“Buy Low” in Beer Stock Exchange

Innovation by | Jan 2010 | Issue #36

With the economy barely ticking along, playing the stock market just isn’t as fun as it used to be.

But buying low (for customers) and selling high (for staff) is still enjoyable in at least two bars, where patrons can “play the market” by watching the prices of beers rise and fall under the basic economic principles of supply and demand. For the market-savvy sipper, the rewards can spawn a giddy high that even alcohol can’t provide; the kind you only get when you know you just nabbed a really good deal.

The premise is simple enough. Thirsty customers keep an eye on large, electronic “ticker” boards that advertise the prices of the beers available at the establishment. When a beer becomes more popular, the price goes up, while a less-popular beer’s price sinks slightly. As a beer’s price goes up, fewer people buy it, and the price falls again. Well-timed empty glasses can do a good job of keeping the wallet fat.

Unfortunately, it will take a thick wallet for most American beer lovers to enjoy this stock market beer concept, because visiting either bar requires a rather pricey plane ticket to get there.

One bar, the Broker’s Bier Börse, is, ironically, in Berlin, Germany. In the city that once was the home of the former Eastern European communist regime that rebuked anything capitalist—like the stock market—the Broker’s Bier Börse (translated, “beer stock exchange”) offers an East-meets-West attitude. Supply goes head-on with demand and the customers grapple with market forces as they quaff from among 16 different beers, all while watching the large reader board for the next deal. It’s a scene not unlike what one might see at the stalwart stock exchanges in New York, London, Frankfurt or Japan, except these “traders” get to drink while they keep their vigil. And, in addition to finding great prices on beer, the customers at the Broker’s Bier Börse can also keep an eye on the rising and falling prices for a deal on a meal.

Paris is the place for the other stock exchange-esque bar. At a café near the Opera metro station, customers play at Footsie while hoping to score a good deal on their drinks. Actually, Footsie is the name of the establishment; it’s a clever twist on the FTSE—the acronym for the London stock exchange.

At Footsie, the grand ticker boards above the bar refresh every four minutes, and a clock counts down to the renewed screen, giving frugal customers nearly real-time information on what their next (cheap) drink might be and whether to nurse or finish off the current beverage. These screens offer five lists of drinks: draft beer, bottled beer, soft drinks, spirits and aperitifs. So, for example, when one of the draft beers on the list is bought, the price for that beer goes up on the draft beer list, while another draft beer on the same list goes down in price, and the same is going on within the other lists at the same time.

Keeping tabs on all those lists can create quite a thirst. And the excitement of getting a great deal on a top-shelf drink often makes for a boisterous bar environment, according to travel reports, as customers either celebrate or bemoan their libation luck.

So, while the real stock market might be a buzzkill, these two concept bars are not just serving up good prices in a down economy, they are giving customers a lesson in basic stock exchange know-how and creating an environment where one can, at least for a short time, forget their real investment woes and feel once again like they are riding high.