It’s not as bad as people make out, particularly here in Australia.
So what if people hoard or pay over the odds for beer? Other punters shouldn’t be annoyed that people are excited about beer and spending money on it.
Brewers might have a more legitimate concerns relating to a loss of potential profit or how their beer is treated out in the wild but I’ll explore that more below.
A Mental Barrier To Price
A primary topic of discussion surrounding the secondary beer market is the prices that people pay.
In the wine industry it’s less shocking when someone spends hundreds or even thousands on a bottle. Why can’t beer be the same?
The secondary market and inflated prices aren’t going to normalise the concept of high end beer prices in the mainstream but we should be far more accepting of beer as a luxury item.
There’s certainly room for growth in that segment of beer. And it’ll only increase over time. Already, we’re seeing retailers becoming known their collection of high-end, expensive beers.
The desire to obtain such beers might just be for the love of them but it can also be related to the status they convey upon the buyer.
Beer As A Status Symbol
The antipathy towards beer being treated as a status symbol is understandable.
People get riled when someone has enough money that they don’t need to bother with purchasing rare beers on the release date but can instead pick them up on the secondary market for an inflated price.
The same goes for people who buy beers because it reflects how they want to be seen. It’s like people spending a lot of money on wine, whisky, clothes or cars.
However, this clashes with many people’s perceptions of what beer is and the enjoyment they get from it.
There are myriad factors that will contribute to beer being thought of in a similar way to wine or spirits. The secondary market is just one component of beer’s evolving identity and it’s one we shouldn’t fear. It isn’t the biggest factor but nor is it holding it back.The secondary market is just one component of beer's evolving identity and it's one we shouldn't fear. Click To Tweet
The Issue Of Freshness
Apart from the loss in potential (and that word is key) profit that breweries could face, the other major issue is that of quality.
The importance of freshness and of appropriate cellaring and storage is still an educative process among beer drinkers around the world.
There are no positives in people paying exorbitant prices for beer if it’s stored poorly or cellared when it should be enjoyed fresh.
I’d have nothing but sympathy for a brewery that saw their hoppy beer sold for three times the retail price only to pop up on Untappd a year later with a negative review.
There’s an argument to say that once you’ve paid for it you can do what you like with it. But it’s clear that buyers have a degree of responsibility when it comes to the secondary beer market. It’s a responsibility that not everyone is equipped to deal with.
(The same issue applies to the related niche of beer trading, something that I’ll explore separately.)
What Can Be Done?
Regardless of the secondary beer market, breweries can still produce and sell beer and loyal customers can still buy it.
As a consumer, if the secondary market offends you, you don’t have to engage with it. You could quite happily ignore it and buy directly from the brewery.
And if you miss out on a beer that’s eventually sold on for more than retail price, so what? There’ll be other beers.
As for breweries? They can be creative in their beer launches and pricing strategy.
Solutions For Breweries
One way around the issue for breweries is to create cellar door events where the beer can only be bought and consumed on the premises on a specific day. I’ve written before about turning beer launches into events. How great could an event like that be?
Not only does this prevent the beers from getting into the secondary market, it rewards local and loyal customers. It also allows the brewery to provide an experience, adding value for their customers and increasing brand affinity.
There’s talk in the US of breweries raising prices of their sought after beers to match those on the secondary market.
If consumers are willing to pay it, why shouldn’t the people making the beer profit rather than those selling it on?
However, the tension in that is clear. Beer is historically the most democratic of beverages. It’s the drink of the everyman. It has a humble tradition. Profiting from a modern day capitalistic urge for status symbols seems antithetic to what beer has long stood for.Profiting from a modern day capitalistic urge for status symbols seems antithetic to what beer has long stood for. Click To Tweet
This, for me, is the biggest obstacle to beer being thought of as a luxury good in the same way as high end wines and spirits.
But there’s value in variety. We can have both accessible, everyday beers and high-end beers. And that’s a great thing.We can have both accessible, everyday beers and high-end beers. And that's a great thing. Click To Tweet
The Australian Secondary Beer Market
In reality, the secondary beer market in Australia has a long way to go before it gets to the point of that in the US. However, I have no doubts that as the craft beer sector grows and the variety of producers diversifies then breweries could find themselves frustrated.
I think what we’re seeing, given the size of the beer landscape, is Australia bypassing a local secondary market and going straight to an international market.
The focus for Aussie buyers is imports, primarily from the US and Belgium but recently from the UK and Scandinavia too, which brings its own pressures to local producers.
However, for now at least, anything that gets people excited about beer and that breaks down the mental price barrier that beer has faced isn’t such a bad thing.
What are your thoughts on the secondary beer market? Do you buy, sell or trade beers? Leave a comment below and share your experience with other readers.