Cellaring Beer as an Investment

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky, Mar 20, 2013.

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  1. Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky

    Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky Aspirant (270) Feb 13, 2013 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    How often are people doing this? Most are looking to cellar because they want to taste how their beer has changed (hopefully for the better), but I know I've put away a handful of bottles for the sole purpose of their increase in value (again hopefully) over time. My goal for them is to be able to trade for more valuable brews down the road.

    Who else is doing this and what are you investing in? And how substantial of an investment in terms of number of bottles?
  2. MikeTen

    MikeTen Initiate (0) Apr 3, 2009 California

    My guess is that most BAs won't be honest with you, but 100% of traders are doing this.
  3. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    I think this is mostly a road to disappointment. It's hard to guess what the next "whale" will be, and there's going to be lots of other people hoarding the same beer that you are.
    GRG1313 likes this.
  4. stupac2

    stupac2 Zealot (518) Feb 22, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    It's a crapshoot. Cellar beer because you want to drink it later, not because you want to gamble that it'll increase in value. If you want to gamble with an investment, buy some stocks.
    therobot and GRG1313 like this.
  5. GRG1313

    GRG1313 Poo-Bah (3,581) Jan 15, 2009 California
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    A number of years ago I asked T0rin0, a good friend, about a rather esoteric sour. I'd acquired several bottles of it and thought it was very good and rather "collectible" as well as "ageable." T0rin0 said it's a decent beer and that I should keep a few bottles in the cellar "as it's the kind of bottle that will get you into some high end tastings." Again, this was a number of years ago.

    It made sense. I do, indeed, have several beers in my cellar that I've kept because they are good but also because they can sometimes be an entry ticket to a tasting to which I might not otherwise be invited. I don't see this as a problem, at least for me, since I get to go to some great tastings and I can then also bring a bottle that others really want to try. A "win-win" as the case may be.

    However, I would never sell a bottle of beer and now I just do $4$; it's a lot easier. I don't cellar with plans that I'll "get more" in the future. Yes, that's right....I trade Black Tuesday at $35 or Pliny the Elder at $5.25 etc. etc. It's just easier for me. Sometimes the Cantillons or 3Fs or other Belgians end up costing a whole lot of money for those of us sufficiently crazy to buy from Belgium. With shipping it's easy to spend $50-$80 for a bottle of Cantillon or 3F or other brewers, as well (i.e., the Armand '4s, Nomad, and bottles in that league). So, $4$ on those makes it seem like one is asking a premium but it's not the case - it really is just an expensive bottle after adding the shipping.

    Bottom line: I agree with Stupac2. You want investments, go to a broker.

    Otherwise, if you want to make an investment in fun and some cool experiences, cellar some bottles. Don't plan on money or greater "trade-ability;" many of us are realizing fresher is generally better and aging just makes a beer different.
  6. Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky

    Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky Aspirant (270) Feb 13, 2013 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    I want to start with the disclaimer that I'm not trying to be some nefarious, money-grubbing character by doing this or bringing up the subject. I'm not trying to pull a fast one on anyone (seems like quite the opposite, HA!) and I think it's very reasonable to put a beer away hoping for better trades down the road. Like MikeTen and peer pressure say, everyone's doing it. Hell, tons of people trade beers they've never had and have acquired purely to trade them off again for something better. What's the difference?

    I do own stock but investing in beer is the same idea. And like owning stock, it's not a crapshoot if you do your research. I'm also not talking just about predicting whales or cellaring brews on a whim because I agree that more often than not you'll be wrong. However, there are numerous tried and true agers out there and verticals are extremely popular. Look at most of the acronyms (KBS/CBS, BCBS, DL, etc.) thrown around the trading forums and you'll see that the older years tend to fetch loftier trades.

    I usually trade $4$ too and I think that's very fair of fresh beer. But I also think the time and care put into cellaring a brew adds value and it's just as fair to expect a little more in return. Think about it this way: if you bought a beer from the liquor store's cellar they will sure as hell charge you more (and far too much more usually). I'm not saying BAs should gouge each other, but I think the effort put into aging should at least be considered.

    I'm not sure why someone wouldn't admit to cellaring for gains in the future. The bottle had to get that old somehow and someone paid in one form or another to make it happen. The demand for vintage beer undeniably exists so people will always be looking for a source. Why does that mean our hands are dirty?

  7. stupac2

    stupac2 Zealot (518) Feb 22, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    From what I've read individual stock ownership really is a crapshoot. You're far better off going for an index fund, generally the lowest possible fees. So I don't think that's a great metaphor, because it's probably way more true with beer (though I think it's still a crapshoot to a large extent. Look at something like Hellshire).

