Last Call: Barnes & Noble Bets on Beer; Russian River Closes Escrow


Barnes & Noble to begin selling beer and wine

Faced with a never-ending consumer shift toward online retail purchases, Barnes & Noble, the last remaining big box bookstore chain in the U.S., is turning to food and beverage — including beer — to boost sales.

During a presentation to investors on Thursday, the company unveiled plans to open four “concept” stores that, beginning in October, will sell beer, wine and an assortment of “shareable American café-style food.”

The first location will open in Eastchester, N.Y., according to the Chicago Tribune. Additional concept stores in Edina, Minnesota; Folsom, California, and Loudon, Virginia are also in the works, the outlet said.

“Since their introduction in the early 1990s, our cafes have always played a central role in creating that warm and welcoming ambience that invites customers to come and spend their leisurely time with us,” former COO Jamie Carey, who yesterday was named as the president of the company’s restaurant group, told investors during a presentation. “This was a central theme for us as we thought about an enhanced Barnes & Noble experience.”

Similar to Starbucks’ “evenings” concept, which is aimed at luring customers back into a coffee shop for a nighttime bite and beverage, the new Barnes & Noble concept locations are intended to increase foot traffic and grow its overall food and beverage sales.

Russian River to begin construction on new brewery next spring


Russian River Brewing Company has officially closed escrow on a 15 acre property, located in Sonoma County, where it plans to build an 85,000 sq. ft. brewery and restaurant.

The new Windsor, Calif.-based Russian River location will enable the company to produce an additional 50,000 barrels of beer annually, co-founder Natalie Cilurzo wrote in a blog posted to the company’s website.

Known for its popular Pliny the Elder double IPA — which for eight straight years has been voted as the best beer in America by members of the American Homebrewers Association – Russian River is currently only able to make a combined 16,000 barrels out of its two facilities: a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa and small production facility on the outskirts of town.

In fact, the brewery has operated at max capacity since about 2013 when, at one point, it actually ran out of beer. At the time, Cilurzo was quoted saying that the company was “literally wringing out the wet shirt” to get as much beer out the door as possible.

The new Windsor location will initially add about 15,000 barrels to the mix, Cilurzo wrote, and give the company an opportunity to provide a more enjoyable experience for its 300,000 annual visitors.

“We don’t love seeing the long lines out the door every weekend,” she wrote. “And it is a bummer running into old customers around town who just can’t get in anymore. So nothing will change at our Santa Rosa pub, other than we hope to relieve some pressure and see some of our old customers come back.”

A dedicated tasting room, a 175-seat restaurant, a gift shop and tours are also included in the plans. Russian River hopes to begin construction next spring and open the new location during the summer of 2018.

New Minnesota Vikings stadium will serve craft beer


It’s impossible to know if another first place NFC North Vikings team will show up this year, but at least fans catching a game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium will be able to enjoy a few local craft brews, regardless of the team’s performance on the field.

On Wednesday, the Vikings, along with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), SMG and Aramark, announced a “strategic collaboration” with the Northeast Brewers and Distillers Association (NEBDA) to “curate a craft beer destination” at the NFL team’s new home.

Aramark will work with NEBDA to “showcase” members’ products being sold via a “NEBDA-branded craft beer portable cart.”

“This collaboration with our local breweries reinforces our commitment to incorporating local tastes and flavors into the menu and giving homegrown brands an opportunity to showcase their products at the new, state-of-the-art facility,” MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said via the release.

MillerCoors, a founding partners of U.S. Bank Stadium and the Vikings official beer partner, will also be permitted to “supplement” its own Jacob Leinenkugel and Blue Moon offerings, per the press release.

A preliminary list of featured NEBDA breweries includes: Fair State Brewing Cooperative, NorthGate Brewing, Insight Brewery, Sociable Cider Werks, Bauhaus Brew Labs, and 56 Brewing.

Products from Summit Brewing, 612 Brew, Surly Brewing Company, Lake Monster, Lift Bridge, Fulton and Finnegans will also be available in other areas of the stadium, the release noted.

Rogue Ales goes off the rails

Rogue Ales & Spirits Hop Family

An eastbound train car filled with fresh Rogue beer was lost on Saturday when high winds in Montana “picked up and blew over” a full shipment of nine different offerings headed to Michigan.

“Rogue Ales & Spirits is still assessing the damage but working hard to ensure that there is no interruption in the continued enjoyment of World-Class Ales & Lagers across all 50 states,” the company wrote on its blog.

Bottles and kegs of Dead Guy Ale, Honey Kolsch, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Brutal IPA, Cold Brew IPA and four different “Hop Family” beers were lost, the company said.

Rogue wasn’t the only brewery to lose a shipment of beer this week, either. On Tuesday, about $90,000 of Sweetwater beer was stolen from the company’s refrigerated trailers in the early morning hours.

So pour one out for Sweetwater and Rogue this weekend. Some of their beer may be gone, but it certainly won’t be forgotten.