Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Shopping, 20th century style

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


The other day, my wife and I went to Whole Foods in order to pick up some ingredients for dinner. While we were there, I stopped by the beer aisle, as I often do just to browse and look for interesting beers that might be available.

As we walked home, I realized that this sort of experience-going to a physical store and looking through a large selection of items in the hopes of finding something interesting-is something that I used to do all the time, but do extremely rarely these days.

This is my bookstore and record store behavior of old.

When I was in high school, I had mental lists of books and albums that I wanted to buy, but hadn’t ever had the chance. If I ever went to a bookstore or a record store—in the small town I grew up in, we had two bookstores but no record store—I would go up and down the aisles, hoping against hope that one of these items happened to be in stock.

I found Peter Gabriel’s second solo album on cassette in a record store in Ashland, Oregon in the fall of 1987. This was such a jackpot that I can remember all the details even now. I found Harlan Ellison’s “The Glass Teat” in a used bookstore in San Diego. Jackpot again.

But today, of course, if there’s an album or book you want to buy, you can find it on the Internet. Just type it in to Amazon, in most cases, and it will be delivered to your door in a matter of days.

Saying you miss the days when you couldn’t find anything is a bit like saying you miss the smell of books. Yeah, there’s nostalgia value there. I totally understand the power of nostalgia.

But… we’re trading not finding something for finding it. Yes, I was really excited when I found that Peter Gabriel cassette in 1987 after a year of searching. You know what would have been better? Finding it the moment I knew I wanted it.

Anyway, back to beer.

When I visit the Whole Foods beer section, I’m thrown back into that world. I have no idea what kind of stuff is going to be on display. Am I going to find an old, hard-to-come-by favorite? Is something new going to catch my eye? Is a much-rumored brand that I’ve never personally tried going to manifest itself? Will I be swayed by a colorful, shiny label? It’s a crap shoot every time.

(Which is my long way of saying, am I missing a great website that lets you order beer1 over the Internet? Because forget nostalgia—I am tired of living in the dark ages where I can’t just order what I want and get it shipped to me the next day.)

  1. I assume that, sadly, interstate alcohol regulations and the requirement that a buyer be over 21 are the reasons why there’s no Amazon for beer yet. YET. 

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