FOR CRAFT beer drinkers, there can be an insatiable desire to find and consume new brews. Once the local store shelves and taps have been exhausted, the next options are to track down brand new releases as they ship, search out limited release and seasonal offerings, or obtain beer from outside the local distribution area.
Beer vacations are a lot of fun, but it’s not always practical to plan an out-of-state jaunt based solely on bottles that you might be able to find on a whim. If you need a fix of fresh beer labels in your life, beer trading is your answer. Thanks to modern technology, getting bottles from around the world is easier than ever.
The Beer Exchange (beerexchange.io) is a website dedicated to making it simple for people to find and trade bottles of beer. Yes, there is a niche website for everything.
The concepts were laid in early beer trading message boards, and The Beer Exchange updated the process in a social networking framework. With old-school forum-based trading, a website member would post their “In Search Of” (ISO) list and their “For Trade” (FT) list and hope that someone would happen upon the posting and initiate a trade matching those terms.
The Beer Exchange keeps that same methodology but expands upon it to include each trader’s profile page with social media links, photo and bio alongside their lists. The website’s software will then automatically match users based on those ISO and FT beers to find the perfect partner.
The real beauty of The Beer Exchange is its system for providing feedback on every trade. Each trading partner rates the other on specific aspects like proper packaging, timely shipping, level of communication and accuracy of the listing. A star-rating system and “total trades” count shows you at-a-glance which members have a good reputation and experience in the hobby.
Beer trading is often the only way to find rare items like brewery-only releases, specialty growlers or cellar-aged bottles. Most traders rely on a dollar-for-dollar system of determining which bottles to send.
However, when rarities are in the mix, the traders have to come to a mutual agreement and negotiate perceived value in addition to original purchase price. As long as both are comfortable with what they are giving up and receiving, it’s deemed a fair trade.
Alongside those negotiated beers, traders typically throw in “extras.” These bonus bottles are a form of positive beer karma and are typically from regional breweries or personal favorites. Websites like Seek A Brew (seekabrew.com) provide an outline of brewery distribution for every state. That way, you can ensure the extra you’re providing isn’t a local shelf-warmer for your partner.
Some traders even throw in brewery paraphernalia like branded glassware, coasters and openers. While extras are never guaranteed, they make for a fun surprise when opening a box from hundreds of miles away.
Of course, legally shipping beer across state lines is a whole other matter.
The Beer Exchange just released its first report on the top five breweries most in demand. Number one is Indiana brewery Three Floyds. It is followed by California’s Russian River and The Bruery, Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Goose Island and Florida’s Cigar City.
Georgians who want to try beers from top-rated Three Floyds, like the killer pale ale Zombie Dust or boozy stout Dark Lord, can either get in the car and drive or arrange a trade. The same goes for Russian River’s Pliny the Elder IPA or Beatification wild ale, both of which have a perfect 100 score on BeerAdvocate.
Beers from Goose Island, The Bruery and Cigar City are available in Georgia, but the individual beers heating up ISO lists aren’t the ones that make it to our shelves. The coveted beers aren’t available here due to alcohol-by-volume exceeding state laws (Bourbon County Brand Stout), a lottery-based release schedule (Black Tuesday) or a brewery-only offering (Hunahpu’s).
If you want to get rare beer like that, you’ll simply have to trade. Thank goodness for The Beer Exchange, making beer-geek lives better since 2014.
Read our three-part series on beer trading at brewdrinkrun.com/tag/trading