Longtime bitter rivals beer and wine have finally found middle ground—new boutique wine shops where as much attention is paid to fermented barley as fermented grapes. There are two such places, actually, that have opened up in the last five months—Streetcar Wine & Beer in Jamaica Plain, and Social Wines in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston that are doing just that.
STREETCAR WINE & BEER
It’s a beautiful sight: a wine shop with racks of wine running down one side of the wall and along the other wall a vast selection of six-packs, bombers, and 750 ml bottles of craft beer. The small, stylish, and bright store on Centre Street opened on July 1 boasts exposed brick and two nifty street car-shaped racks in the middle and offers everything from West Coast beer standards like a bomber of Firestone Walker Wookey Jack to a four-pack of Sixpoint Resin to more hard-to-find goods like a bottle of Fantome Extra Sour, and also cider, mead, and lots of local beer.
Owner Michael Dupuy, who lives in Dorchester and has worked for several liquor stores and wine and beer distributors, says he decided on Jamaica Plain because there was no store like it in the neighborhood.
“My idea is to do a much more curated version of a wine shop that reflects what the neighborhood is looking for,” he says when I visit the shop one early Wednesday morning.
And the Jamaica Plain neighborhood does loves its craft beer—they’re home to the Sam Adams brewery (and to Doyle’s Cafe where Sam Adams was first sold), and restaurants like Vee Vee, Canary Square, and Ten Tables that boast interesting and rotating craft beer selections. When he was working on opening the shop, Dupuy estimates that for every one person who asked about the wine selection, 10 asked about what he was going to do with the craft beer side. While he has a vested interested in both wine and beer, Dupuy says that he often learns the most about beer from his customers.
“I realized what a push there is for craft beer in Jamaica Plain,” says Dupuy.
He was originally going to have the store’s stock be about 70 percent wine and 30 percent beer; now he’s pushing 50/50 (saleswise, too) and is looking to get more cooler space, in addition to the one fridge.
He’s also hoping to encourage crossover between beer and wine drinkers, by hosting tastings every Friday evening and on the first Thursday of every month to coincide with Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Streets’s First Thursdays.
“I think it’s maybe an illusion that we’ve got our beer drinkers and wine drinkers because I think we’ve got people who drink both. There are very few people who are so isolated that they really only want to drink one thing.”
A beer drinker, for instance, might be interested in a funky Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine, and a wine drinker might be tempted with a fruity and champagne-like Fantome Printemps.
Dupuy is already straddling the line.
“I came looking to sell wine and I ended up learning about beer,” he says.
STREETCAR WINE & BEER
488 CENTRE ST.
A t-shirt hangs on the wall behind the counter in Social Wines with the Social Wines logo and underneath, “Not Your Jackie’s Packie,” a reference to the liquor store in the wonderfully trashy YouTube show, Real Housewives of South Boston. Jackie’s Packie it is not. You will not find any 30-racks of Bud or forties of Steel Reserve, but a large and varied selection of craft beer, wines, and spirits.
John Libonati opened the store with his partner Chris Schutte about four months ago.
“It drove me nuts that I couldn’t get a good bottle of wine in South Boston,” says Libonati. So after walking past the empty location every day on his way to work at another excellent beer and wine store, Boston Wine Exchange in the Financial District, they secured a license from the state and opened South Boston’s only specialty wine, beer, and spirits store.
It was at Boston Wine Exchange where Libonati, who was wine focused, began to learn about beer from owner Eamon Keating. From there, he went from being wary of craft beer to drinking big, hoppy IPAs.
“I was like, great there goes my wine career!” he jokes.
Their modern, clean looking shop on the corner of West Broadway and A Street sells an extensive selection of wine, a wall of spirits, and has two walls of cooler space for craft beer and several racks, with everything from growlers of Berkshire Brewing Company and Blue Hills Brewery to a large local selection, and a sizeable German, Belgian and English sections.
The neighborhood has “welcomed them with open arms” says Libonati.
“We realized we don’t have enough space now for all the craft beer. We just ordered two more shelving units for craft beer,” says Libonati. “Craft beer has just exploded for us.”
52 W BROADWAY