Pitt Stop Beer & Wine is very, very far from your everyday liquor store.
Its name implies that the customer is running in for a six-pack and will be out in five minutes, tops. That’s possible, sure, but most customers walking through the shop’s doors soon realize they won’t be running out anytime soon.
Where Pitt Stop now is, just off Worcester Highway in Berlin, was once a car dealership. The store moved from Pittsville to Berlin five years ago, and has attracted a steady crowd of locals and tourists ever since.
Laurie Walsh is Pitt Stop’s Spirits & Chaos Ambassador (that’s her official title). She and her son, Chief Beer Peddler Ryan Walsh, as well as store owner John Derrickson, enjoy drinking wine and beer but not so much shopping for it at gas stations and convenience stores.
“There weren’t any other places around at the time that had a nice, comfortable ambiance, a good selection and reasonable prices, so that’s what we were after,” Laurie said. “And we also wanted to give it some personality.”
Peddler Ryan, the beer expert of the bunch, focuses on keeping customers happy and providing them with recommendations.
“We give them the best advice we can give them, and if they want something we do our best to get it in,” he said. “We just want people to enjoy coming here.”
A comfortable place to shop
Pitt Stop is nothing if not cozy. It embodies the atmosphere of a really cool friend’s really cool basement, maybe sometime back in the ’80s if only because of the wood-paneled walls and old truck stop wall hangings (don’t worry, there isn’t a shag carpet in sight).
There are twinkly lights, paisley overstuffed couches in the upstairs bar and, most importantly, endless racks of beer, wine and liquor.
Much of Pitt Stop’s interior is reused and recycled. The checkout counter, for example, was rescued from a gym that once occupied the base of Ocean City’s Route 90 bridge, where a hotel now stands. John pulled it out of the old building and it was retrofitted to meet Pitt Stop’s needs.
Beer and liquor tastings happen most Fridays, downstairs or in the bar upstairs, which Ryan says many people don’t even know about. Flights are available at the bar, in addition to craft beer in bottles and on draft, and customers are welcome to shop around the store with a glass in hand.
An eye on the industry
Including its initial location in Pittsville, Pitt Stop has been around for less than a decade — but the craft beer industry moves fast, and Ryan has noticed a lot of changes and development during his time as Chief Beer Peddler.
For one, the face of the classic IPA is changing.
“IPAs are still big, they’re not as big as they used to be,” he said. “People are looking forward a lot more to the juicy IPAs or the fruit-forward IPAs, and the bitter bombs that used to be here are less popular nowadays.”
And as the IPA craze has died down, other beer styles, like sours, have been able to take center stage.
“Sour beers when we first started here were not even a thing,” he said. “Now everyone’s into the sours, sours have gotten big and we’ve seen a lot of crossover with wine fans as well.”
An especially big trend on Delmarva, in addition to the newer beer styles, is the convenience of the canned beer.
“There’s a lot of campers, a lot of boaters, bikers, anyone going out and about, you can’t bring glass everywhere so cans are where it’s at right now,” Ryan said.
While more breweries are canning, and customers in the region are receptive to the cans, big 22 oz. and 750 ml. bottles have fallen to the wayside. And it makes sense, Ryan says, as the bigger bottles are more expensive and quality beer is always available in four- and six-packs.
Taking notice of trends like these, both national and regional, has allowed Pitt Stop to provide an optimal experience for their craft beer-loving customers over the years. And even if a customer says they don’t like beer, Ryan guarantees that there’s a beer out there for everyone.
“We really like the variety of choices with craft beer,” he said. “Whether it’s sweet or sour, rich or light. I just love the variety. Craft beer was one of the first industries that showed people could create such unique flavors.”
Sales n’ Savings
Pitt Stop provides a number of ways for beer, wine and liquor drinkers to save money. They feature a different, most often local, craft beer every month, which is available throughout the month for 10% off. They also have weekly deals, and keep customers updated on their sales and specials via their Facebook and Instagram.
Overall — whether it’s due to the atmosphere, the selection or the expertise and genuine enthusiasm of the staff, Pitt Stop is not your average liquor store. It’s much more.
“We are more enthusiastic than the usual store that you go to, without a doubt,” Laurie said. “We love our store, we love what we do, we love our customers and it shows.”