An Introduction to Beer Trading
Quite often in this blog, I write about new beers coming out around the country. Last month, I wrote about Cascade’s Sour Blueberry and Russian River’s Beatification. Coming up in April is Three Floyd’s Dark Lord and Ithaca’s LeBleu. Unfortunately, you can’t just walk to your local liquor store and pick up a bottle. Many of these beers will only be sold at the brewery or will see very limited distribution. What’s a beer nerd to do? Relax, grab a beer and let me introduce you to the world of Beer Trading.
Beer trading is a great way to track down limited release beers like the ones mentioned above or maybe track down old favorites that don’t distribute to Colorado. My first trade was nearly 5 years ago when I traded for bottles of New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart. Basically, I had tried these beers at the Great American Beer Festival and wanted some bottles for my fridge.
If you’ve ever been to GABF, you’re probably familiar with New Glarus and their never-ending line of 50+ people all waiting patiently for a 2 oz. pour of beer. They have a line at their table from the time the doors open on Thursday evening until the beer stops flowing late on Saturday night. And for good reason, they make some amazing beers and their fruit beers in particular are highly respected and sought after. Other than 3 days during GABF, New Glarus beers don’t make it to Colorado. In fact, New Glarus doesn’t distribute outside their home state of Wisconsin. No distribution to Colorado is bad news for us, but the good news is that New Glarus is really easy to find in Wisconsin.
So, we either need to make a road trip up to visit those cheese heads (approx. 30 hours round trip from Denver) or we can swap a few e-mails with a Wisconsin local and set up a trade. I’m going to be munchin’ on marshmallow peeps and hiding easter eggs for the kids this weekend, so I can’t make a road trip anytime soon, but I can probably spend a few minutes in front of the computer and arrange a beer trade.
One of our readers, we’ll just call him “Tony”, (mainly because that’s his name) has volunteered to let me walk him through a beer trade and share with you his experiences along the way. One of the first things I asked Tony was whether or not he had an account on beeradvocate.com. If you’re not familiar with beeradvocate, it’s a website where you can share reviews and learn about beer, but they have an area with forums that allow beer geeks to interact with each other. One of the forums is set up specifically for trading.
Turns out, Tony already has a beeradvocate.com account. If you don’t have one, they’re free and will give you access to the forums. The trading forum is called “ISO:FT”. “ISO”, means “In Search Of” and “FT”, means “For Trade”. So our post will look something along the lines of ISO: New Glarus, FT: Colorado Locals. Simple and to the point.
Head’s up, if you’re going to post on beeradvocate.com, read the rules first. The Bros. that run the site can be a little strict at times, but they mean well. Just make sure you don’t offer anything other than beer for beer trades. No trading your wife for beer, tickets for beer, pet goldfish for beer and definitely don’t offer to buy or sell any beer. It’s a no-no and will only get your post deleted.
There are other sites out there, but I think Beeradvocate has a pretty wide audience and I’ve been using it for nearly 6 years. I’ve met a lot of great people through the site, have made some good friendships and have a regular network of people around the country that I trade with, so I’m a little partial to it. Like I said, there are other sites that will allow you to meet other beer traders, but Beeradvocate is the one I prefer.
So we want New Glarus, specifically Belgian Red, maybe Raspberry Tart and Tony mentioned he also wanted to track down some Spotted Cow, which is their Cream Ale. These are fairly easy to find in Wisconsin and wouldn’t be hard for a local to pick up. In return, we’re going to offer beers that are local to us here in Colorado.
In simple trades like this, I will typically offer some of my favorite locals that don’t get distributed very far. For me, I’m leaning towards Odell, Dry Dock, Funkwerks and Crooked Stave. These are good breweries, making good beers that are fairly easy for me to find and will be enjoyed by the recipient. It wouldn’t make sense to offer beers from breweries like Avery, New Belgium and Great Divide, mainly because they have a huge distribution footprint. The vast majority of their lineup can be found across the U.S. and our recipient is going to want to trade for beers that he can go to a store and buy. There are still small batch releases and brewery exclusives that we can trade, but that’s a little advanced at this point. Let’s keep it simple for now. We can also offer breweries that distribute to Colorado, but might not distribute to Wisconsin. Maybe Russian River or Firestone Walker from California or Deschutes from Oregon.
When trading locals for locals, your best bet is to try to keep it dollar-for-dollar. In other words, if your recipient is spending $25 for your beer, expect to send $25 worth of beer to them.
I think we’re about ready to make our ISO:FT post. Click HERE to check it out. Now we sit back and wait for a response. I’ll keep you updated along the way. Warning, trading can become an addicting habit. In the meantime, enjoy the pic below. Cheers!