Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Searching For a Unique Bottle of Booze? Pittsburgher Creates the Solution

Jacob Quinn Sanders, a Pittsburgh-based coder and writer, creates a program called Boozicorns to find rare bottles of liquor and wine in Pennsylvania.




logo designed by nicole Kircher 

 

A couple of years ago, Jacob Quinn Sanders, at the time a reporter and editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, went on the hunt for a bottle of rare — if inexpensive — Croatian wine. He learned that the “rich, toasty and a little sour” wine was available at just a single location in Pennsylvania: a Fine Wine and Good Spirits Store in Indiana County.

Sanders and a friend drove 66 miles to the store and purchased 4 bottles of wine. “Indiana County seems an odd place to find an obscure if notable wine. There is no obvious reason for it to be where it is,” he wrote in a March 2015 story for the Post-Gazette.

As most Pennsylvanians know, a state-run monopoly controls the state's wine and spirits business and every bottle of wine or liquor sold in the state is first purchased by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and then is sent out to individual stores. Consumers buy bottles off-the-shelf at state-run stores, place orders via the Fine Wine and Good Spirits website for online exclusives or work through the special orders system to get brands that are not available by the first two methods.

This can lead to some quirky finds. “How does this [particular bottle] get there? How is this the only store in the state that had this?” Sanders says. After writing his story for the P-G, he wondered how many other unicorn bottles of booze were out there.

Sanders decided to put his curiosity — and the web development and programming skills he learned at an intense 3-month boot camp in Provo, Utah — to the test. He’s created Boozicorns, a website designed to track products available at just a single store in the entire state.

“The cool thing about Pennsylvania being a control state — and I hate myself already for saying that — is that you get access to this data as public data. We have access to all sorts of data that wouldn’t be available in states where everything is private and decentralized,” Sanders says.

Sanders wrote a scraper — a Python program that gathers data from a website — to crawl the publicaly-available information on the PLCB’s website to see what’s available at every store in the state. Sanders runs the programs daily — he says he’s staggered the timing so that the crawl won’t crash the website — to keep information available on Boozicorns current.

The majority of the approximately 2,000 unique products are relatively ho-hum. For example, I don’t think there is going to be a mad rush on the 5 bottles of Cruzan Strawberry rum left at the store in Tamaqua. Still, there are certainly some gems to be found throughout the state. “Maybe you’re looking for something truly obscure, or maybe you’re just looking for something unique that’s at a store near you,” Sanders says.

Sanders designed Boozicorns to be searchable by store and by wine/spirit name, and there also are some handy quick-search links on the homepage. If you’re a Pittsburgh-based Boozicorn Hunter, your best bets for a rare find are the Sewickley (66) and Cranberry Twp. stores (56). There also are some solid selections at the Premium Collection store in East Liberty.

How does a PLCB store end up with a Boozicorn?

“It’s a product of bottles selling through their natural cycle, store managers having the freedom to order what they want and our commitment to special-ordering products based on what the consumer needs,” says Elizabeth Brassell, PLCB’s director of communications.

Brassell adds this extra bit of information, which could have saved Sanders and his pal a little time: “We do store-to-store transfers. If you want that one bottle of wine in a specific store, talk to your [local] store manager and they’ll get it for you,” she says.
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags


All the foodie news that's fit to blog

Hal B. Klein is Pittsburgh Magazine’s associate editor and restaurant critic. He is an award-winning food and drinks writer. In his spare time, Hal can be found in his kitchen, in his garden and exploring the wonders of Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter (@HalBKlein) and Instagram (@halbklein).

 

Recent Posts

Feed

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Eat Street Feed »

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Entrepreneur Robert M. “Bob” Brownlee’s contribution will allow Seton Hill University to build a brand new mathematics center and establish a new scholarship.

Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Reviews of "Annihilation" and "Mute," plus local movie news and notes.

Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

The collaboration between Penn Avenue Fish Company and Subversive Cocktails contains a wine shop, grab-and-go sushi, a bar with a late-night menu and more.

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.