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Old 09-04-2010, 11:32 PM   #1
Dgonza9
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Default LHBS versus Online ordering... Head to head

I took a drive to a local Homebrew store in Chicago, a place called "Brew and Grow." I had been ordering from Austin Homebrew. Here's a quick head to head comparison:

1) Putting together a grain bill: I give the edge to the online store here. Instead of ordering just what I needed, I had to grab bags of this and that in 5lb or 1 lb increments. In other homebrew stores I've been to I've merely presented the grain bill and the store's employees assembled it for me. It worked out okay, but I took home leftovers and bought more grain, ultimately, than I needed. I also had to crush it myself with their Maltmill. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to hand crank it out. Then he broke out a mill attached to a drill.

2) The crush. Big edge to my local store, I think. I don't have a mill so I've really only seen the crush I get online. This was a much finer crush and they took some time making sure they had it adjusted properly before I used it. I appreciated it.

3) Beer samples. I got two small sample cups that were pretty good. Edge to LHBS, although I had to ask for them. Though I spent quite a sum there today, he didn't offer me a beer. When I asked to try one after seeing him offer beer to almost everyone else, he apologized, so I think they usually offer.

4) Price: Edge to online. Just about everything was more expensive than online. I bought a Perlick and it was just over $40. Only $32 online. Bought a CO2 distributor, 2 way, was $36. About $29 online, or less on ebay. It was definitely more on basically everything.

5) Immediate gratification from LHBS, obviously.

6) Cost control: If you're online you can see how much you're total is before you get to the register and even decide to hold off on the order if it comes out to be too much for you. Since I was there I wound up just getting everything I was thinking I needed recently, then was a bit surprised when I saw the total.

7) Packaging. Edge to Online. I was practically on my own bagging my stuff. After cracking my grain I had to hunt around for some paper bags. Usually my stuff arrives heat sealed and other LHBS also heat seal, but not this one.

8) Knowledge... I usually order from a website with no interaction from staff so I don't know how knowledgeable staff at Austin Homebrew are. At LHBS, they were too busy to interact much. I was also told that cracked grain will last 3 months and that if I was worried I should put it in the freezer.

...I'm not sure about this advice.

9) Time. Big edge to online. They assemble, crush grain, and ship to my door. It was several hours of time saved. I think it was 2 hours door to door to go to LHBS.

10) Meeting some cool brewers... Er, not so much for me. The man working there seemed alright, but not especially interested in conversation. I asked about favorite recipes and he showed me to a book. He may have been busy, but it wasn't the brewing community I thought I might encounter.

Overall, I think I'm going back to online, though I don't think I get as good a crush. Better accelerate plans for the motorized mill. Price, time, and hassle are all factors.

What are your experiences?

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Old 09-05-2010, 12:34 AM   #2
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I have a great LHBS,but its about 40 min. drive one way. but well worth the drive. and the only online I've done online was when I didnt have the time to drive. So I ordered from them online. but sometimes I feel like I am missing out for not trying places like Austin Homebrew. have heard they are great.

just do what ever works best for you.


Brew and Grow,sounds like a cool place...head shop/brew shop?

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Old 09-05-2010, 12:41 AM   #3
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I love my local home brew shop for ingredients and online for equipment most of the time. I'd never be able to totally give up my LHBS just for the reason that I like to go there to smell the place. Few places smell as good as a good brew shop!

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Old 09-05-2010, 12:56 AM   #4
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My LHBS is awesome. With the exeception of hops and hardware pricing is a wash so I shop local.
No LHBS will be able to beat online prices for hardware.
I think it might be helpful if people would let go of the expectation that the owner/guy working is willing and able to hold your hand through recipes, etc. You should count on being able to have a question answered and get some advice, but be realistic. Understand that you are not the only one who needs something.

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Old 09-05-2010, 01:06 AM   #5
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Not every LHBS is a friendly place. I have two near me (within 20 minutes). One has great staff who offer advice and will just talk if they have time. The other one is staffed with attitude and expired products. I know I could save if I bought online but then I would not be supporting both my LHBS and more importantly, a local small business.

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Old 09-05-2010, 01:15 AM   #6
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Default Oh, I wasn't being "that guy"

Quote:
Originally Posted by northernlad View Post
My LHBS is awesome. With the exeception of hops and hardware pricing is a wash so I shop local.
No LHBS will be able to beat online prices for hardware.
I think it might be helpful if people would let go of the expectation that the owner/guy working is willing and able to hold your hand through recipes, etc. You should count on being able to have a question answered and get some advice, but be realistic. Understand that you are not the only one who needs something.
I came in with a recipe ready to go so I wasn't quite the guy you describe. I was more curious to do something like try one of their brews and then maybe get the recipe if I liked it for future reference. Or maybe check out the RIMS system he was brewing on. I have been in LHBS where people were sitting around a bar having a glass of beer and discussing it and having a few laughs. While this may be the exception, the beer in a paper cup and no opportunity to discuss brewing was a bit disappointing. But hey, they were a bit busy.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:52 AM   #7
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I went into the "other" LHBS today. Not the trendy one but the "other" one. Guy running it was quite the character, but he was helpful and had corney kegs for 30 bucks. Havent seen a price like that online anywhere. So all and all it was a good day.

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Old 09-05-2010, 02:57 AM   #8
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Try this place.

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Old 09-05-2010, 03:11 AM   #9
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My LHBS is also an online store so its the best of both worlds. In store price is the same as the website.
I always look at prices online as Item + shipping. That is the real cost to you.
Compare that price to the LHBS and see what the real difference is.

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Old 09-05-2010, 04:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dgonza9 View Post
They charge $18 shipping on one which makes it more expensive than NB or BMW with the flat rate shipping. Also the the ball lock kegs are pin lock which have been converted.
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