Store marks up Surly Darkness 100%, Schell’s brewmaster goes nuts

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(Minneapolis, MN) – Surdyk’s Liquor got quite the dose of bad PR on Monday when beer enthusiasts cried foul over the store marking up Surly Darkness ~100%. The beer was available around the $18-$20 range at most stores.

Despite the price (and apparent revolt), the store still sold out, of course. After all, the beer is going for between $40 and $60 a pop in the aftermarket.

The whole thing made August Schell Brewing Brewmaster, Dave Berg, go wild. Here are some of his quotes from Monday while debating the issue on Twitter.

I may need to unfollow everyone talking about it, because frankly I don’t care.

That’s how capitalism works. I find it amusing people who helped create the hype later complain of the price.

If I had to bet, I’d bet they are whining about it on BA this very moment. It’s why we can’t have nice things!

In the USA, when things are priced higher than we are willing to pay, we act like adults and complain about it on the interwebs.

Let me get this straight: you’re boycotting a store for charging what the market will bear.

I’m going to boycott everyone who helped make it so Surdyk’s could charge $40.

I generally do not tell people how to run their businesses.

Stores are in the business to maximize profit, as are breweries.

I don’t see charging higher prices as either poor service or poor products. It’s supply and demand.

The interesting thing is this: if they sold for a cheaper price, how many people would have resold it on ebay or craigslist?

Surly Brewing, on the other hand, said on Monday:

Had to stop @surdyksliquor to double-check. Really disappointed, I’ll tweet later when I’m not so hot.

33 thoughts on “Store marks up Surly Darkness 100%, Schell’s brewmaster goes nuts

  1. Surdyk’s will almost certainly lose the privilege of selling the finely crafted beers that have made Surly one of the five or six most talked about breweries in America.

    As for Mr. Berg, he’s always been a stand-up guy *and* and outspoken voice in the Minnesota brewing community, and I really can’t fault him for speaking his mind. Of course, as with Surdyk’s, Mr. Berg, too might end up feeling the wrath of Surly Nation!

    Did ya really need to ask for all that pain, Dave?

  2. I thought his rant was a riot and the comments were really provocative overall so I couldn’t resist bringing them to light.

    Agreed w/ some & disagreed w/ some.

  3. I will care about what Schell’s Brewmaster has to say about the matter when they can brew a beer that is even in the same league as Surly.

    One of my “gateway beers” was Shell’s Firebrick. It wasn’t bad at all, and different enough from all the other macrobrews to get me thinking. But I’ve since learned and grown as a beer drinker, and the few times per year I would perhaps order a Schell’s … well, let’s just say maybe I’ll be looking for something else in the “not too bad, but probably won’t order again for a LONG time” category.

  4. It’s always amusing to see such a simplistic understand of “how capitalism works.” I wonder if that phrase has ever been trotted out to explain something that really relates to an economic theory. I guess another example of “how capitalism works” might be a business losing customers and suppliers for taking advantage of them and creating ill will.

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  6. That rant was not nearly up to Nate Heck standards. Heck, it wasn’t even a good rant by David Berg standards-I’ve had much better ones on Twitter. Thanks for the laugh, though!

    Cheers!

    db

  7. Actually Stephen, that would be the exact flip side possibility. The truth lies in the obscene hype the beer community creates around these beers. Whether it be Darkness, Dark Lord, Black Tuesday, Pliny the Younger, etc the hype is absurd. Beer geeks think they have some birth right to these beers. Others are so obsessed with most releases they react like they are ten and collecting baseball cards.

    If Surdyks sold out their stock, that speaks volumes to me. If Surly doesn’t like it, do not make a big stink about your beer. You create a trail a buzz, it gets out of control and the retailer is supposed to just play sheep? Sell it all at your brewery then.

  8. “I guess another example of “how capitalism works” might be a business losing customers and suppliers for taking advantage of them and creating ill will.”

    Beer is a luxury item. If we were discussing medicine or any other NECESSITY this complaining would hold weight.
    Keep your WHINE culture outta my beer culture.

  9. “Beer is a luxury item. If we were discussing medicine or any other NECESSITY this complaining would hold weight.
    Keep your WHINE culture outta my beer culture.”

