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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Siciliano's Rare Beer Drawing: In Pursuit of Fairness

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Every so often Siciliano’s is able to procure a few bottles of ultra-rare beers and spirits that have limited distributions in the West Michigan market. I want to place added emphasis on the word “few”. To cite some examples, we have never been allotted more than two Samuel Adams Utopias at one time, no more than one fifth of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old Bourbon and no more than six bottles of the special releases of the Goose Island Bourbon County varietals.

Obviously I am pleased that Siciliano’s is one of the handful of area stores that receive allocations (albeit minuscule) of these super limited releases; however, we have always struggled with the issue of trying to decide what to do with them.

It has been our policy to price these ultra-rare products at our standard mark-up and sell them on a first-come, first-serve basis. The intrinsic flaw of this policy is that only a lucky few ever get the opportunity to purchase them since they are invariably snatched up as soon as they go on sale. I’m sure that most of this snatching is done by customers who just happen to be lucky enough to be in the store at the time, but it’s probably true too that the rarities are sometimes purchased by savvy folks who monitor release dates, know exactly where to find them and, in some cases at least, may be acquiring them for reasons other than personal consumption (i.e., to resell them at a profit).

While I have always been cognizant of the shortcomings of the first-come, first-serve policy for the super rare products, I thought it was better than maintaining a “preferred” customer list or drastically inflating prices and leaving things up to the law of supply and demand. Recently, however, some of the Siciliano’s staffers convinced me that we should try something new.

After much pondering we have decided to begin drawing names for the few bottles we obtain of the ultra-rare beers and spirits. Starting immediately, those interested in acquiring one of these products can personally fill out an entry form in-store, and in February we will begin holding one monthly drawing for a single, random bottle from our cellared cache of ultra-rare products. That cache currently includes such rarities as Samuel Adams Utopias, Pappy Van Winkle 12, 15 and 20 Year Bourbon and Goose Island Halia, Juliet, Gillian and Backyard Rye.

Those wishing to participate in the monthly drawings need to only enter once and their names will be kept in the hopper for as long as we hold the drawings (or for as long as they wish to participate). Winners will have the option of either purchasing or declining the drawing’s predetermined item. If they choose to make the purchase they will have a specified time to personally do so. If they decline, another name will be drawn and their name will go back into the hopper for future drawings.

We think that a name draw will help level the playing field somewhat and give more folks at least the opportunity to acquire these ultra-rare products. We also think it’s going to be fun. We hope that you do too. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.

Complete rules for the Siciliano’s rare beer and spirits drawing are as follows:

    • Drawings for a specific, predetermined, ultra-rare item will occur on the third Thursday of each month (provided there are bottles in the cellared cache) and the winner will be announced the following day on Facebook and in the New Beer Friday preamble. Winners will also be notified via phone and email.
    • Entrants must be at least twenty-one years of age.
    • No purchase is necessary to enter the drawings.
    • Entrants must personally fill out an entry form in the store. Only one entry is needed for all subsequent drawings. No names will be accepted via phone calls, emails, etc. Only one entry is allowed per person.
    • Entries will be accepted on an ongoing basis.
    • Winners will have the option of purchasing or declining that drawing’s predetermined, specified item. If the winner chooses not to purchase that predetermined, specified item, their name will go back into the pool. If the item is purchased, the winner’s name will be withdrawn from the pool for the next three drawings and then reentered.
    • Winners will have two weeks to personally purchase the item in-store and will be required to show a valid I.D. (No proxies allowed). If the item is not purchased within the specified time period, another name will be drawn.

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