Continued from Bond Ride-Along
This is part 2 of a day in the life of Steven Wilson, a craft beer representative for Bond Distributing.
White Oak Tavern
I was looking forward to visiting one of my favorites, The White Oak Tavern. Their farm-to- table food is amazing. I witnessed someone hauling the hind quarters of a hog (pigs feet included) over his shoulder and into the back as I was standing outside. Their food has been voted Best of Dining by Howard Magazine for 3 years in a row. But of course, we were here for the beer.
Noel Johnson is co-owner of White Oak and the beer buyer. I was excited to see Noel and Steven together as both are beer rock stars. In fact, both have been beer buyers at Frisco. Their discussion was brief, as Noel pretty much knew what he needed. I was lost with all the keg jargon – 6s, 1/2s and something about 13? Steven gave me a quick lesson on kegs:
- 1/2 keg is 15.5 gallons,
- 1/6 keg is 5.2 gallons,
- 13.2 keg is 13.2 gallons,
- a firkin is 10.8 gallons.
Although tempted by White Oak Tavern, we opted for lunch at a new place to Steven – Bon Fresco. We headed back to Dobbin Road in Columbia.
One of Columbia’s little secrets is Bon Fresco. They serve delicious and fresh food. They make their own bread. We happened to see Brian in the parking lot, so he joined us for lunch.
Our next stop was in Baltimore County. I didn’t really understand why we were headed out of Steven’s territory, but hey, I was just along for the ride.
Foundry Row Wine & Spirits
I found Foundry Row in Owings Mills fascinating. All the stores seemed brand new. It was as if someone planted seeds, added water and they all sprang up at once.
Foundry Row Wine & Spirits is a spacious store with spirits in front and wine in the back. Along the back wall is an enormous beer fridge stocked exclusively with craft beer. Beside the refrigerator is a tasting bar with 9 taps and a crowler machine — no seats (it’s just for tasting), but you can fill growlers and crowlers.
When Mark came out, Steven and he had a long inventory discussion about which beers are selling as well as what beers will be available. Mark noted one brewer’s beer had not moved since October. Steven didn’t want to lose that shelf space and offered several alternatives. After hashing out inventory, I was in for a treat. Mark and Steven, two enthusiastic beer geeks, started gossiping about beers and the beer world. I just smiled and took it in.
We said goodbye to Mark and headed back to Howard County.
Dandelion Bakery & Bistro
Next, we came to Glen Elg, MD, my favorite palindromic town in Howard County, to visit the newly opened Dandelion Bakery & Bistro. Dandelion is a cozy restaurant with a nice looking selection of desserts and pastries, as well as a craft beer bar. They serve soups, sandwiches, and salads as well as breakfast before 11:00 AM. They also offer a Sunday brunch. We met the owner, Keith, who calls Steven “Afro Steve”. Keith wants to add a few more Flying Dog beers to his selection. He is also eager to hold a Flying Dog beer dinner.
We said our goodbyes to my new friend Keith and headed back to my car, parked at the Perfect Pour. On the last ride of the day, Steven said something very telling. “They [some retailers] only want the good stuff.” This puzzling statement sums up the 3-tier system. All tiers have an inventory they need to continually stock and keep moving. For instance, if a brewer makes a limited quantity of an extremely popular beer, everyone wants it. A distributor or brewer wants to move all their inventory – not just the very popular. So they want to provide those “in demand” beers to those that help move the less popular items. The three-tier system requires each tier to give and take so that they all can manage their inventory (supply) to meet the ever-changing demands of the fickle consumer. Smart beer geeks like “Afro Steve” help everyone navigate this complex system.