I opportunistically offered up my address to anyone who wanted to send me beer to review about a month ago, and while I had no takers (which is fine), Kevin over at the KEVBREWS blog proposed that we do a little beer tradin’, something I’d never embarked upon nor seriously considered. I had heard about how expensive the shipping was, but then after doing the math, it only equated to an appx $2.50 surcharge on each beer sent. That compared very favorably to the price that I’ll pay at a bar (with tip) for a pint of good ale – roughly $5. So what the hell? We decided to trade.
Kevin happens to live in Ohio, and thus has access to a number of brewers I often read about but never get to try: THREE FLOYDS, BELL’S, FOUNDERS, DOGFISH HEAD and others. Me, I live on the west coast, and we’ve got a number of brewers Kevin’s beer salivating for (BEAR REPUBLIC, LOST COAST, DESCHUTES, FIRESTONE WALKER, etc.). We compared wants, offered suggestions, went shopping, and made it happen. A few things I learned:
1. Never, never ship via the postal service. FedEx and UPS only. You’ll rot in jail for years otherwise.
2. Don’t tell them you’re shipping beer. It’s glassware. (play the eBay card).
3. Wrap extremely well – bubble wrap, soft packing materials, etc.
4. Clear the list of what you’re sending and receiving first. You don’t want to pay to receive something you can get at the Safeway down the street.
I’ve now got 7 incredible-sounding beers from the upper Midwest and east coast – well 6, because I enjoyed BELL’S HOPSLAM last night (more on that another time). I also noticed recently that Beer Advocate allow you, once logged in, to click on “Got” or “Want” for every beer on their site, and build a list of trades that way. Dorky? Of course it is. But such is the way of the beer outlaw in 2007, where interstate shipping is still highly regulated and/or impossible, and where tiny, regional beers often only get distributed at the breweries themselves or within a 20 mile radius. Now that I’ve done this once, it’s not hard to imagine future trades. That rogue, clued-in, outlaw-ish feeling actually makes it that much more interesting, much like trading punk rock 45s did for me in the 1980s.