Rare Beer Club: The Power of Scarcity and What It Wields Over Us

pliny-release

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.

“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?

Continue reading

Advertisements

What Do the “Best Beers in America” Say About the Beer Industry?

blue-ribbon_best_beers

Also: check out this post about how these rankings may show bias toward Sierra Nevada brews.

Yesterday, Zymurgy, the official magazine of the American Homebrewers Association, released results of its annual “Best Beers in America” survey, completed by members of the organization. The list, which I’ve written about before, typically gears toward expectations: lots of IPAs and imperial stouts.

While I’ve only had a few hours to look over this year’s list with an advance digital copy of Zymurgy, I’ve already started comparing and contrasting between previous iterations of the “Best Beers” lists, which are determined by popular vote. To determine the rankings, voters selected up to 20 of their favorite beers in an online poll.

I plan to offer up full details of this year’s list next week, but I wanted to share a few initial reactions when comparing lists from 2012, 2013 and 2014. While Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Bell’s Two Hearted IPAs have held the #1 and #2 spots, respectively, in each of the past three years, there has been some shift with other brews. (you can also see the top-10 beers for 2014 here)

Continue reading