Price gouging hits cult brews

From Food & Dining
May 18, 2017 - 12:38pm
Some people wait years to officially join the exclusive beer club Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola (Santa Cruz County). Like other Bay Area cult brewers — Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa and the Rare Barrel in Berkeley — Sante Adairius beers are winding up on the illegal secondary market, sometimes listed for obscenely high prices. A small percentage of these breweries produce what have been given the Melvillian moniker “white whales” — sought-after limited releases that fetch high profits on secondary markets. Though it’s hard to quantify whether such illegal resells are more common now, the problem nevertheless persists, leaving an increasing number of breweries to do their own online police work to abate exorbitant markups of their beers and maintain quality control over their distribution. Sante Adairius’ founders, Adair Paterno and Tim Clifford, have spent substantial time trying to track down the culprits price-gouging their beers online, but due to the anonymous nature of the users on such sites, they have seldom been successful. At Sante Adairius, a fraction of the brewery’s modest output makes up club-release beers, which are supposed to serve as a sort of special privilege for their most devoted customers. “Some locals started coming in regularly, and a year or two into (our business), our bottles started getting popular and there were lines out the door,” recalls Paterno. The point, as Paterno says, was — “and still is” — to create a sense of community around the beer and to share their special brews with their loyal fanbase. [...] the relatively small amount of money the brewery earns from memberships is reinvested into Sante Adairius’ infrastructure. [...] it’s a big problem when people outside the brewery’s payroll are literally banking on the reputation of their hard work — in fact, the offense is grounds for removal from the club. In one case recently, Wallash says, an unauthorized store used their promotional image and advertising copy in an attempt to resell beers without permission. Trade forums for beer lovers abound across social media, with users posting ISO (“in search of”) and FT (“for trade”) listings, hoping to score a limited release from a brewery far away. Because of strict distribution laws in the United States, most breweries aren’t able to legally ship


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