PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- As long as "limited release" beers stay in low supply an high demand, craft beer will be swapped or resold.
A few years ago, we put together a story about cellaring, trading and the notion of limited release beer as investment. Beer geeks flipped out, scoffing at the notion that beer was some sort of commodity that had value beyond the taproom or bottle shop. But just last year we heard gripes from Waterbury, Vt., residents about craft beer pilgrims clogging streets to buy finite amounts of The Alchemist brewery's imperial IPA Heady Topper. We read tales about a Vermont woman being accused of illegally selling 120 cans of Heady Topper on Craigslist for $825. They ordinarily sell for $3 a can.
Then there was the near-riot at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Fla., when the brewery ran out of its Hunaphu's Imperial Stout after counterfeit tickets ate into supplies. As the Tampa Tribune noted, $20 bottles of that beer have been resold for as much as $250. Combine that with fairly open beer trading on BeerAdvocate, RateBeer, Google Plus, Reddit and elsewhere and you have a robust secondary market regardless of whether money changes hands.
One point is clear: Selling beer without a license to do so is illegal and will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future. There's just way too much risk for it no to be: taxes, underage sales, liability for drunk driving. Yes, the brewers generally hate it too -- though Alchemist owner Jen Kimmich, after noting that the consumer can get cheated in such exchanges, told The Associated Press that high-priced resale was "a compliment in an odd way" -- but the legal issues should be motivation enough to never take a dollar for a rare beer you're looking to unload.