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Old 06-21-2009, 12:45 PM   #1
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Default Does my LHBS suck?

I have a LHBS about 15 minutes away from where I work. It's pretty convenient and lately I haven't really been planning ahead enough with my recipes to order, so I just stop by and pick up what I need. However every time I go there the guy seems let me down in one way or another. Let me give you some examples:

First time I stopped in I was pretty noobish. He was explaining the fermentation to me as such: Sit it in primary until bubbles only come every 4 seconds. Immediately rack to secondary. It will finish fermenting in secondary. Immediately after it stops bubbling bottle it.

Now I had a feeling that wasn't right after what I've read here. There isn't supposed to be any fermentation at all in secondary. And the beer needs time to age and clean up before you bottle/keg. So I sort of ignored his advice.

Second time I went in to buy more bottle caps, and such. I asked if he'd ever heard of a dip tube for the bottling bucket. I told him I was going to break a racking cane at the bent part and use a stopper to fabricate one. He looked at me like I was crazy and said "that just sounds like a lot of work". So I went ahead and bought the stuff anyway, and of course they charged me a $1 extra because I used a visa and spent less than 10 dollars.

Third time I was in I was asking him about dry yeast and starters. After I mentioned that I had been using Wyeast smack packs he just looked at me with a condescending grin and sort of laughed like I was the dumbest person on the planet. Since then I've used the white labs vial, and safale us-05 dry yeast and both were great. In fact I've never had a bad fermentation with any yeast, but Wyeast is super convenient so I'm not sure wtf his deal was.

The last time I went in I had emailed them an order for a sierra nevada stout clone I had scaled up to 6gal. I still haven't managed to get a digital scale so I asked them to please measure the ingredients exactly. They like to sell in 1 or 1/2 oz increments. I needed exactly 4.5 oz of hops, 1.1, 1, and 1.4. I asked him since they charge the same price for hops no matter what style, could he just bill me for 4.5oz but measure them exactly to the recipe. All of this was by email, so when I showed up and asked if my order was ready he said "oh you are the one with the crazy order." Mind you that their website says "special orders are what we do". I said I don't have a scale could you weight it exact for me, even if you have to bill me extra. Their scale only weighs in ounces, and is only accurate down to 1/8th oz. So 1.1 oz is out of the question. I can get 1.125 oz but not 1.1. I can get 2.375 or 2.5 oz, but not 2.4. Call me crazy but I don't think measuring by the tenth of an ounce is too much to ask, especially at 3 dollars an ounce.

White labs vials are 8.80 each, which I will never pay for again (did it once in a pinch). And their in store prices are higher than their online prices, presumably because they don't update their website very often.

Finally I do have to say they have a pretty large selection. Their prices on some things are reasonable although online is always cheaper. If I walk in with a grain bill they fill it within 10 minutes. I always choose no mill but they will mill for free. And they are always willing to give advice (albeit incorrect) anytime you ask. So they are nice enough, just seem old fashioned and not really up with what the new age home brewers are into. So does my LHBS suck? I'm thinking of buying 2-3 recipes of grain online from now on and buying a bulk order of hops to avoid having to go back.

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Old 06-21-2009, 12:54 PM   #2
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On the first couple of points, I'd have to chalk that up to differences in technique. The only LHBS to which I go is 30 min from me, so I depend on HBT to get me through any questions about technique or styles

The rest lead me to ask this question: Is there another LHBS which you can patronize? Anybody in the 21st century who charges extra for credit card usage needs to wake up. You choose to accept credit cards in order to expand your business, not punish your customers at the end of a transaction. I never understood jackasses who do this. This plus the other attitude stuff you mentioned would have had me looking for someone else after the first time.

My LHBS is good for buying equipment only, and even then I make sure I've done the math to make sure it's worth my traveling the 30 minutes each way before I set foot out of the house. All my ingredient purchases are done online (so far with Northern Brewer) and I have no gripes whatsoever. I intend to spread the love at some point, but NB's postage is about the best I've encountered (are you listening, Midwest and Austin?)

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Old 06-21-2009, 01:04 PM   #3
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Well first off, not many people have heard of bottling bucket dip tubes OUTSIDE of here, because I created it, and have only shared it here (although I have written it up for BYO & zymurgy as well.)

So it's no surprise that he hadn't heard of it..though bending a tube and sticking it in a rubber stopper and jamming inside of the spigot to catch ALL the beer at bottling time seems like a "lot of work" to him??????

Geez?!? Guess he doesn't care that he can get 50 beers rather than 48 with 5 minutes worth of work to build it.

In terms of lhb's, remember, not every proprieter reads every forum or book or listens to every podcast, so the last book or info they may have learned may be in Papazian from 30 years ago. They also may only brew kits. Or simply JUST be of the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" mentality.

But not every person, especially one of those "you can't teach an old dog" types aren't going to be up on the latest ideas.

