There were a few jokes made at Barnes & Noble’s expense when it announced last month it would begin serving beer and wine at four select stores around the country. Personally, I think this is fantastic on a number of fronts.
One, it can reaffirm a bookstore’s place as a community gathering space. Once upon a time, before Amazon, bookstores were the place to be for many people. Barnes & Noble and the late, great Borders had plenty of seating, cafes and a generally welcoming atmosphere. Stay a while, linger over books, talk with friends, attend events — and yes, walk out with a few books.
This move reaffirms that notion of the bookstore as gathering place. If there were ever a bookstore near me with a bar like that, you bet I’d be hanging out a lot more often, and likely buying more books. I’d probably get more interested in events there, too.
Second, think about the potential sales! Go for happy hour after work, kick back a few beers, and lo and behold, you’re walking out of there with the next Brandon Sanderson book, a bargain-rack treatise on Roman infantry tactics and copies of both Tattoo magazine and the Utne Reader. Nothing like a higher blood-alcohol content to open the wallet, amirite?
So this naturally leads me to a very important question: What beers should Barnes & Noble offer?
Let’s be very clear here. Budweiser will not do. People who buy books have both literacy and disposable income on their side, and chances are they’ll want some above average beers. I think a bare minimum of four beers is required — a pilsner, something dark, something hoppy and something unusual. If possible, I’d boost that to six: pilsner, amber ale or lager, pale ale/IPA, stout, Belgian and a wild card.
So here’s a list for each store, based on the four stores’ locations — because if you can go local, you should totally go local.
Eastchester, N.Y.: Victory Prima Pils, Brooklyn Lager, Sixpoint Bengali IPA, Evil Twin Brewing Yin (imperial stout) Ommegang Abbey Ale (dubbel) , Grimm Psychokinesis (wild ale)
Loudoun County, Va.: Troegs Sunshine Pils, New Belgium Fat Tire (amber ale), DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA, Evolution Rise Up (imperial stout), Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel, Abita Purple Haze (raspberry beer)
Edina, Minn.: New Glarus Hometown Blonde (pilsner), Surly Brewing Bitter Brewer (English bitter), Goose Island IPA, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (saison), Founders Breakfast Stout, Great Lakes Edmond Fitzgerald (porter)
Folsom, Calif.: Sierra Nevada Summerfest (pilsner), Anchor Steam (steam beer), Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, Bruery Trade Winds Tripel, Russian River Pliny the Elder (imperial IPA)
Note that New Belgium is based in Fort Collins, Colo., but recently opened an east coast brewery in Ashville, N.C. Plus, Fat Tire is a very good go-to beer. Also, Boulevard is based in Missouri, which is a fair bit away from Minnesota, but as I’m unfamiliar with Minnesota beers, I think Tank 7 is a fine saison and worthy on any menu.
Overall, I tried to skew toward readily available beers rather than the super-fantastic rarities that would cost B&N a lot to procure. Let’s face it, they’re already strapped. There’s plenty of easily accessible beers here (Fat Tire, Anchor Steam, etc.) and some really interesting ones for the aficionados (Psychokinesis, Trade Winds). Got any favorites from your area? Drop a comment below!
So there you go, Barnes & Noble. My consultation fee can be paid in co-op for my next book.