Summer is coming, Atlantic City is open and there is a craft beer movement going on! – by Pat Morrissey

During the last week of June 2010, I emailed Big Dave in reference to an ad I saw online for “Beer Sales”. Dave responded he would meet me that weekend at a local beach bar for beers and the World Cup. Upon meeting, we sat down and he ordered beers for us and anyone around us that drank the same beer we did for the entire game. After laughing hysterically with everyone around us at his interview questions, he asked, “Do you want the job?” I said “Yes” to which he responded, “Okay, you start Monday.” “This Monday?” I asked in surprise. “OK!”

My first day was Monday, July 1st. Yes, I started on the busiest week of the summer. I was told my territory, Atlantic and Ocean Counties, was the last area in the United States to accept craft beers…and that I may run into the Jersey Devil while out and about. Growing up in the area and being in the restaurant business most of my life, I knew both were true. So off I went to meet my co-worker Pete so I could learn the ropes and start selling delicious beers.

Those first few days were crazy. We went everywhere and did everything…tapped kegs, did inventory and met dozens of bar owners and managers, hearing many times along the way, “That won’t sell here, no one drinks that stuff.” Pete sent me on my way and told me to call him if I needed anything. I think I called him before he was out of the parking lot.

Now as we head into 2013, the craft beer market is exploding and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. I am now only covering the on-premise market in Atlantic County. With the transformation of Atlantic City area restaurants and casino restaurants going from lousy buffets to world renowned chef’s private establishments, Atlantic City visitors can finally enjoy a great craft beer while in town. On top of that, owners and managers are realizing that the macro beer distributors “pay to play” mentality doesn’t really pay that well. They are beginning to understand that real beer drinkers don’t want a t-shirt, a silly drinking glove or a blinking necklace. They want great beer. Those that are getting it are loving life; you can now find great craft beers in many restaurants, casino floor bars and even some dive bars around town. If you are lucky, you may even walk in and find a rare firkin tapped and flowing on top of a bar.

If you have been following our “From the Field” posts, you have heard many of our salesman talk about the “that stuff won’t sell here, no one drinks that stuff” quotes from owners and managers. Well, I hear those quotes anywhere from two to five times a day and it really makes me laugh. My favorite was from an owner at a fine dining restaurant who told me that her clientele was too sophisticated to drink our beers. When I asked her if her clientele was from Philadelphia, a city known for being a great craft beer town, she responded “yes.” To make a long story short, will you Philadelphians reading this please bring your sophistication with you to the shore this year? There are many great places selling great beer for you to enjoy!

There are still many restaurants and bar owners like the aforementioned that are not catching the wave and still grasping onto the macro “pay to play” and fancy cans that change colors. Many of these owners are just afraid of change. These owners are my favorite because after talking to them and letting them taste a few beers, they’ll say something like, “Well this isn’t what the big macro salesman told me about these beers.” Eventually these owners come to understand that craft is what the people want and craft is where they can make their money. Then they are calling me, selling our beers and making beer drinkers everywhere happy.

Not many people think about summer being around the corner when it’s only January. Here in Atlantic City and on the Jersey Shore, however, we do. I love the summer in Atlantic City, the shore, my job and of course the great beers I sell. My summer begins with the annual Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival aka “The Celebration of Suds.” If you are around give me a shout and let’s have a beer!

Cheers and always remember… Stay Thirsty!

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