The Spirits of the Community

I caught up again with Liquorama’s John Solomon to get more of his insights on the beverage industry.  Rather than focus this time on particular spirits, I asked about his store’s position in the community, both as a business and as a contributor to the greater good.liquorama 4

As the region’s top independent family-owned liquor retail store, Liquorama has been an Upland institution since 1978, including the past 15 years under Solomon’s ownership. The store’s top competition comes from the bigger chains BevMo and Total Wines and More, but Liquorama’s status allows Solomon flexibility that the big chains don’t enjoy.

“Being family owned, we are able to make decisions and secure special orders immediately,” he said. “We are able to bring in the newest products instantly without going through corporate channels. We aren’t focused on making some corporate entity happy with the bottom line; our goal is to make our customers happy. We don’t greet you with you a ‘hello,’ we greet you by name.”

Two separate BevMo stores opened in Upland this fall, but John doesn’t seem to be concerned.

“They will only make us look that much better,” Solomon said. “We have a larger selection at better prices, with amazing customer service. We will continue to serve this community as we have for the past 35 years.”liquorama 5

Solomon said that customer service and commitment to the community set Liquorama apart. “Eighty percent of our staff has worked at Liquorama for over 10 years. The knowledge and experience in our store is exceptional.”

Those staff members are the experts at in-store public beer and wine tastings every week. The store recently added a craft beer tasting on the first Friday evening of every month, with staff members picking the selections for each event.

liquorama 2Along with the regular tastings, Liquorama hosts a larger-scale beer tasting twice a year at Imagine That in Upland. It also holds a sidewalk sale every October. The in-store Enomatic wine dispensing system allows store customers to taste wine on their own every day of the week.

Tastings are not the only events where Liquorama personnel connect with the community. “The Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center wine tasting in May is our biggest event each year. We have raised more than $500,000 for the neo-natal unit,” Solomon said. “We also donate a lot of wine to various other causes throughout the community.”

Peter Peter Pumpkin Drinker

Taking advantage of a rare night when both of my boys were home in early November, and in keeping with the spirit of the season, the Robinsons staged our own pumpkin ale tasting (sorry it took so long to post this). It might not have been the most complete sampling of pumpkin-flavored beers, but we did get through three 22-ounce bottles before we agreed that we had enough. I opened the fourth bottle a week later.IMG_0618

All of the brews were fine, but pumpkin beer is like pumpkin pie and pretty much anything else pumpkin – you can only take so much, if any. For Beth Robinson, her sampling ended with just a sip of each.

Epic Brewing’s Imperial Pumpkin Porter had a nice spice flavor, but not much pumpkin to it. Nothing special. The Shipyard Brewing Co. Smashed Pumpkin definitely had more pumpkin to it and was actually a nice, refreshing ale. It was our favorite, but is better suited for sampling than quaffing. That was even more true of the Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale, which was a bit more earthy and carried more of the vegetable characteristics. It wasn’t bad, but it only confirmed that it was time to change directions.

The Hangar 24 Local Fields “Gourdgeous” Imperial Porter that I opened later might have been the best of the lot, mainly because I have a preference for the darker beers. Nevertheless, it had a ton of spice and was very similar to Stone’s 2012 Vertical Epic 12-12-12 (although I didn’t taste them side by side, that is the comparison that immediately came to mind).

Thanks to Jaclyn Bosson for the idea, and next time I think we’ll try another specialized tasting with beers brewed with a winter holiday theme – as long as none of them taste like pumpkin.