Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A sad saga of stale beer

By William Brand
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 8:24 am in Uncategorized.

I don’t like to rag on reputable businesses, but as we move further into a world where we’ve learned to expect quality beer, it can be really depressing to lay out a few bucks for a number of unusual beers in a box, get the beer home and find out most of it is old, outdated or whatever.

Consider this note from Tom:

I am writing in regards to the Great American Microbrews sampler packs that Cost Plus sells. I always thought the sampler was a good idea, but had not bought it until last month. I bought two at the Walnut Creek Cost Plus to share with some friends over July 4th. I was presently surprised by the selection of quality beers in the sampler, and looked forward to trying some of them.

I have educated my friends and family about beer over the years, and one of our guests showed me the January 2008 “best by” date on his beer. I went through the other beers and those that had code dates were generally Nov 2007 – Jan 2008, although I did find a Full Sail Limited Edition June 2007 and a Pyramid Kolsch July 2007. Very embarrassing to have your guests point out beer so far out of code.

I sent Cost Plus an e-mail advising them of my disappointment, and directly questioning whether they were using the sampler as a way of getting rid of their old six-pack beer. They have a bit of a reputation in the beer industry for not moving product quickly.

A day or two later I received a “concerned” reply that they were going to immediately contact the store’s general manager to ensure customers have future positive experience. Well, the problem was they never asked me what store or even what city the purchased took place in, so it was obviously a generic reply. I thought I would ask whether you have any experience with the Cost Plus
sampler packs?

Cost Plus should really note the sample packs are a “clearance” vehicle if that is truly the case, and I stated that in my e-mail to them. Certainly the brewers represented in the sample packs would not be pleased to have many consumers first experience with their brands being out of code product. I hope our postings prevent other consumers from having the same experience. Tom

Yes, I had the same experience last year. Bought a pig in a poke, so to speak. Got a lot of stale beer. My suggestion to Cost-Plus and other stores that retail beer. If it’s old and outdated beer, state that it is and mark it down drastically. I sometimes go into the 99 Cent store on University Avenue in Berkeley looking for bargains. Most of the beer the sell is outdated, I expect that and am willing sometimes to risk a few bucks, especially when it’s strong beer, hoping that I get a bargain. I sometimes do. But when I don’t, I’m not surprised. I knew what I was getting into.

Anyone else with an opinion? Post it here or shoot me an e-mail at

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  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    Never thought about this when shopping at Cost Plus. I’ll have to make sure to check my labels and bottles more carefully in the future.

  • William A. Grimes

    I always avoided the Cost Plus/World Market beers because they were sitting on the floor under fluorescent lights for who knows how long. That treatment almost always assures disappointment.

  • William Brand

    I’m a afraid it’s a good rule of thumb if you’re interested in fresh, high quality beer. If it isn’t in a cooler,. forget it. Don’t buy it unless its emabarassingly cheap and worth the risk.