In this golden age of American craft brewing, a trip to the corner store can yield a selection of tasty brews that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. But while there’s plenty of excellent beer around, a Californian wanting to try some Massachusetts-made suds will have a hard time finding them. At the same time, she may have easy access to some choice offerings that folks in the Northeast can’t find.
Enter the Internet. Trading on the Internet harkens back to the early days of eBay, but lately, it’s become a way for beer lovers to get their hands on local drafts not available in their area or discontinued formulations they’re eager to try. There are a number of beer-swapping bulletin boards online where you can find your sudsy soul mate: BeerAdvocate, RealBeer.com, and reddit, among others, all host active swap pages.
Ready to swap? Here are some useful tips:
These are dedicated communities. Jumping in unschooled is frowned upon, like a newbie blathering about the Force on a Star Trek discussion board. Take a few weeks to learn the lingo and customs before proposing your first trade.
Swaps are generally made for sought-after beers of equal value, but some beers get a markup for rarity; it’s all subjective. You won’t find takers for commonly available labels, so be sure you’ve got some rock stars in stock.
You’re shipping glass, yo. You can find custom containers at U-Haul and other locations that will keep your bottles intact.
Sites often keep lists of unsavory or ill-organized traders, so double- and triple-check.
Know the lingo
“FT” means For Trade, what you’ve got to offer; “ISO” is In Search Of, what you’re looking for and can’t get in your neighborhood; Many labels have their own abbreviations as well: NG = New Glarus, RR = Russian River, and so on (far too many to list).
Beer trading is a fun and rarefied pursuit, a subculture of a subculture. That said, it’s also not strictly legal in some situations; as of this writing U.S. federal law forbids sending alcohol through the U.S. post office. Shippers such as UPS and FedEx may ship beer and wine at their discretion, but a patchwork of state and local laws makes pickup or delivery illegal in certain locales. Be sure to check out your state and local laws if you want to jump in.Written by Will Fertman