A Thought on the Four Firkins

I read over the weekend that the usually excellent beer store the On Tap: A farewell to Minnesota craft beer pioneer The Four Firkins Depending upon who you ask it was the entrance into the market of “bog box” liquor stores like Total Wine that did the specialty shop in or its somewhat inconvenient locations or its prices versus other shops in the area.

As someone who sent several people to the Four Firkins and spent some time near there at the American Legion across the street partaking in the particular Minnesota tradition of a meat raffle I would like to offer a differing opinion on the closure of the store.

The Four Firkins was set up to be like a high end wine shop. The staff was well educated on the product, many of them had or were pursuing a certification as a cicerone, sample of somewhat offbeat beers were available frequently, and there was always someone available to talk about beer with if you were in the mood. None of these positive attributes can overcome the subtle difference between wine and beer. The cost of failure for beer is much lower than it is for wine.

A multi-pack of beer—be it a six pack of bottles or a four pack of cans or even a single 22 ounce bottle—is going to come in at a lower price point than a higher than average end wine. If I “fail,” so to speak, and buy a beer that I do not like I am out maybe $10. Conversely, with a bottle of wine you can easily be north of $30. That’s an order of magnitude greater that is hard to overcome.

It is easy enough to go into a well-stocked liquor store, pick out a new beer to try, and not feel like you are making a deep financial commitment. That is a hard buyer behavior to overcome with service.

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