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Best Online Craft Beer Stores: Brewers Try to Beat the Shady Craft Beer Black Market
When Toppling Goliath Brewing Company in Decorah, Iowa, last released its Kentucky Brand Brunch Stout (KBBS) in January, only 1,000 people were able to get a bottle.
KBBS hadn’t been released since 2014, and 12-ounce bottle of it was sold as part of a $200 package, along with two bottles of the brewery’s Assassin barrel-aged imperial stout and two glasses. Today, that 12-ounce bottle alone fetches more than $1,000 on a black-market beer resale site
. While Toppling Goliath founder Clark Lewey not only doesn’t find this flattering, but he realizes that this can create more problems than praise for his brewery.
“Having the beer sold outside of the three-tier system leaves room for fraud, which has happened to us with our KBBS,” he says, noting that online bottle-trading forums
and other social media
tipped off the brewery. “One trader was opening bottles, filling with other beer, and trading them. This is not cool.”
As this site has noted before, illegal beer resale is a thriving enterprise. Beer drinkers chasing rare “white whale” releases by well-regarded brewers have driven a black market of beers from California, the Pacific Northwest and other spots around the globe.
Brewers’ concerns about bottle resale haven’t stopped business on sites including BeerBlackBook
from thriving. Sellers slap three- and four-figure prices on hundreds of what MyBeerCellar and MyBeerCollectibles dub “collectible beer bottles,” exploiting a loophole once frequently used on eBay. (The issue was resolved on that particular site when Russian River Brewing brought it to eBay’s attention four years ago
.) The loophole illegally bypasses the distribution tier of the three-tier system and flouts delivery companies’ rules for shipping alcohol (and the Postal Service’s ban on it). It also ignores state laws for both beer shipment and licensing of alcohol shippers. The existence of that beer black market isn’t new, but brewers’ reactions to it have had some unintended consequences.