    Nobody is acting like Surdyk’s is charging 20 dollars for a bottle of water after a natural disaster or anything.

    The point is, there are plenty of of craft beer stores in the Metro area that are applying their usual mark-up to Surly Darkness, and then there is Surdyk’s who is charging twice as much money for the same product as those stores are.

    You are all correct, this is a free market. And Surdyk’s will take note that in a free market with many different choices, myself and many others are making a choice to not shop there.

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  11. Any knowledgeable craft beer drinker should know that Surdyk’s is overpriced. The $37 rip-off for Darkness is almost as bad as Schell’s masquerading as craft beer and charging $12 for their Stag Series. No thanks! LOL

  12. $18x however many bottles surdyk’s had is hardly worth flipping the bird to their customers. just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. greed?

  13. I’ve always thought that when you have situations like this, where scarce beers are being “scalped,” that the problem is that *the brewers are not charging enough.* They’re leaving money on the table, and honestly, I’d rather see it go to the brewery than to some speculator on eBay or Craigslist.

  14. “Flip side possibility”? Huh? If Surly’s doesn’t like it, they can stop selling to this particular store. I imagine that’s what will happen.

    Breweries frequently choose to sell beers for less than they could possibly make on the whole batch because they hold a different set of values than those of you who would simply mark up your product until just before it wouldn’t sell. Like it or not, that’s their right in a free market economy.

    Contrary to some of the beliefs expressed above, “capitalism” is not an ideological commitment to place profitability above all other values. In fact, many if not most craft breweries place higher value on their craft and their customers than on maximizing their bottom lines. As free actors in the market, they make their business decisions based on these values rather than on those supply and demand plots everyone learns in high school. If you don’t like it, drink Budweiser.

  15. Here’s a point of view from the devil’s advocate:
    Anyone consider that Surdyk’s was doing a favor to those who have more money than time?

    Think about it. All the stores who sold Darkness at a “fair” price put it on sale in the middle of a work day when many of us are at jobs that we cannot leave just to buy beer. Those stores were sold out in a matter of a hour or two (or much less).

    I’m sure there were enough people who were glad that they could stop at Surdyk’s later that night and pay an extra $18 for the convenience of not giving up their lunch hour (if that was even possible) just to buy beer. It doesn’t take a high salary to make up $18 in time & gas money.
    I’m sure there are plenty of other scenarios where people were glad to pay the extra money for the availability. The older I get the more I realize that time is way more valuable than money.

    I’d like more people to tell us all what *is* a fair price to charge. I’m guessing if everybody is honest, they’d say “Whatever I’m willing to pay for it.” People who are scraping to make a living probably think that $10 a bottle is outrageous. Can you say they’re wrong?

    I bought my bottles on Darkness Day so none of this even applies to me. I just like watching a good show unfold on the internet.

    P.S. Paul’s comment about the Schell’s Stag Series is laughable. At least he eliminated himself from the ranks of knowledgeable beer drinkers.

  16. The entire topic boils down to MSRP and at least hitting that ballpark. The brewers at Surly should be offended – it wasn’t their intention for consumers to pay 37 dollars for their product – making supply/demand/capitalism commentary humorous, yet irrelevant.

    Dave Berg ; you’re a jackass and oblivious

  17. Why do we give a shit about how a guy from a competing brewery feels about the situation? He didn’t make the beer and therefore doesn’t have a dog in the fight. The guys at Surly have every right to be pissed. It (indirectly) reflects poorly on them.

  18. while that is absurd, there was at least one store here in NJ called “Little Brothers” in Flemington selling CBS for $100 per bottle.. I personally heard the owner debating if they could charge $200.. I asked him directly what the deal was and his answer was that its “not price gouging” but he “has to make money” and “no one complains when steve jobs charges $400 for an iphone”… the next day they lowered it but only if you spent more money on other stuff at the store..
    What really blows my mind in the people who defend this as capitalism (which is clearly the golden standard of human interaction) is that no one seems concerned that Surly or Founders is making a certain amount of profit on these beers, which really isn’t that much, while these stores then are making several times more profit per bottle.. because “thats capitalism”… brilliant..

