We have some great craft beer bottle shops here in the Seattle area. No matter where you are around the Sound, you’re never really too far from a craft beer bottle shop that offers a wide selection of craft beers from the Northwest, the rest of the nation and indeed the rest of the World. The only real limitation these bottle shops have to what they can offer you (beyond any possible space limitations) is determined by distribution. Not all breweries distribute their beers to the Northwest, so there are always plenty of beers out there that we may long to try but don’t have much luck getting our hands on, unless we take a trip out of state to track them down. There are several local breweries that produce beers that can be difficult to get your hands on as well, unless you have the time to make a trip to the brewery for their release.
There is, of course, a booming craft beer ‘trade’ going on all the time for beers that aren’t distributed here. There are Facebook groups, forums, online clubs, etc. where people arrange to trade a few local and coveted craft beer selections with someone else who can send them something that we just can’t get in our local craft bottle shops. While this type of trading is a common practice, it’s actually illegal. Anyone trading beers in this way is illegally shipping alcohol across state lines and violating liquor distribution laws. They also risk their packages being confiscated if whoever they’re shipping with (UPS, FedEx, etc.) discovers that the package contains alcohol.
So how can we get around this problem? Is there a way we can get our hands on sought after beers from both local breweries as well as finding a legal way to get beers from breweries that don’t currently distribute to the Northwest? This is the question Tavour‘s Chairman, Philip Vaughn, asked himself a few years ago. Along with his partners and co-founders Rafik Robeal (no longer with Tavour) and CEO, Sethu Kalavakur, they believe they’ve found the solution.
Tavour is a craft beer order and delivery service that first launched in late 2013 in Kirkland, WA (they have since moved to Seattle’s SoDo district). Philip and Sethu wanted to find a way to bring to their customers rare local beers as well as finding a practical and legal way to bring them beers that don’t generally get distributed to the Northwest. Washington State liquor laws are complex, but there is a state law which allows breweries to deliver their products directly to local craft beer bars and retailers, cutting out the distributor and thus saving money for both the brewery and the bar/retailer.
After thoroughly researching Washington State liquor laws, Tavour found that this direct delivery, without the need to go through the distributor, also applied to shipments from out of state breweries. With the proper licensing and a bit of paperwork (which they take care of for each brewery they order from), Tavour could purchase beers directly from out of state breweries and sell them directly to their customers; no ‘middle man’ needed. This realization was the catalyst that allowed Tavour to put their plans in motion and begin offering a unique experience to their customers.
Tavour requires no membership and there is never any obligation. You simply sign up by providing your name and email address. Each day you’ll receive a new email from Tavour with a detailed description of a featured beer, including tasting notes. There is no ‘sales pitch’ and no pressure to buy. If you don’t want the beer, do nothing. If you decide you want to order, you simply reply to the email with how many bottles you’d like. If you have any questions about the beer that the email doesn’t cover or any other concerns, you can include them in your email. Each email order is processed by a real person who is there to provide you with personalized customer service.
Each time you place an order with Tavour, you’ll receive an email reply confirming the order and your credit card, which you’ll be asked to input, along with your shipping address when you place your first order, will be charged the per bottle price listed in the email (+ tax). Then, once a month, Tavour will collect up everything you’ve ordered and paid for and ship it out to you. The flat rate shipping fee is $14.90 per shipment, regardless of how many beers you’ve ordered. So, in a way, the more you order, the better deal you get on shipping.
If you’re eager for a particular order and want to receive it a bit earlier, no problem. Log into your Tavour account and you’ll have the option to change to an earlier shipping date. Alternatively, if you’re local to Seattle and would rather just pick up your order, that’s also not a problem. Just log into your Tavour account and select the ‘Pickup’ option. You’ll still need to wait at least a few days while Tavour gets their shipments in from the breweries and assembles your order, but then you can pickup your order at Tavour (1729 1st Ave S) and avoid shipping charges altogether.
Setting up relationships with out of state breweries takes time. As a result, when Tavour first launched, some customers complained that too many of the beers offered were ones they could probably also find in their local craft beer bottle shop. While Tavour does still offer some sought after local beers, their repertoire of beers coming from out of state breweries and breweries that don’t currently distribute to Washington continues to increase. Also, the fact that Tavour is cutting out the middle man means they’re able to offer these beers at prices that rival places like BevMo or Total Wine & More.
