Whales on Demand: Tavour is Bringing Hard to Find Beers to Indiana

Whales on Demand: Tavour is Bringing Hard to Find Beers to Indiana

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

There are different ways to enjoy the hobby of craft beer. Some people visit breweries, some drinkers attach memories to certain beers and will keep ordering them. There are those people that patronize beer stores almost exclusively, while others are craft beer festival mavens and like to drink in big social crowds. There are beer traders, whale hunters, and bottle share experts – everyone fits into one or more craft beer niche.

Several craft beer sub-groups are interested in finding new beers from far off venues – they’re enticed by the rare and the highly rated beers, especially if they are from breweries that don’t distribute or aren’t located in their area. Beer traders obtain these beers from friends or strangers with whom they correspond, while other people travel or have relatives mule beers for them. But now there is a newer way to get beers that one might not otherwise be able to – a company called Tavour (a mash up of “taste” and “flavor,” but is pronounced TUH-vore).

image credit: Tavour

Tavour is based in Seattle, and is available now in WA, OR, CA, CO, NV, NM, OH, WI, NY, NE, DC, MA, FL, PA, NH, NJ, and ID. But soon, Indiana, Kansas, and Texas will join the party. Indiana is on the table for an August roll out, and interestingly, Tavour already has Taxman Brewing as one of their partners, sending their beer to other parts of the country. Believe me, Taxman will soon be joined by several other Indiana breweries as Tavour suppliers; the word is out about Indiana beer and Tavour is eager to take on more Indiana partners.

It’s easy to use; create an account online with Tavour and then download the app or pay attention to your email account. Each day a couple of notifications will come through describing beers that are available for purchase. If you want to buy them, you click yes and say how many you wish. These go into your online “crate” and will be ready to ship.

Since shipping is a flat $14.90 (+ tax where applicable) no matter how many beers you order, it is smarter to hold your crate until it is full (depending on the styles of beer you have selected). Tavour will hold your crate for 4-5 weeks, but then will ship it out according to the schedule posted on your account. However, you can always adjust the shipping date to send the beer to you sooner, especially if you have some hop bombs in there.

It seems that the people at Tavour do understand beer and the need to get some beers sooner. Started in 2013 by three partners, the company is now headed by Sethu Kalavakur, CEO, and Philip Vaughn, co-founder. The impetus behind the service was that they saw only macro-beer in the grocery stores, and as beer geeks they asked, “Is there anything better than discovering beers and sharing them with friends? We started Tavour because grocery stores lack beers interesting enough to bring to friends.”

This means that Tavour has cultivated strong relationships with breweries all over the country, and they are able to obtain bottles and cans (no crowlers) of the highest rated, most coveted beers. Tavour is an online seller, so they are able to get beers directly from the breweries themselves, and thus have the opportunity to forge those relationships. This is why they can get rare and small quantity beers.

One of our beers from Tavour. Man, was that good. image credit: Walter

Megan at Tavour sent me a box of beers that exemplified the choices that are available for purchase. I got some IPAs and some stouts, some west coast beers, some from Colorado and some from Europe. This is one of the strong features of Tavour, you only receive notifications of beers for sale that ARE NOT available in your region, and only beers that are highly rated on Untappd, because almost all of their customers use Untappd and understand both the good and bad of these systems.

The cans I received all contained a canning date and were all quite fresh (less than three weeks old) while the bottles didn’t have bottling dates. This was OK because they were all styles of beer that improved with age. What’s more, if the brewery tells Tavour what the bottling or canning date was for any specific offering, Tavour posts this in their notification and description of the beer. They often give you a “best by” date, and will encourage you to ship “drink fresh” beers quickly for maximum enjoyment.

The prices are higher than you would pay at the brewery, but very comparable with liquor store prices. The producers may suggest price points for the beers purchased by Tavour for resale, and they often do work with the brewery to come up with a price that is good for everyone. Cans may go from $6.99 and up for two 16oz beers, while bottles of barrel aged beers can range up to $40 for the very rare, very sought after beers.

