It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Would you be willing to trade me two of your Arron Judge baseball cards for one of my Jacob
deGrom cards? No? Then how about one of your several bottles (I peaked in your beer
cellar) of Cantillon bottles for a 2008 bottle of KBS? No?? Do you want to sell it? Stop
frowning Bill. I just was only introducing this month's subject - beer on the secondary market.
The idea of beer trading is nothing new. People have been exchanging special bottles since
the beginning of beer. However in this golden era of craft beer and the Internet a market has
developed for people who simply see one beer as a way to get a different one. And if they
don't want to trade they will sell it often for many more times then they paid.
My first thought was that the secondary market is a good thing since it enables beer drinkers
to connect with other beer drinkers in different regions and swap local brews. Then a few other
contrary notions crossed my mind. I wondered if the fact that a bunch of semi-professional
traders buy so much to re-sell for profit actually prevents a brewery's local supporters from
access to the beers. Then I got to thinking about the unbelievable markups these traders are
using. For example, I read about a beer that sold for $12.99 for a four pack at the store was
being re-sold online for $20 per bottle. It can get even crazier. I saw an offering for a bottle of
Side Project Brewing's O.K.W. stout asking for over $1,000. Needless to say that got me to I
check the brewery's website and I found that it originally sold for $50. The problem is of
course that after a quick initial sell out there are no bottles anywhere at that price. If you want it
you'll have to pay for it with serious money.
I love beer. I enjoy beer. Somehow it doesn't seem right that it's become nothing more than a
commodity. .The secondary market takes the fun out of beer for me. Oh, before I forget let me
also put some blame on retailers in addition to traders for price gouging. Last year I saw a
bottle of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout which is released once a year (Nov. 1 this year)
marked up to $45 when normal retail is around $24.
Bill. I understand that demand drives a market and that an increased resale value is how it
works. .And to be honest I personally I don’t care that CBS sells for $10,000 since I wouldn’t
be buying it. But maybe it's not that simple. I have a nagging feeling that this inflated
price/trading can eventually hurt craft beer as a whole and us as beer drinkers.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
First off let me categorically say I'm not going trade with a sharpie like you. There's no way I'd
come out ahead. I will however give you my view on the secondary market.
Look Gina, I wish that beer could return to simpler times where breweries set fair prices and
customers paid those prices and then enjoyed the beer themselves. A time when knowing that
the price was worth it for rare beers—especially ones that have spent months in barrels or are
loaded with specialty ingredients or just demonstrate the supreme skill of an artisan.
Unfortunately, there’s no going back to those days. A few weeks ago I was at Hill Farmstead in
Vermont just coincidently on a special release day and saw more than a few people dodging
the bottle-limit rules. And I don't think they wanted the bottles to drink them. Their talk was all
about trades and pricing. Before you ask, I brought my to drink.
However while I'm not a fan of sales on the secondary market.I think there is a larger point to be
made which is at the heart of our economic system. That is once a person buys a beer from a
brewery or anywhere else they own it and has such has the right to do with it as they want. We
do that with cars and houses and Super Bowl tickets so why not beer? It's not like beer is a
necessity of life so if someone wants to try to sell it for 50 times the price they paid let them try.
If I can't afford it or don't think it's worth it I won't buy it.
I'm sure some brewers enjoy the publicity and fame that comes with one of their beers being a
hot, high priced item that people fight for on the secondary market. I also understand that the
perception of that beer can create unfair expectations. If you pay $100 for a beer that originally
sold for $10 you are expecting it to taste like a $100 beer. If it only tastes like a $40 beer then
the brewery will be judged unfairly. And it might even taste like a $1 beer considering the
extremely perishable nature of many beers. That can ruin unfairly a brewery's reputation to a
small segment of people but I doubt it would cause any real harm to the brewery.
I appreciate you question about the long range impact of trading/selling special beers but ask
yourself when was the last time your love of beer or your chance to drink a fine beer was
actually, tangibly impacted by the goings on in the secondary market. Consider the possibility
that if people are passionate and excited about beer, it’s good for everyone — breweries,
retailers, bars, and distributors. I only will begin to worry when people stop caring about beer;
it's then we’re in trouble
Here's looking at you Gina