Here are the last few beers offered in Tavour’s daily emails and their prices:
- 3/5 – Logsdon Farmhouse Ales – Seizoen ($11.99/bottle (750ml) – 3 bottle limit)
- 3/6 – Mother Earth Brewing – Sin Tax ($7.99/bottle (22oz) – 6 bottle limit)
- 3/7 – McAuslan Brewery – St. Ambrose ($6.99/2-Pack cans (16oz) – 12 can limit)
- 3/8 – Lonerider Brewing – Cowboy in Black ($9.99/bottle (22oz) – 6 bottle limit)
- 3/9 – Almanac Beer Company – Valley of Heart’s Delight ($12.99/bottle (375ml) – 6 bottle limit)
- 3/10 – Gigantic Brewing – Saboteur ($9.49/bottle (22oz) – 6 bottle limit)
As you can see, they offer a good mix of both sought after Northwest beers (like Logsdon’s Seizoen or Crux Freakcake), as well as beers you won’t generally find in Seattle area bottle shops (like Mother Earth’s Sin Tax or Lonerider’s Cowboy in Black). Co-founder Sethu Kalavakur was kind enough to set me up with a box of 5 different beers offered recently by Tavour from breweries that are out of state and/or don’t distribute to the Northwest, to give me an even better idea of the type of beers they can get their hands on for their customers.
Here are the beers Sethu set me up with:
I’ve only had the opportunity so far to try two of these beers: Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewing Company out of Jackson Hole Wyoming and Dos Cone Es, American Rye Aged On Oak Chips from Cismontane Brewing Company out of Santa Margarita, California.
The Zonker stout from Snake River Brewing poured pitch black from the can with a brown head that lasted for just a few minutes before slowly fading. It had a roasted grain and coffee like aroma along with some notes of dark chocolate. The flavor followed the nose closely with big coffee flavors, a roasty, nutty character and a touch of dark chocolate and vanilla underneath. A good example of an Irish Stout. I gave it 4.0 on Untappd.
The Dos Cone Es, Aged On Oak Chips is the oak-aged version of Cismontane Brewing’s Imperial IPA. Coming in at 11.5% ABV, it could actually be more accurately classified as a Triple IPA, American Strong Ale or even American Barleywine. It poured with a beautiful red/orange hue and a thin fluffy white head that lasted surprisingly well and gave good lacing. The aroma was complex with notes of oak, bourbon, pine and some sweetness. The flavor was also complex. I could detect flavors of orange, caramel, an assertive piney hop character, a slight pineapple note and a pleasant woodsy/bourbony character with just a touch of heat on the back end. It hides it’s 11.5% ABV well. 4.5 on Untappd.
This was my first time trying either of these two beers. I’m really looking forward to trying the others Tavour gave me to sample, since I haven’t had any of them before either. I always enjoy trying new beers, especially ones that already have a great reputation.
Each beer Tavour offers in their daily emails comes around just once, so don’t be shy with your ordering. At times, Tavour has seen some customers order only a single bottle of a particular beer and, once they’ve received it and tried it, they decide the want more. So, they email Tavour back to inquire only to find that the beer in question has already been sold out.
This is the one limitation of Tavour’s service (if you want to call it that). They don’t keep a stocked warehouse full of each beer they offer in their daily emails. Each offering is the result of a single order Tavour places with each individual brewery. Once they’ve sold all the bottles in that order, that particular beer is gone. So, after you sign up, be sure to pay attention to those daily emails. You don’t want to miss something good – perhaps something you’ve been searching for or have heard about from a friend across the country. Don’t delay either. Just the other day, I took to long in replying to one of the emails and the beer I was after was already sold out.
Tavour’s service offers a very convenient way to try several different beers, including ones you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get you hands on during your regular visits to local craft beer bottle shops. I visit the local bottle shops pretty regularly myself, but I have still found value and beers I want to order from Tavour, even in just the few short weeks I’ve been signed up.
For example, just this past week I ordered four bottles of Fat Woody Scotch Ale from Silver City Brewery. Yes, Silver City is local. However, their Fat Woody is one of my favorites and can sometimes be difficult to find since it tends to sell out quickly. So, rather than taking a trip out to the peninsula for the brewery release or running from bottle shop to bottle shop trying to find some before it’s sold out, I decided to save myself the hassle and just order with Tavour. Now I know I’ll have those four bottles without any worry or fuss. Also, since I’m close enough to Tavour to pick up my orders and save on shipping costs (they’re, literally, right on my way home), it was really a no brainer.
One other benefit Tavour offers is referral credit. In other words, if you refer someone to sign up with Tavour, you’ll each receive a $10 credit towards any future orders you place, once the person you referred places their first order. It’s shameless plug time. If you are thinking about signing up with Tavour and don’t currently have any friends who are members that can refer you, please consider using THIS referral link to sign up. That way, we’ll each get that $10 credit when you place your first order and then we can each order even more beers from Tavour.
When you sign up with Tavour you’ve got nothing to lose, except the opportunity to try some highly sought after beers, including ones you may have never even heard of before. If you don’t find the service useful for you, it’s easy to stop the emails anytime you want. You must be 21 years or older to sign up for Tavour emails. Also, they deliver only to private citizens in Washington state; they do not sell to retailers.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.