Is craft beer a commodity priced to suit market demand? Or does it somehow transcend commodity status when it becomes a limited-edition release event, akin to a concert or sports playoff ticket?
Some local beer fans fall into the second camp when it comes to the price of the coveted, limited-edition Surly Darkness at retailers. Surdyk Liquor‘s decision to price bottles at $36.99 (reportedly close to twice the price of some competing retailers) unleashed a small torrent of annoyed tweets.
The Surly Brewing Company commented yesterday, tweeting: “Had to stop @surdyksliquor to double-check. Really disappointed, I’ll tweet later when I’m not so hot.” (We contacted Surly for comment, and haven’t yet heard back from them.)
UPDATE 11/04/11: Surly declined to comment directly to The Heavy Table; however, the brewery released a statement this morning via their Facebook page.
And the consumer group Minnesota Beer Activists reported “sticker shock” and speculated in a self-admittedly conspiratorial way about political reasons for the high price. “[Was Surdyk’s] intentionally trying to create a backlash around the pricing of Surly’s products?” the group’s site asked.
Reached by telephone, Surdyk’s owner Jim Surdyk said that his store had sold out of Darkness, evidence that his pricing was fair, as per market demand. “Surly sold it to me, right? I can sell it for whatever I want to,” Surdyk said. “The bottles were selling on eBay for $75. To each their own.”
Surdyk made the additional point that a bottle of Darkness can go through any number of markups: from the brewery to the consumer (customers bought Darkness for $18 a bottle on Darkness Day), from the retailer to the consumer (the $37 bottle at Surdyk’s) and from the customer to the collector (the $54.99 bottle we found on eBay, for example).
And that brings us back to the commodity question. At what point, if any, does marking up a limited-release beer become equivalent to scalping a ticket? And, for that matter: Is there actually anything wrong with scalping a ticket?