When WhichCraft Beer Store opens its doors on Saturday, it’ll be the first bottle shop in Austin selling only craft beer — no wine or liquor allowed.
The hundreds of local, national and international beers, both in cans and bottles, also won’t share shelf space with the light lagers of big beer companies like Budweiser. Such a niche focus is exactly founder Jody Reyes’ goal in the hopes that WhichCraft becomes "the destination for people to come get craft beer in bottles and cans."
Beer fans won’t be able to drink what they buy there (although Black Sheep Lodge is next door if they should fancy a pint on draft), but Reyes plans to host regular tastings, ones focusing on a specific brewery during the week and ones on Friday and Saturday evenings that allow customers to try whatever is new to the bottle shop at the time. The first tasting will showcase Ballast Point brews on Tuesday.
Another key feature of the bottle shop, Reyes said, is as much one-on-one time with customers as the staff can manage. He doesn’t want WhichCraft to be just a place where someone stops by for a bomber and then leaves; he wants them to come away knowing something they hadn’t before.
"It’s important to me to have a staff who understands the industry, understands the beer styles and the history and the brewing process and all those sorts of things," Reyes said. "That way they can help make recommendations to people regardless of where they are in their craft beer journey, as I call it, whether they’ve had a Blue Moon for the first time and it blew their minds and they want more like it or whether they just drink Jester King sour beers."
He also aims to offer a hearty selection of build-your-own-six-pack beers. With the exception of that shelf, the shop will be organized by beer styles and may one day offer glassware, too.
Although Reyes has lived in Austin for less than a year, relocating when his fiancée took a job with Seton, he saw pretty quickly something he already suspected about Austin: this town doesn’t have a dedicated bottle shop for craft beer. He’d already lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of U.S. craft beer’s big epicenters, and Minneapolis, the site of changing beer laws, and saw the potential for a bottle shop immediately — his first entrepreneurial venture after years in Corporate America. Craft beer had always been one of his passions, ever since he could legally drink, and "the big question of ‘What do I want to do with my life?’" led him on the hunt for a building to house his new dream.
He’s spent the past year researching to prepare for WhichCraft — research being, of course, visits to many of the local breweries and beer bars to get to know the people in the industry — and now he’s eager to open shop.
WhichCraft Beer Store, 2110 S. Lamar Blvd. Ste. F. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. whichcraftbeerstore.com.