    I don't think it means your hands are dirty per se, but rather that it makes your motives in general more questionable. Like, if you're cellaring because you want value to improve, then how do I know that if I trade with you (or taste with you, etc) that you're not just going to be trying to "win"? It brings your character into question in a way that cellaring as experimentation or because you like what the beer does with age just don't. Should it? I dunno, I think it makes some sense. Probably not a great absolute rule, but few generalizations are.
  8. kscaldef

    kscaldef Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Just remember, as with stocks, past performance is not a guarantee of future gains. 2012 BCBS will probably never trade for what 07/08 do, because there's a shit-ton more of it out there. DL also doesn't command what it used to. CBS trades highly (even though "it's a shell of it's former self") because it's only been bottled once. It's almost a guarantee that the more years in a row a beer gets made, the lower it's value will be (as everyone with a 2012 CR has learned). Hell, even the assumption that a beer will be made again is enough to crater the trading value (see Grey Monday).
    Eriktheipaman likes this.
  9. Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky

    Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky Aspirant (270) Feb 13, 2013 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    I don't understand "trading to win" or how one wins. If both traders are happy, doesn't everyone win? I was just trying to make the point that there's supply and demand, so why does the supply get yelled at?

    I want to point out that I almost always cellar for experiment and for my own drinking/sharing. But if I really like something, think it will age well and that others would like it, why not trade with it? Or if I know I'll never find something off the shelf that I can trade for a highly valued beer, how else do I get it? People trade because they want to share beers and if an aged beer is something someone wants, why is it bad to give it to them? Isn't it still spreading the love?

    Excellent points! But that's what the research is for. Maybe stocks aren't the best comparison, but I think there is a certain amount of predictability that a person can use to stock their cellar, whether for personal use or for trade.

    I didn't realize it was so taboo to discuss this, but I'm glad we're talking about it!
  10. stupac2

    stupac2 Zealot (518) Feb 22, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    That is... a lot of questions. I guess I'll try to answer them with a few points.

    First, let's talk about norms. I've posted about this a bunch of times in the past, but I don't know where/when so here we go. Interactions between people are governed by these sets of unspoken-but-understood rules that we call norms. There are lots of these kinds of things, but what I'm concerned about here is market vs non-market norms. Basically, the norms that govern transactions on a market vs those that govern non-market transactions.

    The canonical example to show the difference is this. Imagine that you've been invited to a nice dinner party by a friend. Generally speaking the expectation is that you bring something. Depending on your relationship it might be beer, wine, a dish, or something I'm not thinking of. But it's basically a cost of admission, right? Even though it is, you don't just bring $20 and throw it on the table, that would be crass.

    On the other hand, you'd be pretty pissed off if your employer started paying you in bottles of beer instead of money, and if you had a deal with someone on craigslist to sell your TV for $100 you probably wouldn't accept some random trade.

    This is all so obvious that most people don't even think about. But it's very important on BA because trading straddles the two worlds. The issue, as I see it, is that most people want trading to be non-market most of the time, especially older traders. You see this very strongly in threads about eBay, or selling in general, people are either very strongly pro or very strongly anti and neither side are really convincing to someone who's on the fence. The reason is that to the anti guys it's a violation of the non-market norms, it's bringing $20 to a dinner party. To the pro guys it's just another market transaction, like any other, so what gives?

    Anyway, that's the background to my thinking about your cellaring question. Of course there's no issue with buying some stuff to stick in your cellar then trading it later, we've all done it. But the issue is if you're buying the beer solely to age and trade it. I see this as a violation of non-market norms, because you're turning the beer into a commodity to be speculated with. It's also about intent, if you buy something fully intending to drink it yourself, but then see an offer you want to take, you haven't really harmed anything. But if you're buying up cases of beer just to see if they appreciate you're taking that beer away from someone who just wants to drink it (odds are, anyway, if you're not then the beer won't appreciate and you're a moron). The general feeling of many (though by no means most) in the community is that those types of behaviors are to be avoided.

    Now if you want to be an only-in-economists'-models-style rational agent, none of that makes any sense and everything's a market, those motives are identical because motives don't matter. But people aren't rational agents and motives do matter, so that's why beer speculation is frowned upon in general.

    I think I answered all your questions there...
  11. Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky

    Ol_Johnny_Skippelwicky Aspirant (270) Feb 13, 2013 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    Very thorough! That does answer a number of them and I absolutely get what you're saying. I'm very new to trading (obviously) and had always been of the ilk that if everyone in the trade is happy, there's no harm done. I guess I still see it as sharing a love for beer. I would point out that no one asks what a person's intentions are for trading beer but they absolutely take full advantage if it benefits them and allows them to try something they otherwise couldn't. Whether it should be or not, the mere fact that there is a trading forum makes beer a commodity and therefore affected by market and nonmarket factors.

    I never trade with the ill intentions, I just want to try beer I can't normally get. I think of myself as a nice person who also wants to "respect beer" and would feel awful if someone were hurt by a trade with me. I fully realize that me saying this doesn't mean shit because we're on an internet forum.

    I guess I didn't consider buying out stock at the liqour store, but my original question wasn't intended to suggest that. I was thinking more, "does anyone stash a bottle or two hoping to trade with it?" I agree buying in that kind of bulk is a dick move.
  12. Earlycsquid

    Earlycsquid Zealot (530) Jan 7, 2013 California
    Beer Trader

    This is like investing in comic books, star wars action figures and Pokemon.

    It's probably best you don't.

    It's alcohol. Consume it and enjoy the craft. Don't sully it with this notion of retiring to a CCB uber hyped up BBA rare beer some day.
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