How Much is too Much?

Early last month  word broke that the famed trappist brewery Westvleterteren would be releasing a limited quantity of Westvleterteren XII, considered by many to be the best beer in the world, to help offset the cost of recent renovations at their abbey.  Stateside, craft beer lovers mouths salivated at the chance to taste this pinnacle of beer excellence for the first time, without booking a flight to  Belgium. A limited amount of gift boxes, consisting of six 11.2 oz bottles and two glasses, were sold in a handful of states for $85.00.

Unfortunately the extremely limited quantities, distribution to select states, and price were not the only challenges craft beer lovers faced when attempting to aquire this beer.  They also had to compete with profiteers looking to purchase as many gift boxes as possible, not to enjoy, but to put up on Ebay in search of maximum profit. Shortly after all the Westvleterteren XII disappeared from the retail shelves it began popping up on the internet for such exorbitant  prices as $100 dollars a bottle, $420 dollars for the gift box, or $25 dollars for the cardboard “gift box” itself.  Those prices might be considered cheap to some, as its not unheard of to see beers being listed on online auction sites at prices in the five figures!

Nothing says you’ve arrived like a good old fashion black market.  Such is the case with the relatively new phenomena the craft beer industry is currently experiencing.  The black market for craft beer is not limited to the recent release of the Westvleterteren XII, in fact many other American brewers have found their limited release beers on online auction sites as well.  The brewers at Russian River, Three Floyd’s, and Stone to name a few, have all recently had to deal with the fact that their hand crafted beers are being resold at extremely high prices, in the name of profit, not the enjoyment of the beer itself.

This resale of beer, a perishable commodity, has left these and many other brewers who find their labor of love being resold on the black market deeply concerned and angry.  Price aside, a few days old growler filled from a tap at a limited release party, shipped god knows how many miles and in what condition is not the sensory experience these brewers had in mind for the consumption of their beer.   In response, some brewers have put a limit on the amount of limited release beers a patron can purchase at a time, while others have imposed even stricter rules by limiting consumption to on premise tasting rooms or select bars with no bottles to go.

While I personally don’t agree with the reselling of these beers I’m also not naive enough to think that this problem is going  away anytime soon.  Like most things in life, if there is demand out there for these and other extremely rare beers, you can bet there will be individuals out their looking to fill it for a tidy profit.  This got me to thinking how much I would personally spend for a limited release beer, and after thinking about it for a bit the most I would pay for a beer would be $25 a bottle. While I love beer and respect the incredibly complex flavors that can be achieved with these extremely limited one off batches, anything more than that I simply cannot justify.  When prices begin to exceed that I start to think of a nice bottle of whiskey or bourbon that I can enjoy over a longer period of time rather than a beer I would drink in a matter of minutes.

Thinking about this got me to wondering what other craft beer lovers would be willing to pay for a limited release beer from one of the premiere breweries.  If you feel so inclined to participate in my not so scientific poll below, let me know how much you would be willing to pay .  While I understand the price will fluctuate for some depending on the quantity of beer for sale, for the sake of this poll lets assume a single bottle of beer, whether it be a 11.2 oz  Westvleterteren XII or a 22 oz bomber of Dark Lord Imperial Stout.

[poll id=”3″]


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