Craft works

Half bar, half shop, Craft caters to adventurous drinkers

Ty Martin, owner of Craft Wine and Beer, pours a glass for a customer at his new shop.

Ty Martin, owner of Craft Wine and Beer, pours a glass for a customer at his new shop.

Photo By amy beck

The definition of craft is something that was made with skill. When it comes to alcohol, the same rule applies. That explains why Ty Martin chose the term as the name of his new wine and beer shop.

Craft, located in midtown at 22 Martin St., specializes in just that: Expertly crafted beverages not easily accessible in your day-to-day liquor store—or bar, for that matter. That’s precisely why Martin prefers not to be labeled as either.

While Craft deals in alcohol sales and has a bar where customers can either drink from its three taps or sit down with a bottle they just purchased, it’s goal is not to be the new late-night party spot. They don’t make cocktails, and it’s only open until 7 p.m.—potentially extending to 9 in the summer.

“We don’t really want people staying here drinking 10 beers,” says Martin. “That’s not the goal. It’s more about coming and trying different beers—then moving on to whatever the rest of your day holds.”

Since its quiet opening three months ago, Craft has been steadily filling a niche previously vacant in Reno. Its selection of beer and wine from around the world, ranging anywhere from $8 to $200, is like the shop itself—a best-kept secret.

Martin spends close to an hour each day scouring for the most promising new products. Along with his modest staff of three, he’s personally taste-tested almost every drink he carries. “We don’t buy things that we haven’t tried and we don’t believe in,” Martin says.

What he does buy is exclusive products that may or may not be there the next time you stop by. He’s not going for bulk. “I don’t have many things in here where I can say I always have it,” Martin says. “It’s more like get it, it’s fresh, it’s delicious, but it’s made in small production.”

Popular name brands are also not his specialty. While he does carry a few staples, like Budweiser and Coors, it’s not his be-all end-all, and he can proudly admit he hasn’t sold any of the typical brands—except for one case of Pabst. “Anything I’ve bought that I didn’t 100 percent believe in has proven how important that is,” Martin says. “[But] I don’t mind carrying those things, I don’t want to be seen as pretentious.”

Craft only sells beer and wine its staff members have tried and believe in, including small batch specialties and hard-to-find selections.

Photo By amy beck

Providing the typical names can also help reel in those who like to play it safe and then give them a little nudge toward a more adventurous option.

“Somebody that only drinks Coors will always want to drink Coors unless you can get them in here and talk to them about something else,” Martin says.

Martin receives many of his wines from small farmers, whom he prefers to personally contact whenever possible. He believes the human element is important in finding those diamonds in the rough.

“Local distributors do a good job of getting the wine to me, but to have the best, you have to go beyond that and get to know the people [working the land],” he says.

The customers also play a big role in what Craft carries. Martin and his knowledgeable staff are open to suggestions and requests. Even if the product is something they don’t personally prefer, they’ll likely order it, but just enough for the requesting patron.

Craft also has a specialty customer base: the more adventurous drinker.

“You kind of have to be open-minded to get the most out of our shop, for sure,” Martin says.

Since opening, Craft has already acquired plenty of regular customers, who come back to soak up not only alcohol, but also Martin’s personal knowledge of beer and wine acquired from working as a distributor and running the downtown wine bar Jungle Vino for two years. “It’s my passion and my knowledge, and I’m happy to share,” Martin says. “I think it’s my responsibility. If I have some bit of knowledge and somebody asks for it, then I have to share it with them … and I enjoy it.”

There’s more to come from the specialty beer and wine shop. Along with a constantly growing inventory—they get in new products weekly—Craft will host its own beer and wine tasting and begin teaching cocktail classes.

“It’ll be about education and community,” says Martin of his future focus in helping Reno drinkers craft their own skillful palates.