During my recent holiday travels, I was fortunate to stumble upon a retailer that may be heaven on earth for craft beer enthusiasts
Of course, "stumble" is not totally accurate, as my journey to State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland was guided by fellow east coast craft beer advocates.
Image courtesy of BeerAdvocate.com
If State Line is, in fact, heaven, the manna is delivered in the form of beer. Of which, there, the selection is endless.
State Line is unique not because of that selection, although vast, but, primarily, because the consumer is so freely allowed to pick and choose beers as he or she may desire.
Secondarily, that selection is robust with hard-to-find choices.
Other retailers dedicate a wall to creating individual six-packs. State Line Liquors has dedicated an entire store.
State Line is easy to locate. At 1610 Elkton Road, it is a convenient detour from I-95.
Upon first arrival, not much about the facility prepares the visitor for the bustling experience about to be had.
That is, besides the parking lot. Vast for a relatively small facility. And, during my visit, packed.
Flawless? Well, the prices at State Line are no better than competitors. Perhaps more expensive on the whole. Joe Canal's, with several locations not distant in New Jersey offers 10% off each individual bottle when a six-pack is built. State Line does not.
But, the small sacrifice in expense rewards the customer at State Line Liquors with superior service.
It may not sound appealing initially, but the environment at State Line Liquors is a bit like a circus. Imagine the near-entirety of the mid-Atlantic region's like-minded beer folk descending on a central location. And at this mecca of booze, an "anything goes" attitude is encouraged.
Carts darting in and out of cramped aisles. Boxes of random amounts of emptiness and near-emptiness tossed here and there. Patrons deep in conversation, rich with beer knowledge, ignorant to much occurring around them. Employees hurriedly rushing out of stock rooms, cases stacked dangerously high.
A zoo, so to say. But this zoo offers exhibits so very precious to craft beer admirers.
Imagine. Let's say that the rare west coast hops-rich brew you had your eye on is stocked by State Line, but only in closed cases. But you desire but a single bottle. No problem. This is State Line Liquors. Rip open that box, unmarry a single beer from its brethren, add it to your cart, and move on.
Allowed. Encouraged. State Line has embraced the madness, and is so much better off for it.
I would say most anything goes here. Even standing in slack-jawed astonishment of State Line's immense selection, which more than a few of the patrons were doing.
I exited State Line during this visit with a handful of Ballast Point's superb I.P.A., Sculpin, a bomber of Lukcy Basrtd by Stone, and a couple of Pennsylvania-brewed beers difficult to access in my hometown.
Decent haul, but next time I intend to depart State Line able to line my "cellar"
Visiting State Line Liquors will certainly become a tradition embedded in my future east coast travels. It is worth it.
This is one of those places that most craft beer advocates do not visit by mistake. State Line's strong reputation amongst the community makes it a common destinaton, and deservedly so.
Of five stars, TheCraftBeerGuru.com offers State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD nearly all of them: 4.5. And the very highest of recommendation.