“Real beer” was really here Monday for at least for some of the local retailers newly allowed under Kansas law to stock 6.0 beer.
“We started stocking the product at 8 o’clock last night (Sunday night),” said Sheila Lowrie, corporate affairs manager for Dillon Stores. She said a “terrific team” of vendors and distributors helped with the effort.
On Monday morning, the Dillons Marketplace, 3200 Plaza East Dr., was ready to sell beer.
Lowrie was an early morning buyer of a six-pack. She was eager for the souvenir receipt and chose Walnut River Brewing Co.’s Warbeard Irish Red - a name that conjured up the years-long lobbying fight in Topeka led by Uncork Kansas, to change the law to allow strong beer sales in grocery stores.
“The Pursuit of Hoppiness Leads Here,” read signs in Dillons, where one long row of coolers held domestic beers with familiar names, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, while the other side featured craft beers - including an assortment from area breweries - and imported beers. The bottles and cans bore such names as WuShock Wheat, Longball, and Yankee Rose.
“This whole section has been enhanced,” said Lowrie, and beer availability will increase between two and three times what the store had carried.
A “pick six” option invites the Dillons shopper to take a six-pack carrier and fill it from an assortment of singles. “Craft beer will encourage them to try something new,” Lowrie said.
“The sale of domestic beers will be something that our customers embrace as well,” she said, but the “explosion of craft breweries not only in Kansas but across the country,” she said has boosted sales of those beers.
Early Monday afternoon, there was no evidence of strong beer at the Kwik Shop, 2617 N. Main St., where empty cooler space stood behind the sign, “Our Beer Selection Just Got Stronger.” Boxes of 3.2 cereal malt beverage sat on non-refrigerated shelves. At the Kwik Shop at 500 N. Monroe St., a sign advertised “Available April 1st Strong Beer” but the only beverages in the cooler space by the sign were boxes of Sprite, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi.
Bob Bush, co-owner of City Beverage Co. Inc., Hutchinson, said Kwik Shops will be “reset” this week and he considered it “crazy” they didn’t request stocking for the April 1 morning launch of strong beer sales in grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores, gas stations, and other retailers previously restricted to selling 3.2 cereal malt beverage.
Cindy Rantanen, vice president of brand partnerships and public relations for EG America LLC, the corporate owner of Kwik Shops, sounded surprised when The News inquired about the empty shelves here. She responded later Monday afternoon that three Hutchinson stores had deliveries Monday and Kwik Shops will have full-strength beer in place by Tuesday morning. The complete assortment will be available by Wednesday, she said.
Dillons, too, had some empty space on its shelves. “We have additional beer that will be coming in,” Lowrie said.
Tyler Omo, sales reprsentatiative with Standard Beverage, Wichita, delivered boxes of beer Sunday night and was stocking more boxes of beer Monday afternoon in Dillons. “Very busy day,” Omo said.
“We’re very happy with the way things are going,” Bush said.
Although the law allows up to 6.0 beer, as beer drinkers know, not all beer is the same. Longball has a 5.2 percent alcohol by volume; Warbeard, 5.5 percent; and Johnny B’s Beer Band, 6.0 Also on the shelves: Not Your Father’s Root Beer (5.9 percent ABV) and Henry's Hard Soda (4.2).
It was a notable day for Dillons, but one woman shopper left with no beer. She said she was "not a beer person," and in her cart were three boxes of Dr. Pepper.
Walgreens, 510 E. 30th Ave., and Yesway, 428 E. 4th Ave., had strong beer in their coolers, too, on Monday.