Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beer is the New Black

I had an idea for a blog post, a continuing one, but I’m not sure if I want to pursue it.

It all started about a week ago when I was talking with one of my best friends about a couple of blog ideas. One was the black market for beer. I wanted to bring more awareness to it and defend my view of it being wrong. He admired my enthusiasm and agreed with me on my main point: it is wrong to buy beer and turn it over for a ridiculous mark up.

However, he did make a point about one of the simple laws of economics: the law of supply and demand. When quantity supplied is equal to quantity demanded, we are at equilibrium. For beer, this means the amount of a certain beer available is exactly the same as the amount people want of that beer. 

When quantity supplied is MORE, we have a surplus. When quantity supplied is less than the quantity demanded, we have a shortage. It is in this shortage that a black market can exist.

In the world of craft beer, this is where we are at right now for a small select percentage of highly sought-after beers (Cantillon’s lambics, 3Floyd’s Dark Lord, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, Westvleteren 12, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper....just to name of few). The demand for these beers is insane. Go onto any beer-related internet forum and you will see people trading for them. Head over to Craigslist and do a simple search to quickly yield at least a couple of results for trades or for sale (depending of course on the area in which you are searching).

After thinking about that conversation for the past week, I saw an article yesterday about a bar in Washington D.C. that hosted a ticketed event where they poured Heady Topper and a handful of beers from Hill Farmstead (a Vermont brewery with highly sought-after beers). Through a loophole in the system, this bar was essentially able to sell these beers even though they aren’t distributed anywhere near D.C. I won’t dig too far into the article. If you would like to read it, head over to DC Beer

The question I asked myself after reading the article and discussing it with my friend is:

Is selling beer on the black market for a profit wrong?

First off, let’s get this point out of the way: It’s illegal. The point that I want to discuss is if it is morally wrong, not wrong in the eyes of the law.

To put it into perspective, we often look the other way or just accept when other items are sold for a profit from a consumer to a consumer. Comic books. Antiques. Sports memorabilia. Concert tickets. But when an individual sells a beer for profit, we immediately take to the defense about how crooked her or she is for doing this. I’m one of the people who cry the loudest when it comes this. Read my blog post “Do You Realize What You’ve Done?!?!” for a great example of how I feel about consumers selling beer for a mark-up.  

Yet now, I am left questioning myself. If I don’t feel that it is wrong to sell a rare comic book at a mark-up, why is it wrong to sell a beer the same way then?

Where do we draw the line? Where should I draw the line?

If people are willing to pay the high price to get their hands on a bottle of Cantillon or Heady Topper, should we accept it (minus the whole being illegal part)?

If you’ve read my blog before then you’ll know that I am blunt, satirical and critical of certain aspects of the craft beer and beer community.

But is this one aspect of the industry where I could just be wrong?

It’s not like we are talking about people being killed and then their organs being harvested. 

It is just beer after all.

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