It's happening again, and to some extent I understand, but other times I sort of just shake my head.
I was out on my usual beer run in DC and in one of my go to stores which once in awhile gets some obscure beers. My eyes scanned the shelf selection, recognizing much of the same beer I had seen on the previous visits not too long ago. Yeah nothing new...
I did remind myself to either ask the proprietor if something new came in, or if something might be coming, but more importantly I always tell myself to look again in the same spot. I often miss items on shelves, and have found new ones by scanning them again with razor like precision. My eye drifted to an empty corner of the book shelf where some Surly use to sit in the past, and some Dark Horse plead the 5th still remained. There were some cans there that practically blended into the wood work, but there were many of them and in a sparse black design almost seemed to be invisible. I did realize this was a new product on the shelf, but then looking closely it hit me what exactly I was looking at, and I had to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
Several cans of Heady Topper from a brewery in Vermont called The Alchemist, were on the shelf, a very highly desired beer. From their website the beer is described as a "Double IPA that will put hair on your chest". As far as I know, the beer has a limited distribution range and having it show up here seemed a complete fluke. Big IPAs seem to be the rage with many beer fans, and lots of people want to have this beer and many beer related sites rate it very highly. In short, the beer is highly coveted, but has limited distribution.
I went and reviewed the beer, and have to admit it is really enjoyable. This seemed like some sort of karmatic retribution for myself. A good friend of mine had recently moved away from the area and took a job in Vermont. Both of us being big beer fans, he sent me emails about his trips to Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, in a way taunting me. Suddenly it seemed like the beer gods felt sorry for me and decided to drop a bunch of Heady in my backyard. The irony wasn't lost on me.
However, it occurred to me that highly coveted, obscure, and great tasting beer might have a price to pay. A recent Youtube comment from "zodiak3000" brought it to my attention that the beer was going for crazy prices on Ebay. This was sounding all too familiar.
Having just went through the Founders CBS madness, I plugged in Heady Topper in the Ebay search bar. The first listing came up, four cans... 60 dollars. Wow, I sat there stunned. Other listings showed single cans going for 10-12 dollars, with many days still left in auction for the price to go up. When I mentioned to a family member back in Canada that I paid 7 dollars for a can of this beer, they asked me if I was crazy. Suddenly looking at Ebay I don't feel so bad, but more importantly, a basic beer in a bar in DC goes for that amount, usually higher (and you wont get 16oz of it either which is the size of the can). Telling the prices to others what they were going for on Ebay, a good friend just simply said, "there's one born every minute."
Suddenly this is where I feel torn, but I also feel this is where the great divide really happens among consumers when it comes to beer. Nobody bats an eye, or gets wildly upset, seeing people buy bottles of wine for forty dollars, but someone purchases a can of beer for over 4 dollars, they need their head examined. There was also a great article recently in the Washington City Paper that asked why is craft beer so expensive in Washington?, and it hints of the economic reality of what people will pay for certain things, compared to elsewhere, and how this relates to "craft" beer. It's a great article, you should check it out. It certainly put things into perspective when I took a three and a half hour drive North to Selin's Grove PA to check out the tavern and Selin's Grove Brewpub/Brewery, and have phenomenal craft beer for 3.50 - 4 dollars a glass.
This is where I feel torn. One part of me wants this drink to be taken seriously, the other part doesn't want it to be outrageously expensive and wants it to be accessible to all. But one thing is all too common, it's just economics 101.
Hopefully, it just doesn't get too far out of reach for myself, to enjoy good drink.
Here's my review and thoughts on Heady Topper - The Alchemist, Enjoy!