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Craft beer startup exploits liquor law loophole


If there’s one thing everyone loves about craft beer, it’s that there’s a lot of it. But the truth is, there are simply too many options and not enough time. Worse, some limited-distribution beers have attracted such a cult following that they’re virtually impossible to try—you know, like Heady Topper or Pliny the Elder.

Some beers have attracted such a cult following that they’re virtually impossible to try.

America’s antiquated three-tier distribution system makes everything more difficult, since it’s impossible to purchase beer directly from brewers. It’s why fanatical beer nerds either have to make pilgrimages to sought-after breweries or ask a local to ship particularly hard-to-find beer. A whole subculture has even sprung up around beer trading.

Now, a new service called Barrel Backers is trying to sidestep both our country’s frustrating alcohol laws and these cumbersome, intensely competitive DIY beer communities. To do so, it essentially serves as a distributor and treats its customers as retailers.

Barrel Backers (Moody Tongue)

Pre-ordering a brew with Barrel Backers

In order to adhere to distribution laws, Barrel Backers has to ship in bulk. Customers pre-order a “pack,” which is usually three to eight bottles or cans of a given beer. Once the service receives enough pre-orders, it ships out the brews and charges the users who pre-ordered. If a featured beer doesn’t get enough pre-orders, your card won’t be charged.

Users can also suggest which beers should be added, and vote on submissions to determine which ones will be offered next.

Of course, you need to be a very special kind of beer geek to get excited about paying $6 to $20 for a single bottle of beer, let alone ponying up for a “pack” of them. But if you are, you might want to think about signing up. Who knows? Maybe you’ll finally get to taste some of that Pliny everyone keeps talking about.



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