Drink connoisseurs in business, in the know Wine and beer

Oregon Daily Emerald Article


Andrew Hitz | Freelance reporter
Published: Monday, June 28, 2010 Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010

When you walk into a bottle shop, you’re guaranteed one thing: product. What’s not guaranteed is knowledgeable employees or passion. A comfortable, friendly atmosphere is also pretty rare to come by in the beer world, where snobbery prevails and knowledge seems exclusive.
However, when you walk into Sixteen Tons at 265 East 13th Ave., you’re guaranteed all of the above and more.
The little strip mall store sitting aside hair salon Novo and Full City Coffee has been in business for a little over eight weeks at this point, but owners Mike Coplin and Jeff Moores have been busy. With tastings taking place on a daily basis and brewers making regular appearances, Coplin and Moores are moving fast. But as fast as it seems, the care, time and knowledge that they’ve invested in the shop is quality.
Ivar Vong Customers at Sixteen Tons try beer from Cascade Brewing during a tasting and browse the store’s selection. Sixteen Tons is located at 265 East 13th Ave.
In retail, there’s more than just moving product, especially when it comes to the specialty food and drink market. And when you have to go out of your way or make a special trip to the beer, cheese, or wine store just to purchase something, you’d hope to get more than what you bargained for.
These guys have that nailed down. For starters, just walk in on one of these hot June days we’ve been having. You’ll be immediately refreshed by a cool wave of air, but the intent isn’t to cool the customers as much as it is to ensure top-notch bottle conditioning.
“What we usually do is set the temperature to the low to mid fifties at night. Then, during the day we actually bring it back up to 60 to 63 degrees,” Moores said. “So it will warm up to about 63 degrees, but the beers will have gotten colder in the evening so they probably stay at about 58 degrees. “
Prime aging temperatures range from the low 50s to the low 60s, depending on the style of beer. That said, Moores and Coplin’s temperature regulation falls well in line for beers that have the potential to be aged. Concerning the ones you want to crack open right out the door, their temperatures are just about right for that, as well.
“I think Americans drink their beers too cold as it is,” Moores said. “So, for a lot of them, like a lot of the stouts and stuff like that, it’s a perfect temperature, and it’s a decent temperature to cellar them at, as well.” The details get even more nitpicky. Ultraviolet rays, which are one of beer’s most fated enemies, can do atrocious things to a beer. The guys at Sixteen Tons covered that, too.
“Compared to your average retail store, we’re a lot darker. We keep the lights really low; those things block out the UV rays,” Moores said. “There’s actually a film on the door to block out the UV light.” Moores didn’t say that they’ve planned on doing any aging of the beers themselves yet at the store, then selling them later; however, he hinted that might be something that would be considered in the future.
When your customers are confronted with a wall of more than 300 different beers and 100 wines, being personable with your customers is just common courtesy. A desire to assist is what separates employees in the specialty food arena. While Coplin attends to most of the marketing, Moores fancies a good conversation and helping to educate his customers concerning beer, especially about those beers that are more obscure or are overlooked for the most part.
“There’s a lot of stuff I have to hand-sell,” Moores said. “In other words, if I don’t point it out to people, it won’t sell, but that’s OK. I like that part. We’re trying to strike that balance between the beers that we know are really good, and also, we have to put a few things on there that people like. There are some beers here that are some of the absolute best beers in the world, but man, they don’t sell really well.”
In their effort to educate the Eugene populace on the nuances of beer, Moores and Coplin hold daily tastings and even a competition. Their Blind IPA Test has upended people’s assumptions about what they thought was their favorite IPA and is a pretty interesting social experiment, as well. The gist of it is that people are served a number of IPAs without knowing which brewery’s they’re drinking. So far, Anderson Valley is in the lead of preferred blind-taste test IPAs.
In a perfect world, beer retailers could sell any and all beers they wished. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is. Things get messy when you attempt to ship things between states because of individual state laws. Oregon even has a law that puts certain restrictions on labeling. For example, Deschutes can’t label their once-a-decade beer, the Jubel, Super Jubel. That, coupled with limits in quantity of microbrews and even maybe the “localcentric” attitudes of Oregonians, prevents distributors from being able to obtain and disseminate beer from various regions.
“The thing about Oregon is that all the beers that come in out-of-state have to come in through a distributor with a license to distribute in Oregon,” Moores said. “So we can’t just bring in any beer we want. I’d love to do that, and I hope at some point we can figure out a way to bring in more beers.”
For now though, Eugene will have to settle for the amazing selection that Coplin and Moores have put together of domestic and international brews.
Despite being a fledgling business, there are a lot of ideas floating around Sixteen Tons. Educational beer classes, pairings with different foods and other undisclosed events are being tossed around as potential happenings. Nevertheless, Eugene’s cultural vibrancy just got kicked up a few notches with Sixteen Tons in the mix.

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