By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
EASTHAMPTON TrüBeer is not your typical package store. It’s a destination for those who love craft beer.
A concept that was hatched in December 2010 that finally became a reality three weeks ago, TrüBeer offers what might be the best collection of American craft beers in this part of the state.
“We have over 520 different beers,” Owner Sam Braudis told Reminder Publications. “I’m pretty confident it’s the largest selection in Western Massachusetts.”
Braudis said he performed most of the work in getting the store off the ground, from acquiring funding to physically building the interior of the store, none of which proved to be an easy task.
“I have investors, which are essentially a group of friends and we had a goal to raise a certain amount, then to go to the bank and get a loan for the remainder of the cost,” he said. “But the bank wanted something like 80 percent collateral, so I had to take a look at things and pare down the budget. Because of that, I ended up doing most of the work refurbishing the space, including the flooring and the shelving. It was tough, but I think I ended up in pretty good shape.”
Getting TrüBeer, located in a small, unassuming corner of a building sitting at 28 Northampton St., is a bit of a drive for most in the Greater Springfield area, but the selection is well worth it, offering beers from New England to California and everywhere in between.
Beside the selection, there are two distinct characteristics that set TrüBeer apart from its competitors.
The first is the manner in which the beer is organized. Unlike most stores, which organize beers by brand, Braudis has designed his store to separate beers by style.
“The inspiration actually came from a wine store where the wine is organized by region or style,” he sad. “The idea of doing it by brewery is really ridiculous because no one will ever try something new.”
Because of the boom in the popularity of India Pale Ales (IPA) over the last decade or so, that section is the largest, Braudis added.
“The demand drives the supply and with how popular the IPAs have been, I’d be crazy not to have a great selection,” he said.
The second difference between Tr üBeer and other stores is that every beer is available in singles. Braudis provides empty six-pack containers in which customers can put together their own assortment of beer.
“Probably 99 percent of my customers make their own mixed six packs,” he said.
TrüBeer’s prices are higher than most other package stores, but Braudis asserted that the price is reflective of the quality of the beer.
“It’s usually somewhere around $12 for a [mixed] six-pack,” he said. “But that’s because we have some beers here that are pretty special.”
Braudis stood by is claim by explaining that in order to select the best possible beer while still remaining within his budget, he consulted several different beer rating guides, including Massachusetts’ own BeerAdvocate, creating spreadsheets organized by style with a listing of the rating assigned by each guide.
“By using this method, I was able to weed out the stuff that didn’t rate very high and make sure I had the best beer possible here,” he said.
Seasonal beers are also a prominent part of Braudis’ outfit, sitting on the shelves next to the door at the front of the store.
“Right now we’re approaching the end of the Octoberfest season and those and the pumpkin beers have been some of the best sellers,” he said. “As winter comes along, the winter beers will be stocked, which means a lot more darker beers, porters and things of that nature.
“Some of them are already being sold [to retailers by breweries and distributors], but unless I know it’s going to sell out in a week, I’m not buying now because buying winter beer before Halloween is over is just wrong,” he added with a smile.
TrüBeer also offers a small assortment of glassware, which he hopes to expand in the coming months, and beer tastings every week. The store will host Element Brewing Company of Miller’s Falls on Oct. 26 for its final October tasting.
To learn more about TrüBeer, visit its website at http://trubeer.com. The store also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/TruBeer/156659244398938, which is updated regularly with “event pages” announcing upcoming tastings and new beer arrivals.
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