The world is a very shady place. In this shady world, shady things happen. At the very top of the shady list is Eminem, but right below him is the Black Market. The Black Market is a place where you can buy not so legal things, mainly drugs, organs, children and… beer. Yup! That last one is not a typo, there is now an official Black Market for Beer.
The craft beer revolution has been going for years now. Some breweries have been making some amazingly exclusive and widely sought after beers. People will wait in line for hours, or even days to get a rare beer that is only brewed in very small batches. This is where the black market comes in. Super popular and hard to obtain beers sell out to these patient (and likely jobless) people. Those people then log on the internet in their mom’s basement and resell those limited beers for 4 to 5 times what they are worth. It’s a damn racket!
Bill Sysak, is the craft beer ambassador at Stone Brewing Co. Bill has been quoted saying he saw a limited-edition beer from Stone being sold online for over a $1,000 a bottle. That $1,000 was originally sold for 8 dollars in 2002.
To further illustrated this, Tomme Arthur, co-founder and brewmaster at Lost Abbey, made a cherry version of its popular Cable Car beer in 2012. The initial release of that beer sold for $45 for a bottle. However, in 4 short years, that beer is now being sold for $800 on the Beer Black Market.
There are multiple problems with the Beer Black Market, first off it is taking money out of the breweries pocket. Making special beers is not cheap and requires a lot of labor. The second issue, it is illegal in most states to ship liquids. The Black Market people are finding ways around that by only posting the bottle and the label and claiming it is empty. There is nothing against the law about mailing empty bottles. Clever racketeers.
In response, Ebay has been cracking down on this practice on their site. But there are many new sites to reroute Ebay. Mybeercellar.com being one of the more popular ones. I did a little research and can confirm there are bottles going for as high as $1000. One example I saw was someone trying to sell Hill Farmstead Art batch 2 and 3 for $600. I also saw a bottle of the 2014 Cable Car priced at $300.
The internet is not the only ones trying to prevent this practice. Breweries are slowly taking action. Russian River who makes the insanely popular Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger has decided not to fill growlers during their annual release. The only way you are getting these rare beers is buy putting it your stomach under the watchful eye of the Russian River staff. They are probably Russian, so it is best not to test them.
Stone Brewing is using a lottery system when selling their new series Quingenti Millilitre. They have stated that anyone found selling the beer will be banned from future lotteries. While that is not a fool proof measure to avoid the reselling of beer, at least it shows a proactive approach to deterring the turnaround of the beer.
Final thought, it is hard to be upset about this in a free economy. I think the biggest issue is that breweries are not notoriously profitable in the beginning of their life and reselling something for an immense profit that could have helped the brewery is that gray line. Certainly no one would blink an eye about someone spending 10 cents on Action Comics No. 1 and turning it into a 3 million dollar profit. While I could not personally hold onto and sell a rare beer for a profit down the road, I do think those willing to sacrifice the time and space for an item like that, if they choose then sell it, it is their choice how much they should be paid for their patience.