Friday, February 24, 2012

Craft Beer and the Gray Market

Pirate Flag from Clipper City Brewing. Photo from Flickr by cizauskas
Prince of Petworth has an article up today by Sam Fitz arguing that what makes DC's beer scene as great as it is is the variety of distributors that have set up shop here, not the availability of "Gray Market beer." Gray Market beer is beer that is self-imported by the owner or beer director of an establishment. In most places, this is illegal, but it's legal in DC as long as you pay your taxes. Here's an excerpt, but please check out the whole thing, it's very interesting:
Flooding a market with a myriad of brews is one thing, but consumers actually drinking and supporting all of them is quite another. The best thing about beer in DC is the public’s willingness and desire to drink widely, try new products, and keep up on what is available. There is always an interest in what is new, whether it’s restaurants, bars, or beers, and DC residents follow social media all over the city for new experiences. Trying new things is cool these days, and it certainly is helping craft beer explode in this city. DC is also a geographically diverse community and sometimes it is as simple as people enjoying the beers of their home state. No matter the rationale, Washingtonians’ ability and willingness to support the myriad craft beer brands distributed here is the biggest asset to the DC beer community. Gray market beers surely make up much less than 1% of DC craft beer sales and are really more of a novelty than anything else. . . .
DC’s gray market for beer is a peculiar benefit of drinking in the District, and perhaps it is what distances us just a bit from other great beer cities like Philadelphia, but it certainly is not what makes DC such a great place to drink well. The national praise is awesome, but let’s appreciate what we really have: a blossoming community eagerly supporting an impressive array of craft beers.
Sam Fitz is the beer director at Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel. My comment on the legality of Gray Market beers is merely a summary of the law, and is not intended to describe everything needed to comply with the law.

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