Party Source 2.0

Some people in the 315 — including yours truly — have sort of trashed the Party Source (2646 Erie Blvd E, Syracuse, NY 13224) in the past. And sometimes rightfully so. I started going there on the regular about six years ago, when my beer-ticker disease took hold, and it wasn’t without its problems.

First of all, it had a ton of empty space: the beer was on one wall, and in a couple of coolers on an adjacent wall. There was an enormous amount of empty space with nothing but haphazardly-stacked cases of Natural light, empty pallets, and floor. It seemed like an ungodly waste of space when you consider beer stores like Oliver’s in Albany and Glenville Beverage in Glenville (Schenectady), which had ample floor space and wasted none of it.

Secondly, the service often left something to be desired. The man who has run the place since I was in college in the mid-1990s (I don’t know his name) is still there, and he is well-known for being a first-class curmudgeon. (Just google “party source syracuse” and read some reviews, and you will invariably find a reference to the gentleman’s gruff demeanor. The man has a tendency to appear annoyed, whether he actually is or not, and he seemed to always sigh heavily when I would bring up a mix of individual bottles; they must be a pain in the ass to enter individually, but it’s the reason I went there instead of Brilbecks, which had a superior selection but no individual-bottle option.

At the time, I said “Syracuse deserves better than Party Source,” and at the time I meant it. But rather than simply dismissing the place, it was more of a wish that the place was something better, since it had all the potential in the world to be.

Flash to 2012, and the place has undergone a renaissance of sorts. The floor-space has been halved, with a wall separating the new, more efficiently-laid-out store from an Indian market next door. Instead of a cavernous, sometimes grim warehouse, you now have something that looks more like a well-organized beer boutique.

Gone are the husky fratboys who used to haul kegs of PBR out to the parking lot, and instead are people behind the counter who clearly know their beer, and more importantly know how to make their place look appealing.

I hadn’t been in a couple of months, and so tonight I decided to stop in to see what was new. The place looks good. Well-lit and bright, with stacks of beers organized like I hadn’t seen in a while. The same curmudgeon from the old days was there, and he was in great spirits, as well as helpful and accommodating.

The most stunning development was a very prominent sign over the European section championing the arrival of Trappist beers. It turns out that Party Source now has selections from six of the seven Trappist breweries (Achel, Chimay, Rochefort, Orval, Westmalle and La Trappe), and he states — drumroll — that he is attempting to get the seventh, the nearly impossible-to-find Westvleteren 12 shortly, if he can get the distributor to get on board. (T.J. Sheehan, if you’re reading this: GET ON BOARD.)

He also said that he is looking to ultimately become the best beer store for Belgian beers in New York State. It’s off to a modest start (Sam the Beer Man in Binghamton is currrently in the lead as far as I’ve seen), but it has the potential to carve its own niche in Onondaga County.

Bottom line: if you have been avoiding Party Source because of a previous bad experience, give it another shot.

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~ by William H on March 6, 2012.

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