As the craft beer movement has exploded in popularity over the past two decades, so too has the culture around the beverage. A thriving secondary market has emerged from the (bourbon barrel) woodwork, bringing with it the great opportunity to try different brews from around the world. With offerings often being regional, limited to party releases, or just too hard to find, the beer trade scene has gained momentum, allowing enthusiasts the opportunity to try these brewery specialties. This unofficial guide will help you understand everything you need to know about beer trading.
If you find yourself with a handful of rare beers and are looking to get your hands on more then joining a beer trade community might be for you!
Pay Attention to your Dates!
Depending on what you are trading, a bottle date can be incredibly important. Often times traders are seeking vertical releases, allowing the drinker to better understand how a beer will age over time. Dates are also very important for IPAs. Hop aroma is one of the first things to fade in beer. It is ill-advised to trade an IPA over three months old, and that is definitely still pushing it. Not sure of the date and how it would affect your beer? Ask your local brewer!
Avoid “Shelf Turds”
There is nothing more infuriating than trading something special for a bit of the ordinary. Even if the beer you are trading is something delicious, if it can be found at every other Kroger and Whole Foods, it is not worth trading. Delirium Tremens, Stone Enjoy By, and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot all come to mind. Although they may be great beers – you have to imagine that it is not as exciting to receive something you can find at most liquor stores.
Try to Keep Money out of it
One of the greatest aspects of a beer trade is the environment and culture surrounding the sacred tradition. It is a coming together of people who love the beverage and want to celebrate with others of a similar mindset. You want to share rare beers and open yourself to a new beer tasting. If you are out to make a bunch of money in the beer game, here is a link to InBev’s career page.
Very often, the beers most worth trading will be cellar worthy, meaning they can last several years if stored correctly. While bars and breweries are developing innovative growler (and howler and meowler) technology, it just doesn’t keep your favorite beverage fresh like a bottle or a can.
Storage is Important!
Keeping a cool cellar can be the difference between delightful imbibement and a drain pour. Allowing your beer to rest upright at 55 degrees F will go a long way in preventing the development of off flavors. Alpha acids (flavor and smell delivery system from hops) degrade much more quickly at warmer temperatures as well. Keeping a good cellar will make you very popular among the beer trading community.
Know the Lingo
The beer trade scene is rife with acronyms, one look at a beer trading website is enough to scare off many prospective traders. A more exhaustive list is available here, but the following are terms used constantly and buyers should be very much aware of what they mean.
FT: For Trade – What the seller has to offer.
ISO: In Search Of – What the seller is looking for.
BA: Barrel Aged – Beer has spent time in oak. Often in whiskey or bourbon barrels.
$4$: Dollar For Dollar – Looking for a trade of equal dollar value.
Whale: Rare beer.
Shelf Turd: Common beer.
Throw in Extras
If you are going to a beer trading party, bring something fun for everyone to taste. If you have extras of what you are trading, this can be a great way to do some easy marketing. This could mean better trades and better beer in your cellar. If you are trading online, go ahead and throw an extra bottle of a LOCAL shelf turd into the mix. Just because Two Hearted is available everywhere in Michigan does not mean it is easy to get in Arizona. This will help fill out your shipment to prevent breakage, as well as give you great karma for future trades.
Learn About the Community
Some of my best trades have come from the bartender at my local craft beer bar. Others have been from people I have met online through different beer trading sites (https://www.reddit.com/r/beertrade/ is a great place to start). If you get out and talk about trading, you will find you get better trades more often and enjoy the experience more as well.
What are People Looking For?
These are just some of the rare beers that we have found people in heavily search of. If you are able to get your hand on a couple of these then you are in a great place to start your first beer trade.
Smells like Bean Spirit – Mikerphone Brewing
Darklord – 3 Floyds
Wild Sour Ale – New Glarus
CBS – Founders Brewing Company
Parabola – Firestone Walker
Bourbon County – Goose Island
The Abyss – Deschutes
Blacknote – Bells
Westvleteren 12 – Brouwerij Westvleteren
Weekend Series – The Bruery
Kate the Great – Portsmouth Brewery
Stick to this guide and soon a whole new world of fantastic brews will be available for you. Keep your eyes up as you wander through your local beer aisle, you never know what whales you might stumble upon. Hoppy Hunting!