When we walked into Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Company’s Somers Point store, we immediately knew that something was different. Where are all the long aisles of shelves with dusty bottles of beer? Where are the giant stacks of Budweiser and Coors Light? Why is there a bar here? The short answer is that Passion Vines is not your average bottle shop. They specialize in craft everything including wine, beer, whiskey, and other libations. The bar was very lively, people partaking in a variety of tastings with lots of discussion of what they were drinking. We sat down with Craft Beer Manager Sean McGuirl and Community Manager Paul Venesz to talk beer.
Sean has been in the business since he was 15 and is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. He is working on the next level, Certified Cicerone (level 2). He is a soft-spoken, thoughtful, wealth of knowledge that does not seem possible for someone so young. Paul, who was the previous Craft Beer Manager, is the voice of Passion Vines on social media, organizes the community and in-house events, and the all-around go-to guy when you need to know anything that is Passion Vines.
Passion Vines does sell all the big names in corporate beer and has a large wine contingent. We were curious about how they deal with both wine people and the Budweiser buyer. “Beer and Wine drinkers are pretty separate” and “wine intimidates people,” Sean told us. “It is easier to move a beer drinker to try something new, there is more openness with them” and most will just ask what they should try. Sean uses sampling to narrow down what beer someone will like “I don’t want someone to buy a beer to hate it and have that buyer’s remorse” and “I’ve got no problem sitting down with someone and giving them a bunch of samples to sorta dial in their palate of what they like”. Passion Vines has a variety of 8 diverse beers on tap. This diversity of style and flavor allows them to really challenge a beer drinker to find something different. As we were having this discussion, Chelsea, a woman sitting at the bar next to us chimed in “he just got me to try a Sour and I love it!” It was her first visit to Passion Vines but definitely not her last. Sean also told us that now and then they do not have something that appeals to that customer and they leave with the Yuengling or Bud, but when they come back they will ask if anything new has come in to try.
When Michael Bray opened, he made a commitment to supporting local businesses. This local commitment is clear by their selection of local beer, wine, and liquors. Passion Vines also hosts many events which include wine tastings, a book club, charitable events, Beer Vs. Wine tasting events, and tap takeovers and tastings with local breweries. The next beer event is on April 6th with Tuckahoe Brewing Company. Seats are still available, they run $25 and can be purchased HERE. The tasting will include pairing 6 of Tuckahoe Brewing’s beers paired with Di Bruno Bros. of Philadelphia’s Artisanal Cheeses. Sean and Tim Caron, Head Brewer of Tuckahoe Brewing Co., will both be on hand to discuss the pairings and answer any questions. When asked how they decide what to pair, Sean and Paul both told us that “you really have to experience it first-hand and develop the palate”. Sean explained to me that cheese helps you to get deeper into flavors and the character of a beer.
What does the future hold for Passion Vines? Paul told us that the next big addition to Passion Vines will be adding a Crowler station. A Crowler is a 32-ounce can that is filled with any beer that is available on draft, then sealed with a machine in-house for taking out. These have become very popular in the industry and adds a few dimensions to the take-home beer business that a Growler cannot do. First, the beer can be kept longer, up to a month or more, as the can eliminates UV light and permeating oxygen which is the cause of most of the off-flavors of beer. Secondly, the beer stays carbonated until opened. And Third, it is cost-conscious enough to allow a beer drinker to have more choices about what they are going to take home without having to worry about drinking it all in a day or two.
If you are looking for a unique beer experience we highly recommend Passion Vines. The staff is really knowledgeable and patient and they clearly love what they do. The really do have a passion for what they do. It is not only a great place for the beer geek but also the newbie that wants to learn more about beer. We really enjoyed our visit with the guys and want to give a big thank you to Sean, Paul, and the rest of the staff! Cheers!
For tickets to the Tuckahoe Brewing Co. Tasting click HERE
Here are some helpful links!
Visit them on the web at www.passionvines.com