Beer trading has been around for a while, with meeting in parking lots and driveway to exchange and share exotic bottles. Beer trading was new to me when I first learned about it several years ago. The growth of craft beer and the internet have helped connect craft beer enthusiasts across the USA and the world. Some beers are exchanged as part of an even trade – one 12oz/16oz of Beer A for another 12oz/16oz of Beer B. I have completed just a few transactions myself.
There is a local brewery, Troon Brewing, that makes some very sought after beers. I was able to trade a 32oz “crowler” of Troon for ales from upstate New York that are too far away for me to drive to try. It was fun and something I initially enjoyed about the local beer community, many of whom lived in my town or nearby towns. I got used to meeting familiar faces at the brewery.
However, in recent year, getting beer from my local brewery became more challenging. The brewery is relatively small (two-barrel system) and word spread about the quality of the beer. The lines grew longer, I got to spend less time talking with the brewers, and many of the faces in the queue were from other states (Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania) and few were regulars. Many were “speculators” and hoarders. Hoarders ask their friends to purchase beer on their behalf, allowing them to get around per-person limits and accumulate a lot of beer while also further limiting access to the beer. I started to notice that some traders were operating on the perceived evaluation of the beer and set out to “win trades” instead of merely trading beers. It’s a dark aspect of the beer trading community that has left a sour (beer pun intended) taste in my mouth.
The global pandemic forced many of the New Jersey brewers to move sales online for curbside pickup or limited area delivery. Online sales have democratised access across the state but have had the unintended consequence that local residents like myself, the people who supported those breweries when they first opened their doors, find it very challenging to obtain beer from our local breweries. Whereas before COVID, I could drive over to Troon when a released was announced and purchase a crowler or two, online inventory sells out in less than five minutes. I have lost my community connection to the brewery.
Some other local breweries, like Flounder Brewing Co., are finding ways to sell online while continuing to foster a sense of community. Flounder has hosted three socially distanced and size limited beer gardens that have been an excellent way for us to feel connected. Flounder Brewing started as a side project for Jeremy “Flounder” Lees. I remember when they brewed intermittently, and you had to be on a mailing list to find out when what and how to obtain a growler fill of beer. We would grab our growler and drive to the garage style operation at Hillsborough Business Park. But by the Spring, fingers crossed, they will open their new “open indoor” tasting room at the renovated historic barn on Carriage Farm on Clerico Lane in Hillsborough.
Submitted for the 100DaysToOffload project.