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Chasing the Elusive Rare Craft Beer

on 25/06/12 at 8:07 pm


I want to address something today that has always been an issue in the craft beer community and is only going to become bigger as more people come into the fold: rare beers and trying to acquire them.

I got to have a conversation with a representative from a major craft brewer this week, and as we talked the subject of limited run, highly sought-after beers came up. Now, I try not to consider myself “old” by any stretch, but I’ve been doing this for a while, and I mentioned the difference between when I started and now as far as getting a hold of limited production beers goes. This led to an informative and reasoned discussion of the pressures facing retailers, bars, and breweries alike. What I gained from that conversation and wish to pass along is a greater appreciation for the limits of craft beer output and the limits of a given institution’s “buying power.”

I’ve read a great deal online recently about who is or isn’t getting ‘enough’ of one special release or another, and read some pretty harsh judgments of stores and buyers who I respect and know for a fact are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. What needs to be kept in mind is this: there are so many hands in the pot that weren’t there even two or three years ago that it means something if someone gets any of a special release at all. As an example: before I came to Arrowine I was buying beer for another shop in the area. When the Stone brewery put their 11th Anniversary Ale out, I got dozens of cases and sold them all within a couple of weeks. Last year, when the 15th Anniversary came out and I was at Arrowine, all of my contacts and expertise amounted to three cases for our shelf. That reflects on nothing but the exponential increase in attention for craft beer in the mainstream.