Emily Hutto's picture

Shame on Black Market Beer Sellers

Mashing In
New Glarus Brewing Wisconsin Beer Connoisseur
Photo Credit: New Glarus Brewing Company

New Glarus Brewing Company is the 19th largest craft brewery by sales volume in the country, but is only distributed in its home state of Wisconsin. The brewery was in national headlines in April when the Maple Tavern in Maple Grove, Minnesota got busted for selling Spotted Cow on draught. Build a cult brand like New Glarus, a Paste Magazine blog suggested, and you’re bound to find your beers on the black market.

The Paste article interviewed New Glarus founder and president Deb Carey, who said it was flattering that someone would go to all that trouble to get the brewery’s beers.

I wonder if Deb Carey would also be flattered to know that a friend of a friend is slinging New Glarus beers for three times their retail value out of his basement.

I’ll say it here because Deb Carey can’t: this underground market for craft beer is sadly sordid. Even the largest of craft breweries only have so much capacity, and they want to sell their limited quantities to those who will appreciate the beer without exploiting it.

“The black market [of craft beer] means someone else is profiting from the brewer's hard work and money,” said a CNN Money article that quoted Russian River Brewing Company and Stone Brewing about modern-day bootleggers as growing problem for craft brewers.

Underground markets are the reality of any industry, especially one with rare, hyped, and handcrafted products like The Lost Abbey’s Duck Duck Gooze or Avery Brewing’s Sui Generis. When that reality hit so close to home in my acquaintance’s basement, though, I felt compelled to do what any good beer journalist should: shame him publicly on my blog.

Don’t worry ruffian, I won’t use your name. I’ll just use you as an example of the crime you’re committing against the craft beer industry. What you’re doing is more than just illegal, it’s immoral. The rarity of New Glarus beers make them a delicacy to be savored, not a means by which to make a buck. Trade those bottles, sure, but don’t subject them to the black market.

If you’re one of those accomplices who is buying beer on this black market instead of trading for it, you’re not off the hook, either.