This is Nominee Spotlights, a series in which the Best of Western Washington chats with local business owners to get the inside scoop on everything good.
Craig and Tiffany Adamowski, owners of 99 Bottles, always knew there was a strong interest in craft beer in the South Sound region. So when Craig suggested that he and Tiffany open a beer store of their own, it almost seemed like a no brainer. The store celebrated its fifth year in business earlier this year. The Best of Western Washington spoke with Tiffany this week about the beer business and to get some insider tips on what Western Washington is drinking these days.
How did you decide to open a beer store? My husband Craig shared the idea with me and I said "why not? Sounds like a great idea!" We both shared the dream of working together and love beer, what would be a better product of focus?
How would you describe your clientele? 99 Bottles caters to everyone from beer hobbyists and homebrewers; from casual drinkers to beer connoisseurs. Through beer-dedicated websites, beer lovers from around the world have discovered 99 Bottles and make it a destination stop when visiting the Seattle area. 99 Bottles is a regular tourist stop for RateBeerians and BeerAdvocates from around the U.S.
Which member of staff keeps things running smoothly? Together we are all responsible for keeping the store running smoothly: Craig, myself and our staff of four. If one cog is off it throws the running of the store off-kilter. As an independent mom-n-pop beer store, 99 Bottles is under no corporate quotas and has no brewery ties, so our focus is merely getting folks into beer they'll like.
How would you describe the vibe at your store? If you're looking for a high-pressure "what can I do to get you into this beer today?" sales pitch, this isn't your place. 99 Bottles staff will extend a "hello" and allow you to shop in peace, but are there, in the background, to answer your beer questions and provide recommendations on request. If you ask for recommendations, the 99 Bottles staff will ask what you typically enjoy drinking...so be prepared to share!
What's your most popular beer right now? The African Amber Ale from Mac & Jack's Brewery (Redmond, WA) is our #1 seller at 99 Bottles. The brewery doesn't sell bottles (only kegs), so we package "growlers" (beer jugs). The second and third best sellers are also sold as growlers: Manny's Pale Ale and Lucille IPA both from Georgetown Brewing Company (Seattle). Customers can bring in their own clean ready-to-fill growler or buy one at the store.
What about you. What's your favorite beer at the moment? Wow, I hate this question! It's like asking a parent, "Which is your favorite child?" With 140 styles of beer, 4,100 beers on the books, and over 1,200 on the shelves, it's really hard to choose a single favorite. I try a different beer each night and I don't do a lot of revisiting to favorites, because I feel the pressure to know my products. If I don't taste them, I can't adequately talk about them with my customers. My favorite styles: Flanders sour, gueuze, old ale, stout, wee heavy, IPAs that finish clean,... Sorry, it's really hard to choose one!
How often do you have tastings or special events? Sip! Sip! is every Wednesday from 4:00 'til 7:45 p.m. where folks can try our two bottle picks for $1. We typically post what's pouring on our facebook page by 2 p.m. 99 Bottles also hosts special brewer's nights and feature special guests from breweries.
What was your most popular event last year? That's got to be our semi-annual Beer & D'Oh-Nuts tasting. We gather on a Saturday morning, fall and spring, to pair four beers with donuts from a local bakery. It's a fun time. A lot of folks are amazed at the pairing and go on to share it with their friends during early games during football season.
Any fun events coming up? Yes. We have many in the planning stages, such as a brewer's night with Lazy Boy Brewing and a Halloween Candy & Beer Pairing. Customers can keep an eye on the tasting calendar for details.
What's your favorite way to stay in touch with customers? I'm a social media junkie. I stay in touch with customers on facebook, posting pictures of new and returning beers. We also sport two active twitter feeds (@99bottlesbeer for new arrivals and @99botttlesontap for growlers), a Pinterest page and send out a newsletter several times a month via Constant Contact.
What happens to all the beer that doesn't get sold? It all gets sold! We have something called "the onesie board" — when the beer gets down to just a bottle or two, and we've got no more to fill, we pull those couple of bottles and post them on a 15% off board. Many of our regular customers shop the board, which is always changing.