| Tracking Down Pliny
by Art Hammerman
Hello Bob -
Would you pay $150 for a bottle of beer? Not as crazy as it sounds.
First some background. As you probably know Russian River’s Pliny
The Younger was released in bottles not too long ago. I wasn't able
to get a bottle so decided to try to track one down. What I learned
was that it created a whole new secondary economy. It was a unique
situation for sure as this was the first time, Russian River put the
previously draft-only beer in bottles. They limited in-person, to-go
sales of Pliny to two per customer and labeling bottles “not for
resale.” Nice try. Pliny was soon I found available for trade bottles
commanding many times its original $10 per 510-milliliter bottle price
at the brewery.
I found one person asking $155 for a single bottle of Pliny, and
almost spit out the beer I was drinking.. But fit seems there are
passionate craft beer aficionados out there. To them, mainly people
who trade and resell rare beers online, that price was just business
Highly perishable IPAs like Pliny the Younger aren’t typically traded
due to their short shelf life. Instead, it’s barrel-aged stouts or wild-
fermented lambics — beers with longer lifespans The most valuable
bottles are ones that are super limited and allocated none too fairly.
I saw beers like Toppling Goliath’s Assassin, Perennial Artisan Ales’
Maman, and one-offs from breweries like Hill Farmstead, Jester King,
and Side Project Brewing going for big money
I understand that there are a few people that make a considerable
amount of money,doing this but it seems that for the most part, that’s
not the point: Traders are estimating a beer’s dollar value and
exchanging beer for similarly valued beer, not cash.
A lot of the beer-trading goes on in Facebook groups however
there's a lot more secrecy in these around them. I tried butcouldn't
get into a couple of them.
LI was told about the legally suspect “Beer Razzle” groups but they
are even more secretive. Razzles are just raffles. Think Powerball,
but for rare beer, It’s essentially for people like me who can't afford
to pay $400 a beer but want a shot at trying it.” A “razzler” might pay
$50 for a chance to win the bottle by picking a ball number: If it’s
pulled, they’ll get the beer. Razzlers don’t actually conduct the raffle
themselves; they just tie their razzle to a real lottery, such as the
actual Powerball, for fairness and simplicity.
I would love to see an equitable, transparent system of trading and
selling one-off bottles. To me it would help small breweries without
expensive distribution deals reach new customers in distant
markets. I do however appreciate the argument that if it's taken too
far, secondary sales and trades can erode primary sales to locals.
Many breweries do not want their beers traded and sold for
exorbitant prices on the secondary market. To prevent that outcome,
some have tried to police resales, enforcing strict rules at bottle
releases and banning known resellers. It doesn't seem to have
worked particularly well.
Bottom line is I did not get that bottle of Pliny. I wasn't too upset
however since there are so many great beers in the marketplace.
Thats the regular marketplace not inhibited by high rollers and slick
traders, just a guy behind a register at a counter.
That's it Bob. Hope you found it interesting.
Thanks Arty for a most interesting and entertaining article. It was a
fascinating look at a craft beer subculture that many people don't know
about. I wish you luck on eventually getting a bottle of Pliny.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as Art did. I select the best and publish
them here. So join in and get writing!
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