There’s no hiding it. Craft beer has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. It seems as if people’s palates are changing and so are their buying habits. This is great right? I think it is, but certainly comes with a cost to the seasoned beer drinkers looking for their favorite limited releases. Increased demand in beer comes with an increased demand for limited beers. These beers frequently find themselves going from the shelves of stores and directly to ebay.
Of course the increased demand is great for breweries. Over the past year there have been many breweries expanding or planning expansion to keep up with the new found demand. Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Weyerbacher and Dogfish Head all have either expanded already or are planning their expansion. However, one question comes to mind while all these breweries are making these expansions: Will there be an increase in production of limited release beers?
Over the past few years it has become more and more difficult to get my hands on some of my favorite releases due to the increased demand from new beer drinkers. For example, going back as early as four years ago (2008), I was able to walk into any decent craft beer store in New York and find Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. I was also able to find it on tap at Ginger Man and Blind Tiger fairly regularly as well. Since 2008, it has become increasingly difficult each year to find this beer anywhere. It literally went from me being able to walk into a store and find it on any shelf, to having to call multiple stores, waiting in lines, and entering raffles while seeking this out. I’ve experienced the same thing with Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), Bells Hop Slam and other hyped up limited release beers.
So what’s all the harm in this increased demand? If you really want these beers, you just need to be a little more persistent? Right? Well, just as most things in the free market, the demand for goods will define its price – and beer poachers have recognized this. With the increased demand, there has been an increase in the amount of rare beers being sold over Ebay and certain stores have been gouging the prices of these beers to make an increased profit.
Now, I don’t care if someone is making some additional cash on bottles. I’m sort of on the team of thought where anyone can do whatever the want, as long as they’re not stealing it. However, what does matter to me is that Ebay sellers are affecting the market price at some local stores. After purchasing my share of beers, I always get curious of what they’re selling on the open beer market. When I bought my bottles of Bourbon County Rare, I saw that it was selling on ebay for $160 – four times what I had paid for it. Then there was just this past year when I went to a shop to pick up a bottle of King Henry and Bourbon County Coffee Stout. I went through the checkout and found that they were charging double the price. Needless to say, my ass hurt a little bit from that one. Most stores which charge this additional amount will typically justify it by saying that they’re charging the price since it’s what it’s selling for online.
As a beer drinker, this type of behavior makes me pretty angry, but there’s nothing that can really be done about it. People will pay and bid up what they’re willing to pay and as long as there’s a demand, the price will continue to go up. So what can be done? Alpine Brewery is taking an extreme approach by announcing that they will no longer give growler fills of their very sought after Exponential Hoppiness. Stores have battled this from happening by only allowing a single bottle limit. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and these bottles will continue to end up on the internet.
My solution? Through all of this annoyance, I’ve decided that I won’t be going out of my way this year to find the hype beers. Sure, I’ll make a few calls, but won’t be truly hunting. I’ll buy it if it’s convenient for me. Instead, I’m going to spend that extra cash and time on the purity matrix and other home brewing experiments. I’ll also work on trying other recommended beers which I’ve been neglecting for these white whales. Maybe by that time, the breweries that make these beers will have increased their production enough to get more to the public, thus decreasing the poaching and crazy prices. And well, if not, I still have some stashed away in my cellar from the good ol’ days.