When you see something you want, it is best to snag it right away, because beers tend to sell out in just a day or two. But you can be wait listed for beers that are sold out but might become available again. It might be a few months later that one of those beers you missed out on shows up in your crate because they got another shipment from the brewery. You can then decide on whether to keep it or not.

Tavour is going to find many breweries to market to the rest of the country. image credit: Indiana On Tap

The beers I received were in great shape. The Oude Geuze Black Label from Boon was well sealed and blew a good cork from the bottle conditioning when we opened it. The Codename: FreedomFan from Odd13 was so fresh as to give impressions of the hop oils still present and had a big aroma even in from just the can opening. In all, I was impressed, but of course I didn’t pay for them so it was all manna from heaven.

After talking to Megan and working through the account and app, I can give you my impressions and reservations about the service. It will be up to you to decide how much weight to give each positive or possible troubling point, but here goes:

Strong points:

– You definitely get beers that would be difficult if not impossible to obtain otherwise. In addition, these seem to be very good beer selections. I haven’t seen anything that isn’t worthy of the program.

– You only receive beers you selected; this beats a beer of the month club hands down.

– Prices are competitive. You’re not gouged for rare beers for which online traders might go for your throat on, and the shipping is affordable.

– Tavour allows you to build up several beers in a crate so you can minimize shipping costs.

– Tavour increases your options without reducing tap number or shelves for local breweries. There is discussion going on in some craft beer circles about the loss of regionality in beer due to the extended distribution of some labels. When well known but previously unobtainable breweries start to distribute in your area, you gain new choices but may lose some tried and true options. There is only so much shelf space in the stores, and smaller, local breweries may lose both shelf space and taps to these larger entities. However, by shipping the beers directly to you, this problem is avoided.

There’s only so much shelf space and so many taps available. It’s nice that Tavour is offering expansion of experience without cramping anyone’s shelf space. image credit: Reveiwwed

– Your communications with Tavour are handled by a person, not an automated system. It’s a nice personal touch and the genuinely encourage chatting, feedback, and suggestions.

– Tavour works only with BA-defined independent breweries.

– Tavour has seven people curating beers and writing tasting notes for the selections. For any beer you have ever purchased from them, you can go onto the app and pull up the curated tasting notes. This works well because it might be weeks from when you order the beer to when you OK the shipment and receive it.

 

Points of potential concern:

– Since you are trying only a single or perhaps two beers from a particular brewery over an extended time period, it could contribute to an inflated opinion of certain breweries. You see only their best stuff.

– With some bottles and cans not having dates, there is no absolute proof that you are getting what you selected.

– The shipping conditions can’t be guaranteed, so the result of aging beers could be less predictable. However, there is the same problem for almost any packaged beer that doesn’t come into your hands directly from the brewery.

Bottle shares may be one of the strongest uses of Tavour. image credit: Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine

– Despite the positive aspect that this program doesn’t take shelf space or taps from local or regional breweries, it does reduce the mystique of breweries in other regions. This lowers the overall regionality of craft beer, which is one of the industry’s strengths.

– Since it is alcohol, someone over 21 must sign for the delivery. Shipping it to your work would be OK, if your boss is cool with it. Or you can have it shipped to a FedEx store and they will hold it for five days – but they might charge you a few bucks.

 

Walter and I are definite craft beer fans of several niches. We are primarily taproom visitors, followed closely by festival attendees – these are the two main ways that enjoy our hobby. We aren’t whale hunters to any great degree and we don’t compare what beers we’ve had to what other people have tried. However, coming up on the outside and about to draw even in our experiences is the bottle share – and it’s here that Tavour is going to impact our craft beer experience.

Not being traders of any degree, Tavour will allow us to get those beers that intrigue us with much less hassle than trying to figure out if a trade is equitable or whether the person is ever going to send us what they said they would. Tavour is like the places that price cars so there is no haggling. You know what you are getting, and you know what it will cost you. There’s something to be said for simplicity.

Welcome to Indiana, Tavour, we think we will be hearing much more about you.


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