Microbrasserie has just been submitted to the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation.
This is the standard email that Tom sends out to new members:
There is no membership fee.
There is no requirement to order beer. However, if you do wish to place an order, there are usually minimum quantities – attached is the just closed offering of beer from MicroBrasserie Charlevoix. As the bottles are 500 ml and 750 ml [even though they come in 12 unit cases] the minimum order is 4 bottles overall; 2 minimum of the 500 ml; and 1 of the 750 ml. I am in the process of putting together the order to the NLC for these beer but if you get back to me soon, I may be able to include your order.
The prices are set by the NLC who you pay when you collect your beer.
The Club operates fairly easily. We e-mail out an offering, as attached; you make an order by e-mail; we confirm receipt of the order; we aggregate the orders ensuring they add to multiples of the case size which the NLC requires us to ship from the warehouse to the store; we place the order with the NLC who place their order with the brewery; when the beer arrives at your store we notify you by e-mail to pick it up and pay the NLC. You then enjoy the beer!
ACBB: Where did you get the idea for the club?
MB: My idea to go down this road came from an evening in NYC at the Blind Tiger. This is constantly rated as one of the top beer bars in the US and I just stumbled across it walking down the street on a 2 day visit. I wound up drinking with the owner from Vermont, the local Ithaca Brewing rep and a beer consultant who owns “Civilization of Beer” and lamented the dismal selection of beer in Newfoundland. A number of suggestions were thrown out there but none were really viable. Upon my return I went to see Tom Beckett of Beckett on Wine. I’ve known Tom for awhile through the Belbins Grocery cheese of the month club which he manages; we decided a beer of the month club was the way to go. The NLC shut down the “beer of the month club” idea so we shifted gears and set up merely as a special order club which is the format we’re running on right now. There are some beer of the month clubs out of the US etc but our laws prevent us from joining, I am considering joining one and having the beer sent somewhere I can go get it fairly easily.
ACBB: How do you interact with the NLC? Are there any restrictions to what areas you can purchase beer from?
MB: Tom and I communicate regularly with NLC people via email, for me this is very important as I’m out of province or country regularly for work.
Our biggest hurdle as of now in ordering beer is that we have to use the NLC transport system, to get into places such as Belgium we need to generate some more buying power for enough volume to justify the transport costs.
ACBB: How many members do you have?
When we sent out or first offering we had a starting list of 103 people, in 2 months we’re grown to over 500 when we put out the second offering.
ACBB: How does someone go about joining the club and how much does it cost?
It’s free to join and all you have to do is get us your email address. (Editor’s note: send them a note on their Facebook page).
ACBB: Do you have any special events or get togethers regarding the club?
MB: Our first event is a beer tasting of the beers we brought in with a primer from the local brewpub Yellowbelly and Liam McKenna is coming in to talk a little about his beer before I take over to host the rest of it. We’re planning to offer these on a regular basis and are bringing in extra product just for that.
ACBB: What beers have your members been able to sample so far and which ones are planned?
Our first offering was of 4 beers from Dieu du Ciel:
Corne du Diable – American India Pale Ale – 6.5% alc./vol.
Dernière Volonté – Blond Abbey-style beer “Bottle conditioned” – 7% alc./vol.
Péché Mortel – Imperial coffee stout “Bottle conditioned” – 9.5% alc./vol.
Rosée d’Hibiscus – Hibiscus flower Wit “Bottle conditioned” – 5.9% alc./vol.
The beer offering for November, 2012, will come from MicroBrasserie Charlevoix of Baie-Saint-Paul, Québec, http://www.microbrasserie.com/ from whom we shall receive the following premium beer:
Dominus Vobiscum Double – Belgian style, bottle conditioned – 8% alc. /vol.
Dominus Vobiscum Triple – Belgian style golden ale, bottle conditioned – 9% alc./vol.
Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout – Imperial stout dosed with lactose – 9% alc. /vol.
Hibernus – Free your soul from the frigid winter grasp – 10% alc./vol.
Bottle conditioned beer contains sediment which can be enjoyed mixed into the beer when poured; decanted and consumed separately from the beer as a multi-vitamin; decanted and consigned to sauce or gravy; or decanted and wasted.
We’re pretty excited about this one too, I was fortunate enough to meet their marketing manager Luc Van Steene at a great beer bar in Antwerp to discuss this beer business.
ACBB: What is the contact information for the club?
MB: People can find a Facebook page I opened under Beerthief, all of the club information is there under the “about” heading. For anyone in Newfoundland please be welcome to join us in bringing good beer to the province, this will influence the NLC as we grow and we should have some direct influence on what we start seeing on the shelves. (Editor’s Note: Mike also mentioned in an email that a website is being planned for the not too distant future).
So how do we start on of these in New Brunswick?
I sent an email to someone at ANBL and will let you know what I hear back.
Woohoo! It sure would be cool if we could work something like this out in NB too.
Here’s some information I received from ANBL about special orders:
I am not aware of any Beer Clubs, however, we certainly place special orders for customers. Below is the high level overview of the process:
ANBL provides a special order service that allows customers to purchase product that is not sold in New Brunswick. If you wish to pursue a request, please visit your local liquor store indicating that you wish to place a special order request. At that time, store staff will capture as much information as possible about the brand, and accept a $25 initiation fee. If ANBL is unable to source your special order the $25 will be refunded in full. If the product has been sourced and you decide not to proceed, the $25.00 is not refundable.
Should the supplier be willing to ship the product, we will acquire pricing information from them and calculate a retail price for you. If you are comfortable with the price, we will then accept a $25 per case deposit and will issue a purchase order on your behalf. The initiation fee of $25 will be applied to the case deposit fee. Deposit fees are credited towards the total cost of the order.
The Minimum order requirement for wines and spirits sourced within Canada is 1 case x 12 bottles. Product sourced outside of Canada requires a 5 case x 12 bottle minimum order.
All beer and coolers, regardless of source requires 10 case x 24 bottle minimum requirement.
Depending upon the source, special orders can take a minimum of six weeks to a maximum of six months to arrive.
You are able to find the Special Order Form to fill out prior to going to the store at: http://nbliquor.com/corp-forms.asp
I believe the difference is that we place one order per customer, but other than that, the process is very comparable.
I asked if there was restricted to conventional cases and not large beer bottles, here was the response:
I think that depends on the supplier – if you have a specific brand in mind, we can check it out.
I also asked if someone could order but ship to several different stores throughout the province, that is not an option.
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