Last fall, we began releasing a series of new beers at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. A curious thing happened, they started appearing on Ebay only moments it seemed after they went on sale at the brewery. I started researching the legality of sales of beer and wine on Ebay to better understand these auctions. What I found was a bunch of legalese that was required for each auction that essentially devalued the liquid we worked so hard to place in the bottle. With this in mind, I drafted a letter to Ebay. I sent the letter to my friends at Beer Advocate.com and Jason and Todd printed it in the February edition of their magazine. As many of you blog readers out there are not subscribers to this magazine, they have graciously agreed to let me post it here. What follows is the copy from the article. It is food for thought
By Tomme Arthur
As printed in BeerAdvocate magazine Volume II Issue I.
My Dearest eBay,
Lately, it has come to my attention that many of our limited seasonal and special release barrel-aged beers have been popping up for resale on your eBay mere hours after they were purchased. My friends tell me I should be ecstatic that our Lost Abbey and Port Brewing beers have developed this status. “Enjoy the ride,” they say.
It’s just that there are so many new fully unopened bottles of Lost Abbey beer(s) being sold on your site that I am worried they’ll soon lose their original still-in-the-box Star Wars X-Wing Fighter-like collectible status. Do you know how bad that would SUCK? But mostly, I am writing to let you know that I take umbrage with the language of your alcohol auctions and the incredibly ridiculous conditions you apply to the (re)sale of these bottles on your site.
I particularly LOVE the first condition that must accompany each auction of “Collectible” bottles of beer on eBay. It’s a strong opening, one that truly sets the tone, don’t you think? “The value of the item is in the collectible container, not its contents*.” This strikes me as an absolute joke. But then again, so do collectible action figures.
True beer advocates recognize beer is an incredibly complex beverage. It is not some incidental liquid banished like a genie into a bottle for eternity. And as long as we’re being perfectly honest, I thought I would share that we at Port Brewing even chose to cork-finish our bottles, ensuring the libations we skillfully produce each day can be consumed at a moments notice anywhere in the world. HOW COOL IS THAT? I KNOW! I feel the same way about it.
As much as I LOVE the first condition, No.2 just tickles my inner Elmo. “The container has not been opened and any incidental contents are not intended for consumption …” This has to be the stupidest thing I have read since I passed a head shop where I saw the sign “These Incredibly Ornate and Skillfully Hand Blown Glass Pipes are intended solely for the Legal Smoking of Tobacco Products …” Clearly you, like everyone else in California, are suffering from chronic back pain and are filling the pipe with something a wee bit more “fragrant.”
I would be remiss if I neglected to speak of No.3. “The item is not available at any retail outlet, and the container has a value that substantially exceeds the current retail price of the alcohol in the container.”
But here is where I get confused. You see, the bottles being auctioned today were available at my brewery with liquid in them! I guess incidental liquid in eBay land is more valuable? CRAP! I hadn’t considered that when we wrote our business plan. I for one am not looking forward to telling my investors that we’re making incidental liquid. Is it even cool to be an incidental liquid maker? It sounds like a bed-wetting disorder.
I wonder if I even need a permit for this? Hopefully, no one can die from drinking the incidental liquid we bottled. I know beer doesn’t kill, but this whole incidental liquid thing has me at a loss. (Memo to self: Ask our friendly Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau agent about carbonated incidental liquid production. Maybe we don’t have to pay taxes on this stuff?)
I have to run now. I just got a phone call from one of my closest friends who operates a brewery in Santa Rosa. I left a message warning him about the dangers of incidental liquids and how he was preparing to deal with it in 2008. He wasn’t worried. Told me it was an election year. He also reminded me that as far as the government is concerned, my partners and I own a brewery. “Indeed,” I told him. “We’re both in the business of producing a legal alcoholic beverage. We have the permits and pay the taxes to prove it.”
He suggested I ought to convince you the liquids inside our bottles are not incidental contents and they most definitely ARE intended for consumption today or 20 years from now. That is the reason for this letter. And since we’re being so open with each other, I thought I would remind you that with all of our forthcoming specialty releases, we intend to place intentionally amazing contents in these bottles. So, from here on, I respectfully request you note the following simple statement: ALL bottles of Port Brewing or Lost Abbey beers ARE intended for consumption—regardless of the age of the beer.
Thanks for listening. I knew it wouldn’t take much for you to see things from my perspective. The last thing the world needs now is an incidental liquid disaster. I’m so glad we got a chance to speak. I feel so much better.
Director of Brewery Operations
Owner and Brewer
Incidental Liquid and Incredibly Collectible Brewing Company
aka Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey