Drink Insider: Colin Maxwell, Beer/Draft Manager for Colonial Wines & Spirits

Ever wonder what makes some of Little Rock’s beverage personalities tick? Drink Insider, takes a look at individuals who are helping change the landscape of our city’s beer, wine, and cocktail scene.  This week, we have Colin Maxwell of Colonial Wine and Spirits.

Where are you from, and how did you start working for Colonial Wine and Spirits?
I’ve lived in Arkansas for most of my life. I was born in Texas, but we moved here when I was about five. I’ve worked here a little over three years. My friend Ben Bell got me the job, and I didn’t have much of a background in beer, yet. I was an enthusiast I would say, but I didn’t have the knowledge that I do now. So I worked hard, I invested an interest in it and within six or seven months worked my way into the assistant beer manager position and then within a year and a half I was beer/draft manager.

What does it mean to be beer/draft manager?
I work on everything from deciding what to bring in to shelf placement to what to promote to what to put on sale. Obviously our focus the last four or five years has really shifted to craft beer, so that’s what I have been most mindful of … I also try to be mindful of what the market is doing and what people I talk to in here enjoy. That’s a real big part of the job is just listening and seeing what’s going on.

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How would you describe Colonial for someone who has not been in yet?
At the end of the day, it’s about having the best customer service, it’s about being knowledgeable. We want to make sure that everyone that comes in here is going to be able to get the question that they have answered. Also, we’re not bare bones, we want to show them the interesting beers, the interesting wines.

How are growlers and beer sales functioning as a part of Colonial?
Beer sales are way up, so everyone at the store from me on up to the owners are really taking note of what’s going on in the beer community right now. Especially now with the growlers. I don’t think anybody had any idea what was going to happen when this went live half a year ago, we have to be past 10,000 growler fills since then. Plus, our growler bar is a good way to introduce people to new beers. We used to only do beer tastings on Tuesdays, and that would only be two or three things, and now people can come in and taste something every single day of the week.

Do you have any special upcoming events at the growler bar?
We’ve actually got a thing coming up this month where we’re going to be partnering with Lost 40. Every Saturday they’re going to have a different beer of theirs and a different kind of food that their chefs have prepared. This will go along with March Madness, so people can come in and get an idea for a little finger food and beer for parties and that sort of thing. These events are a good way to get the brewers in here and the people that work for the breweries and sell some beer that way.

Where’s your favorite place to eat?
The Pantry has to be in there, and probably Big Orange Midtown. For me it’s any place that a.) has good food, and b.) has a good beer selection. I’d also say Damgoode Pies.

What’s your favorite type of beer?
I think I would have to say Belgian Saisons are my favorite with Saison Dupont at the top of my list. There’s a lot of good ones though. I also love that one that Josiah just did, his Katchiri Bier, it was fantastic.

What do you think Little Rock needs more of?
It’s becoming such a foodie town which I really like. There’s all these really awesome culinary things going on, there’s no shortage of places to go and get a good meal now, and they all also happen to have excellent drink programs. For me, though, I could use more dive bars. There’s only about two and they’re usually packed. I could also go for a jazz club or two, just a dark place where you can go and listen to jazz music and you can have a drink.

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Drink Insider: Colin Maxwell, Beer/Draft Manager for Colonial Wines & Spirits