  19. At what point do breweries try to maximize their profits and just try to sell all these great beers on ebay themselves? Why not cut out the middle man and keep the profits for themselves?

  20. It’s one thing for an individual to do that. If a brewery did it, I think that’d be a pretty big risk they’d be taking with the TTB.

  21. Stephen: I understand why they do it, but given that there are people who will pay $40 for a bottle, there exists a large consumer surplus and the question is, who will capture that? I, like the brewer, would *prefer* that it go to the drinker, but there exist a large number of people who are determined to pocket that surplus themselves, and the brewery cannot stop them all.

    If giving the surplus to the drinker is out of the question, as it often is, it is my opinion that letting the brewer capture it is the next best outcome. At least then there is a chance that the money will go to increased production that may make the beer less scarce.

  22. The breweries should just make all of these extremely hyped beers cost a lot like BCS Rare, I was at the release for that (though didn’t buy a bottle). There were people lined up and buying 6 at a time at 41 bucks a pop and that beer at the time didn’t have nearly the hype than Darkness routinely gets. Liquor stores should be able to sell it for however much they think people will buy it for. If you think the price is too high then don’t go there and criticize the people buying it.

  23. All of you people that say the brewery should charge more couldn’t be more wrong… They wouldn’t sell out, the hype would die because of that, and they would get a bad name. The percentage of the total batch sold in the aftermarket or sold at shops charging double is very small, I would guess probably 5% or less

  24. Paul – any knowledgeable craft beer drinker would know that the Schell Stag series has been worth the price. The Burton Ale is fantastic, ask anyone who has tried it.

    On the other hand, Dave Berg, really? It is bad economics to charge so much more than everyone else. The store makes short term profits, yes, but lose some long term customers. You are also coming off as jealous of Surly’s popularity and hype, whether true or not.

  25. Bottom line though, is that if a brewery charges $50 for a single beer – no matter how great it is – many of us cannot literally buy it. As someone pointed out, it is a luxury item. As someone who is in a household a bit below the median income, I can afford a certain amount of craft beer but $50 is a no-go. I can go maybe $20 if I can stretch the rest of my beer budget somehow. At the same time, I am cool with the free market so I can’t get pissed at any party who charges more. My beef I guess is with the brewers who overly publicize a beer that they fully well know they are not making enough of to satisfy demand unless they go crazy with the price (therefore excluding most of their customer base). Someone else was hoping for an increased production investment from the windfall….so am I.

  26. Glad I got my two bottles for $20/each. I might have paid $37 for one bottle, but wouldn’t have bought two. Surdyk’s is known as a snob liquor store, so the price doesn’t surprise, and they can charge whatever they want for Darkness apparently. I won’t shop there, and it looks like many others won’t either.

    CBS was going to be sold for $90+ bottle at a liquor store in Hudson, WI last month, and Founder’s made it clear that price-gouging would lead to that store and the sales rep getting axed from getting limited releases. Brewer’s don’t like the “gouging” because it reflects poorly on them in many cases, but I don’t hear much about actual consequences being taken by the brewers. It’s all talk.

  27. Fact is this is the game. Make a beer that’s in high demand and watch that beer sell for what the demand is asking. If there were more beer the price wouldn’t be as high. If the beer hit more regions the price wouldn’t be as high. If breweries really cared about their beer being sold for X amount they would contact their Attorneys General and have it shutdown on Ebay just as fast as the hookers vanished from Craiglist.

    Know why they don’t? Hype = money. They may have started to brew beer for the fun and the pleasure but the reality is it makes them money. A lot of money with an industry that is growing 20% per year. Wait till you see what Darkness sells for next year.

  28. Pingback: Surly Brewing releases statement on Darkness pricing and availability | Beernews.org

  29. Surdyk’s alway sucks. They can run their business however way they want, but if they actually in the local craft beer culture, they wouldn’t price it so high just so they can make a buck. They’re a business who needs to make money, so I don’t blame them for doing it, you should just know better than to go to SurDICKS for your darkness needs. I would have went somewhere else and risked the chance of not getting a bottle.

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