Alpine Beer Co Fights Back Against eBay Sales UPDATE

28 February 2012

imageI’ve expressed my frustration at seeing Troegs Nugget Nectar, Bells Hopslam and quite a few others appearing on eBay.  As a lover of great fresh beer, I can only imagine how frustrating it is for a brewer to have heir beer, their name and their reputation for sale by a complete stranger not even in the business of distributing beer.  It’s equally frustrating to see that many times the beer is actually taken away from locals by someone selling on eBay.

Now comes word from Alpine Beer Co that they are fighting back against eBay sales of growlers & bottles of their Exponential Hoppiness Triple IPA.  Unfortunately it may mean the end of bottle & growler sales…this from Pat Mcillhenney (owner & brewmaster) in their newsletter:

You have seen your very last growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” ever to be dispensed.

http://www.ebay.com/csc/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=exponential+hoppiness&LH_Complete=1&rt=nc

Since I previously stated if I ever saw a growler of “Exponential Hoppiness” for sale on ebay there would never be another growler sold again. Don’t blame me, but you can see who to blame on the above link. As for bottles of “Expo” on ebay, I’m seriously considering never bottling it again. This is not just a personal issue, it’s illegal. The fact that people drove down from LA to make a quick buck and denying the locals the chance to buy some is also just plain wrong.

So, you can see the timing of the releases listed above. The first two beers were released last week, the next comes out today and the last one comes out tomorrow. That is the most advanced notice you ever receive. Our little operation is focused on supplying the local market with fine beer. If you live in the area you can now get first crack at our releases before they can drive in from points unknown. That’s the best I can do for you, my loyal locals.

Update 4/8/2012:  Alpine released an “official” statement:

Much has been made of the decision to do away with filling growlers with “Exponential Hoppiness.” Many people have weighed in on the subject, many who have no involvement and never will feel the decision was rash, rude and unprofessional. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many factors were involved in the decision and considerable time was spent deciding on a course of action. You see, the overriding factor involved in the decision was the illegality of reselling alcohol without a license and the fact I was aware of the illegal practice.

There is nothing new about “Black Market” sales of illegal, limited, rare or banned products in an underground setting. The laws of supply and demand dictate the lucrative venture one may gain from just the right buy and sell opportunity of the right product, whether legal or illegal. Ethics have little to no consideration when making the choice to sell illegally, profit is.

We, as an alcohol seller, have reams of paperwork to file just to see if we qualify to sell alcohol. We were investigated, fingerprinted and had to post a significant bond in order to fulfill the requirements of getting a license. We pay taxes. We pay sales tax and excise tax on all the beer we make and sell. Both the state and federal government hold their hands out for the tax we collect and pay all for the privilege of making and selling beer. So, when someone circumvents the procedure to sell alcohol legally we all should have a problem with their actions. Let’s assume the reason for so much scrutiny is because society wants reputable, honest and trustworthy people to deal in the alcohol industry. We don’t know the reputation of an internet seller.

Selling Alpine Beer on eBay is nothing new and we periodically enter their site to report illegal alcohol sales. Since eBay doesn’t police their site and allows people to list alcohol as easily as entering a thermos for sale, we are forced to view their site for illegal sales. I had stated previously that if I ever found out that growlers of Exponential Hoppiness were being sold on eBay I’d discontinue the growler sales. Someone was nice enough to forward a link to a list of Exponential Hoppiness bottles and a growler for sale to which my only response is to honor my word.

Growlers are for people that live close enough that they can return for refills conveniently and not have to recycle the glass from a six pack. People that ship growler out of the area are totally missing the point of a growler and the whole recycling issue. I can’t support the practice of growler sales for out of area people, period.

We have had to place limits on the amount of bottles people are allowed to purchase. Retail store owner have made a practice of buying as many bottles as we’ll sell them only to return to their store and resell them, another illegal practice. As a result, we have had to limit bottle sales to no more than 4 of any one brand just to discourage the retail store owner from making illegal choices.

We are legally allowed to operate our brewery; our licenses are up to date. But, if we know of an illegal practice that results from our product and don’t take action to mitigate the situation, we become just as guilty as the perpetrator. Action of some sort was warranted because I was aware of the illegal activity. Without taking action I become a law violator by virtue of complicity.

The local reaction has been very supportive. Thank you! The people from the greater Los Angeles area that got offended at my reference to someone driving down just to make a quick buck can chill out. I know specifically of one person getting two friends to act as buyers just so he could increase his purchase quantity, for resale, and he was from LA. Sure there were people from San Diego doing the same thing and they are just as guilty of the illegal offense. Shame on them as well.

In conclusion, Alpine Beer Company is small and has always intended our market to be local. We can’t make more beer, we’ve been making beer at capacity for 8 years now and can’t make any more. To expect our beer to be available outside of San Diego County is unrealistic. We do, occasionally have enough beer to send north, but not very often. Growlers are meant for local use only. Don’t buy a growler for a friend that lives out of the area, you are totally missing the point of what growlers are all about. And, my word is my oath. When I tell you something I expect you to believe it because I’m honest. I was a fireman for a long time and lived by my honesty and trustworthiness and can’t change.

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