Remember to a lot of LHBS'er or employees, it is only a job..not an obsession...so they are not always as necessarily passionate, or zealous learnign new things, or trying new techniques, like we are....SOme even though they have been in the business forever, may never had progressed in the hobby beyond extract kits...some may rarely brew at all.

So often it is not surprising that we know more or are at least in touch with more info that someone who does it for a living....

I'm lucky I have quite a few homebrew shops to choose from, one that I can walk to, although his selection is limited due to not a lot of business (which we hb'ers in town are trying to correct)- AND he just told me that it looks like he might be moving right across the street from my loft

(and openning a pico-winery and perhaps a brew on premise)

Then halfway between work and home, around the corner from my sister's house is the Holy mecca of Homebrew shops, Cap N Cork (which IIRC is the first hbs in metro detroit) it's large, has a high turnover so ingredients are fresh, and has quite a few employees, most of who are a passionate about brewing as we are...but even there you have a few oldtimers, who don't read every book, or look at forums, so they might not be up on the latest things...

One thing to remember, This is an ever evolving hobby...Places like this is where you find the most state of the art information/wisdom about brewing, because of the sheer number of us trying new things, hearing new things, and even breaking new ground and contributing to the body of info on the hobby...Look at some of that inventions that came out of here, and then ended up later in BYO articles by our members...

It is podcasts and forums like this where you will find a lot more state of the art, or current views, and even scientific information...I mean if Jamil, John Palmer or Papazian even farts on a podcast, one of us beergeeks are going to start a thread on it within 10 minutes.

So if you are dealing with ab old school LHBS employee...don't back down, and don't let him get to you...

Remember- It is HUMAN nature to scorn that which we don't understand... It even happens on here sometimes, when someone attempt to break new ground, or suggest something different from common wisdom (we still get people who scorn the idea of long primaries, and still believe in autolysis)...but it really is not the norm here.

But not necessarily "out there" in the world of Home brew shops.

In fact if you have one like that, Don't even tell him what you are doing buy your stuff, give him your money, and whistle your way out the door..knowing that what you might be attempting is probably light years ahead of HIS knowlege base.....

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Old 06-21-2009, 01:06 PM   #4
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Yeah for me it's about 45 mins from home, but only 15 from work. It's the only LHBS that's close. The next one is probably 1.5 hours away or so which would never happen.

I think part of the problem is that going in there as a hb newb it was like beer mecca. I expected the owners to be this fountain of good knowledge and support, which they really aren't. I'm sure they get tired of explaining fermentation, or whatever, but it comes with the package you know.

I think like what you said equipment only might be the way to go. Just leave the advice up to hbt forums. Just get in and get out with whatever I need/can't wait to have shipped.

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Old 06-21-2009, 01:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cvstrat View Post
...White labs vials are 8.80 each, which I will never pay for again (did it once in a pinch). And their in store prices are higher than their online prices, presumably because they don't update their website very often.

Finally I do have to say they have a pretty large selection. Their prices on some things are reasonable although online is always cheaper. If I walk in with a grain bill they fill it within 10 minutes. I always choose no mill but they will mill for free. And they are always willing to give advice (albeit incorrect) anytime you ask. So they are nice enough, just seem old fashioned and not really up with what the new age home brewers are into. So does my LHBS suck?
I snipped the extra stuff and focused on the important stuff. You have a well stocked LHBS with reasonable prices, friendly staff, and good inventory. Sounds like a they don't suck. Just skip the advice.
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Old 06-21-2009, 01:09 PM   #6
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What I don't understand is that the better bottles with the spout actually have a dip tube built in. He sells those, surely he has seen it and asked himself wtf is this tube doing inside this bottle?

+1 for the idea, I cracked the end off the racking cane, used a small stopper, and it was bad ass. Totally easier than trying to tip the bucket. best 1.50 (plus 1 for the visa fee) I ever spent.

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Old 06-21-2009, 01:15 PM   #7
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I have a very similar LHBS by me - this is why I usually use the internet stores :-)

I guess it must be because they get very green new brewers in and it makes them feel like "experts", and this comes off as condesending to experienced brewers. Last time I was in my LHBS, my BIL wanted to start homebrewing and was going for as cheap as he could get as he lost his job. While I told him his beer would be MUCH better tasting if he used DME instead of all the sugar those canned recipes tell him - his goal was CHEAP. Ok, I can understand a brother down on his cashflow looking for beer on the cheap - so I loaned him some spare fermentation stuff so he would not have to buy it and went to the LHBS for a canned kit and a few more items. The guys there made him feel like crap for mot spending the $100+ on a new brewing setup and other misc. items. Well - we got him out for less than $20. Yep - I tried the beer a month later and it was bad tasting - but it was drinkable and had a pretty strong punch

Well - now he is hooked - really into brewing and enjoys it quite a bit. I got him to replace the sugar with DME and when he tasted that first beer - he is now hooked on making BETTER beer and improving his setup as money allows.

