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Beer Nerds Rejoice

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Typically we would never celebrate a prominent distributor of Anheuser-Busch beers (or even mention that dreaded name), but we can make an exception for something this cool.

Fort Worth-based Ben E. Keith Beverage, the nation's third-largest beer wholesaler, has partnered with other distributors to launch what will surely become every beer nerd's homepage. GreatBrewers.com seeks to "bridge the gap between the world's great brewers and the consumers who enjoy their products," by allowing beer nuts to browse brew titles, learn about each product and then find the nearest shop that carries their favorites. The site even has suggestions for pairing beer with food.

More distributors are signing on, said Brian Wade of the local Ben E. Keith office on Karbach Street. Wade suggests beer lovers use the site for social networking (you can create a profile and leave tasting notes about the beers).

"As we continue growing and continue our distribution efforts to get these beers out into the market, this is a great way for the consumer to go on there and check out different beers," he said.

Wade cautions that the site, launched just weeks ago, still has some kinks, and says not all the company's beers are mapped in the database yet.

But clicking around seems to yield solid results (though the central Spec's warehouse on Smith Street seems not to show up in searches. Maybe the Web guys assume every beer is offered there?)

iPhone fanatics also should rejoice at the app that accompanies the site, called BeerCloud. It helps a beer shopper pair a brew with food, find beers in his or her neighborhood and pull up a description of any beer with a scan of its barcode. Yet another excuse for iPhone owners never to interact with humans.

Perhaps the best news of all (it just keeps coming!) is that the local Ben E. Keith warehouse, one of the company's two "specialty" divisions (i.e. craft, not crap, beers) is moving into a new facility in February that Wade says is twice the size of the current one.

That should mean more domestic microbrews and more fine imports. That would also mean happy Houston beer nerds.

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