Craft Beer Startup Exploits Liquor Law Loophole

One weird trick to try Pliny the Elder

Element Brewing Extra Special Oak Credit: Barrel Backers

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If there's one thing everyone loves about craft beer, it's that there's a lot of it. But the truth is, there are simply too many options and not enough time. Worse, some limited-distribution beers have attracted such a cult following that they're virtually impossible to try—you know, like Heady Topper or Pliny the Elder.

Some beers have attracted such a cult following that they're virtually impossible to try.

America's antiquated three-tier distribution system makes everything more difficult, since it's impossible to purchase beer directly from brewers. It's why fanatical beer nerds either have to make pilgrimages to sought-after breweries or ask a local to ship particularly hard-to-find beer. A whole subculture has even sprung up around beer trading.

Now, a new service called Barrel Backers is trying to sidestep both our country's frustrating alcohol laws and these cumbersome, intensely competitive DIY beer communities. To do so, it essentially serves as a distributor and treats its customers as retailers.

Barrel Backers (Moody Tongue)

Pre-ordering a brew with Barrel Backers

In order to adhere to distribution laws, Barrel Backers has to ship in bulk. Customers pre-order a "pack," which is usually three to eight bottles or cans of a given beer. Once the service receives enough pre-orders, it ships out the brews and charges the users who pre-ordered. If a featured beer doesn't get enough pre-orders, your card won't be charged.

Users can also suggest which beers should be added, and vote on submissions to determine which ones will be offered next.

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Of course, you need to be a very special kind of beer geek to get excited about paying $6 to $20 for a single bottle of beer, let alone ponying up for a "pack" of them. But if you are, you might want to think about signing up. Who knows? Maybe you'll finally get to taste some of that Pliny everyone keeps talking about.

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