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Playing the Secondary Beer Market

When it comes to rare or sought-after beers, some customers enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of opening and tasting the beer. Others seek get these treasures at the retail price, then resell them on the secondary market for profit.

John Holl Aug 15, 2019 - 9 min read

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Cory King, the founder and brewer at Side Project Brewing in St. Louis, Missouri, isn’t shy about the fact that he regularly checks on his beers’ ratings on Untappd. Like other brewers, he wants to monitor customer reaction, make sure that retail locations are serving beers properly, and make sure various beers are still pouring and presenting as they should.

Scrolling through the site can be an exercise in humility: gratifying when the reviews are kind, frustrating when they are not. So something struck King as odd a few months ago when he was looking at reviews of O.W.K., his 15% ABV imperial stout that is a blend of several recipes aged for 15 months in 15-year-old Willet Family Estate bourbon barrels and finally rested on Ugandan vanilla beans before bottling. The suggested retail price is $50 per bottle.

The reviews for 2018 O.W.K. are overwhelming positive. As of press time, it had a 4.94 (out of 5) rating, and the comments largely center on the excitement, love of the vanilla character, or good times had at a bottle share where it was opened. But the review that stood out for King was a 4.75 rating, where the user praised the beer but knocked it for the price.

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John Holl is the author of Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint, and has worked for both Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® and All About Beer Magazine.