I'm personally not a fan. Great store, excellent selection of ingredients, but the Griz rubs me the wrong way. He's a great guy when you're starting out and you concede that he knows far more about brewing than you do. But down the road, after a few dozen batches and you realize that beer actually tastes better when you take the time to sanitize and are careful (also known as "anal beer" according the Herr Griz), then he tends to throw temper tantrums if you question his advice.
My favourite LHBS has to be Beverage People up in Santa Rosa. It's a hike, but their selection is as good as Brewcraft's, their prices are a little better, and the folks there are great.
Have to admit, I do most of my shopping at Morebeer. Can't beat the prices - I mean, can't say no to a sack of 2-row for $33. The key with them, I've found, is to go there with a shopping list, and just hand it to one of the dudes. I agree with what fstrsbro said tho, I wouldn't go there if you need some advice or help with a recipe.
Speaking of Oak Barrel, every time I go there I get charged different prices for the same stuff... the older black guy tends to charge WAY more for everything than the younger guys do. Tubes of yeast which were normally $7, he charges me $8.50 for - and when he rings me up he always looks at the cash register for a second, as if he's working out how much to charge!
Yeah, I've started to get my items from MoreBeer, but it is sometimes cheaper to pay extra at BrewCraft to avoid shipping costs, particularly if it's only a few things. I'll always make my MoreBeer purchases over $60 to get the free shipping if I have a number of items I want.
For you all-grain brewers, where do you get your grains from? I noticed that MoreBeer doesn't count their 55lb bags for the Free Shipping program. It does for smaller quantities though (which I later discovered is cheaper than buying from BrewCraft).
I appreciate Griz for who/ what he is. I stopped by out of curiosity and after a long conversation, my foray into homebrewing began. I can think of a couple other people he has helped get started...one of them a former brewer at Speakeasy.
I have long since moved from the city, but still make orders with Griz on occassion just to keep in touch. Just as I would have never sat down at the bar at Vladimir's in Inverness and talk politics with the old man (big mistake!) I don't engage in technical details of brewing with Griz.
My main problem with More Beer is that the staff seems to brush you off if they do not recognize you as a "regular". I have gone up there 3-4 times and they always seem to be having a great time with one or two customers while ignoring those of us that may need/want a little more guidence or just dont come into the store every week.
And when you bring this to the manager's attention (nameless), he treats you as if it's a big joke....and every time thereafter that you see him. He runs it like it's his own personal clubhouse. This attitude reflects in most of the staff. My (non-Caucasian) girlfriend now refuses to go inside due to this rudeness. I hate to play the race card, but maybe there is something to it.
We have dropped a decent amount of cash there. There is only one guy that we can deal with who treats us with respect, Corey(?). Corey should be the manager if B3 is so big on customer service. And the email customer surveys probably aren't even read by anyone because nothing has changed.
+1 to ubermick on the shopping list thing, but I still get the attitude. I don't think it's a big deal for them to crush a small amount of grain for me. Corey always does it with a smile and always treats my lady with respect. That's all I ask for - respect. I work damn hard (in customer service, no less) for my money. I would be written up in a New York second if I had the attitude with my customers that these guys do.
Tip for B3: Just because your prices are cheap(er), doesn't give you free license to be an Ahole.
I've popped into BrewCraft once with some friends who I brew with and we all seemed to agree that the vibe of the place did not warrant a return trip (we live in the East Bay). Place was kind of small but while they did have a lot of items I found the staff at the Oak Barrel to be a little less high strung when it comes to beer.
Been to MoreBeer a few times and didn't have any problems, but they might have a different staff on weekends?