The moral - if he would have been put off by that LHBS's attitude, it would probably have kept him from brewing at all - and they should be encouraging the craft instead of running guys away from it OMO.

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Old 06-21-2009, 01:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cvstrat View Post
First time I stopped in I was pretty noobish. He was explaining the fermentation to me as such: Sit it in primary until bubbles only come every 4 seconds. Immediately rack to secondary. It will finish fermenting in secondary. Immediately after it stops bubbling bottle it.
I've found that with homebrewing especially, there is no right or wrong answer, only opinions. Maybe not the advise I would have given, but there's a reason so many people call it secondary "fermentation". This is kind of my general consensus on retail stores, in general. You need to be prepared when you go in. Ask for their advice by all means, but that's all it is, just a guide.

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Now I had a feeling that wasn't right after what I've read here. There isn't supposed to be any fermentation at all in secondary. And the beer needs time to age and clean up before you bottle/keg. So I sort of ignored his advice.
Says who? I don't age my beer, well most beer anyway. What type of beer was it?

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Second time I went in to buy more bottle caps, and such. I asked if he'd ever heard of a dip tube for the bottling bucket. I told him I was going to break a racking cane at the bent part and use a stopper to fabricate one. He looked at me like I was crazy and said "that just sounds like a lot of work". So I went ahead and bought the stuff anyway, and of course they charged me a $1 extra because I used a visa and spent less than 10 dollars.
Yea, it's annoying, but do you they have sign up stating as such? It's kind of like the gas stations charging more for credit vs. cash. I also agree about the dip tube, sounds like a lot of work. IMO, on nice thing about no dip tube in the bottle bucket is that you leave more yeast / trub behind. That's my opinion though...

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Originally Posted by cvstrat View Post
Third time I was in I was asking him about dry yeast and starters. After I mentioned that I had been using Wyeast smack packs he just looked at me with a condescending grin and sort of laughed like I was the dumbest person on the planet. Since then I've used the white labs vial, and safale us-05 dry yeast and both were great. In fact I've never had a bad fermentation with any yeast, but Wyeast is super convenient so I'm not sure wtf his deal was.
That is kind of strange, do they sell Wyeast? Personally I avoid the smack packs at all cost, just because they are a pain to pour.

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Originally Posted by cvstrat View Post
The last time I went in I had emailed them an order for a sierra nevada stout clone I had scaled up to 6gal. I still haven't managed to get a digital scale so I asked them to please measure the ingredients exactly. They like to sell in 1 or 1/2 oz increments. I needed exactly 4.5 oz of hops, 1.1, 1, and 1.4. I asked him since they charge the same price for hops no matter what style, could he just bill me for 4.5oz but measure them exactly to the recipe. All of this was by email, so when I showed up and asked if my order was ready he said "oh you are the one with the crazy order." Mind you that their website says "special orders are what we do". I said I don't have a scale could you weight it exact for me, even if you have to bill me extra. Their scale only weighs in ounces, and is only accurate down to 1/8th oz. So 1.1 oz is out of the question. I can get 1.125 oz but not 1.1. I can get 2.375 or 2.5 oz, but not 2.4. Call me crazy but I don't think measuring by the tenth of an ounce is too much to ask, especially at 3 dollars an ounce.
You are *CRAZY* . Personally I think you are extremely lucky that they would even offer to measure out hops. Secondly, are you really complaining that they can measure to 2.375, but not 2.4?? Add in 2 more pellets and call it good.

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Originally Posted by cvstrat View Post
Finally I do have to say they have a pretty large selection. Their prices on some things are reasonable although online is always cheaper. If I walk in with a grain bill they fill it within 10 minutes. I always choose no mill but they will mill for free. And they are always willing to give advice (albeit incorrect) anytime you ask. So they are nice enough, just seem old fashioned and not really up with what the new age home brewers are into. So does my LHBS suck? I'm thinking of buying 2-3 recipes of grain online from now on and buying a bulk order of hops to avoid having to go back.
They have a good selection, fill grain bills quickly, mill for free, they are nice, willing to offer advice... what exactly are you complaining about again?

edit: I wasn't trying to be mean, kids are crabby and it's hot. Sounds like you have a pretty decent lhbs.
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Old 06-21-2009, 02:20 PM   #9
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Sorry for your bad experiance. I actually have 3 homebrew stores within 30 minutes drive, but the very best is rebelbrewer.com which is right on the way to the location that I brew at Give Tom an email there, and his staff (Tyler) is great, too. I would highly recommend them, good prices and fast turn around. They try to ship out same day and have no problem bending over backwards to measure out things if you ask.

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Old 06-21-2009, 02:28 PM   #10
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Yea, it's annoying, but do you they have sign up stating as such? It's kind of like the gas stations charging more for credit vs. cash. I also agree about the dip tube, sounds like a lot of work. IMO, on nice thing about no dip tube in the bottle bucket is that you leave more yeast / trub behind. That's my opinion though...

Trub in a bottling bucket? I usually have nothing but beer in there.
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