Here’s a question that gets quite a passionate response from both sides of the fence: Is there anything wrong with auctioning beer on sites such as eBay? Both arguments are pretty compelling, especially one I posted not too long ago from Boston Beer founder Jim Koch. Still, where there is rarity, there’s also a secondary market. That’s just the way things work, and despite a fairly audible reluctance to it on sites like Beer Advocate (on which, many users help fulfill rare beer needs through trade), there are plenty of people putting up Lost Abbey, Bruery and Dogfish vintages on auction sites without qualms. Although I’ve browsed eBay beer auctions on occasion for the fun of looking at price tags, I only recently became aware of Craft Beer Auctions, a web site that culls beer-related items on eBay for easy browsing, and gets a small commission if a sale goes through (there you’ll find rare vintages, beer books, beer memorabilia, glassware and the like). Right now there’s the Stone Vertical Epic series from ’02 through ’10 bidding at $1,164.99.
It’s no secret that auctions are embedded deep within the wine economy. People invest in wine, and there’s an established market if you ever need to liquidate your collection (or in the case of Bernie Madoff, if the government decides to auction your estimated $60,000 cellar). I’m sure, at least at some point in time, wine drinkers debated the issue, but there’s no doubt wine auctioning is a legitimized, uncontested part of the vino culture.
So, what makes beer different? Why do we, for the most part, feel adverse to reselling beer we’ve purchased? Why do some think of greed when they see beer auctions, but have no trouble with a case of merlot being auctioned by Christie’s? Perhaps it’s the difference between selling your Dark Lord the day after its release for a quick profit, as opposed to auctioning a few bottles you’ve carefully cellared for a number of years. Is it because there’s no legitimate auction house with trained staff that can verify what’s in the bottle? You tell me.