The collection of people waiting was past 100. Many had camped out overnight.
A reporter and cameraman surveyed the crowd. Inside the building, they approached a table of sleepy eyed friends, looking quiet in contemplation. Or maybe they were just zoned out from sleep deprivation.
“How long did you guys stand in line?” the reporter asked the table of eight.
“About 11 hours,” they all answered in unison, not blinking.
But a moment later, boy did they look happy to have been some of the first into Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger release.
Of course, the annual, one-time sale of the imperial IPA isn’t the only occasion for beer lovers to get in a tizzy, whether it’s waiting overnight for Foothills Brewing’s Sexual Chocolate imperial stout or rioting for Hunaphu’s imperial stout at Cigar City Brewing. As the beer world continues to get bigger, it’s clear that people are willing to pay in time, money and sanity for the chance of being a part of something small.
Do 25-35 year old white people have nothing better to do than wait in line for a pretty good beer? I saw a line and went…nope
— Ken Goyette (@kgoyette) February 28, 2016
“Scarcity has this effect of making people perceive products as more valuable simply for the fact that they’re scarce,” business psychologist Nir Eyal told NPR in 2014, when, naturally, the network was covering the hype of Pliny the Elder, the sister beer of Pliny the Younger.
Crazed reactions over scarce items is nothing new, especially in an increasingly locally-focused industry that prides itself on regionalism, if not literal hometown favoritism. But whether you’re a local hoping for a legendary bottle of beer or an out-of-towner traveling hundreds of miles for your chance at fermented immortality, the power of scarcity is real, it is psychological and it is physiological.
When it comes to our internal cost-benefit analysis of these situations, does the perceived benefit trump logic? Can scarcity marketing rule our minds as well as our pint glasses?