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Why Do People Wait in Long Lines for Craft Beer?

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And is an escape from “adulting” really the answer?

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People waiting in line for beer. Kernel/Vimeo

Whether the craft beer industry is booming or fading seems to be up for debate, but one thing is certain: No matter the larger trend, true aficionados are as excited as ever about new and rare brews. Last October, Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing and Canton, Massachusetts-based Trillium Brewing teamed up on a limited edition IPA called Like Whoa. The resulting pandemonium was such that Other Half commissioned filmmakers to produce a very serious short documentary about the brew’s reception.

As the video reveals, at 9 a.m. on Like Whoa’s release date, 400 people were lined up to get their hands on the beer. Other Half sold 700 cases in two hours. Other Half and Trillium are both award winners, and Like Whoa has a 4.5 rating (out of 5) on Beer Advocate. But all of this hype for an IPA? Everyone makes an IPA now! And it’s not just Other Half: Fans of craft breweries across the country are lining up for the releases of limited products. What inspires discerning beer drinkers to stand by for hours to get a taste?

The New York Times posits one answer. “People are fanatical about it, to the point they don’t want to drink anything else,” Other Half brewmaster and co-founder Sam Richardson told the Times. Specifically, these fanatical people are the old cliche: dudes. These dudes are getting older, old enough to have kids. So they’re happy to spend a few hours shirking the responsibilities of everyday life.

This past Saturday at Holy Mountain.....#beerline #waytoolongtowait

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“I have the best sleep in the car. There are no kids screaming,” Justin Saurer, who waited overnight and was first in line for a recent Other Half release, told the Times. “You party in the morning, then dad in the afternoon,” Kevin Weinisch, another line-waiting enthusiast, said. Queueing up four hours in hopes of grabbing some elusive craft suds is a practice of catching a breather from “dadding” — “dad,” like “adult,” is a verb now, apparently.

But the reality is that, despite the old cliche and the Times is sourcing, women enjoy craft beer, too. In fact, there is data that suggests women are driving industry growth and trends. Sour beers have seen a significant rise in popularity, and it’s a style of brew that, as of January 2016, was vastly preferred by women, according to a Nielsen report. Saisons and farmhouse ales saw 29.5 percent growth in sales at grocery stores and supermarkets, according to market research firm IRI. Sales of golden ales, another variety that Nielsen says is preferred by women, grew 40 percent.

Getting a hold of limited-release beers allows adults — who might hate adulting — to travel back in time to the simple joys of childhood, it seems like the argument goes. And while trading things — baseball cards, dolls, comic books, pencils, lunch items, anything — once used to be a kid pastime, now that they’re grown up, these people are swapping beers in what’s grown into a legitimate online economy. “A ton of this stuff gets traded,” Other Half co-founder Matt Monahan said in the Like Whoa doc. “It speaks volumes about the scene.”

There is a bona fide beer-trading scene on the internet. Beer Advocate members, once they’ve been enrolled on the site for 30 days and verified their account, can trade with other members. The r/beertrade subreddit has more than 17,000 subscribers. Rate Beer has its own trading forum. The beer-trading and -selling black market on Craigslist has been well chronicled. Not all enthusiasts care to possess the patience for it, but this game of bartering highly coveted beverages may be the catalyst for consistent, outrageously long lines on release dates at breweries across America.

“For the most dedicated, trading beers with members of the community is the peak driver [for standing in line],” Carl Ewald, an author at CraftBeer.com, writes. “Instagram comments can read like an ’80s dating ad with total strangers looking for the perfect beer connection. In Philadelphia, I met a local who recounted the story of meeting up with a stranger in a dark panel van who had traveled down from New York with cases of beer from Brooklyn hoping to secure trades of high demand brews.”

Everyone makes an IPA, but only one brewery at one specific time makes that IPA.

Beer Nerds Are Waiting On Insane Lines For The 'Cronut' Of Beers [Gothamist]
Other Half Brewing - Like Whoa Documentary [Kernel/Vimeo]
11-Hour Lines for a New Ale? Fans Wait, Breweries Worry [NYT]
Why I Will Not Wait in Line for Beer [Porch Drinking]
All Beer Coverage [E]

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