Beer Geeks Love the Devil
All Hail the Dark Lord. Now Available on EBay.
Would you wait in line for hours for the chance to buy four bottles of beer? Would you pay hundreds of dollars for a single bottle of beer?
If you want a bottle of Dark Lord, those are your two options.
The beer is brewed by the 3 Floyds Brewery, located about a half hour outside of Chicago. Released to great fanfare every year in April, the Dark Lord is an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, molasses, and honey. Lush and round and delicious, it’s one of the top beers brewed in the USA every year. At 13% abv, it earns it name for being both enticing and dangerous.
True to its namesake, the beer has more acolytes than most religions. To get your hands on a bottle, one has to pre-purchase a $15 ticket, travel to Illinois on the last Saturday in April (aka Dark Lord Day), wait in line with 6,000 other like-minded worshipers in the brewery’s parking lot. Only then will you have a chance to buy a few bottles, for $50 apiece.
If that seems like a bit too much work, you also have the option to purchase a single 750ml bottle bottle on Ebay for $200. Here is a screen capture taken in May 2012.
Let’s back up here. $50 for a bottle of beer? $200? Has beer geekery gone too far? Are we willing to spend more on a great bottle of beer than a great bottle of wine? Or is this the point when we realize that we are falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book?
“False Scarcity” is a well known tactic used by marketers the world over. If you can create the impression that a particular product is not available to everyone, then the consumer will covet it much more. It’s very effective if you can pull it off, since economics teach us that only things that are rare have value. It’s a tactic used by a number of high-profile beer brands, including Russian River’s Pliny the Younger.
Could 3Floyds make more Dark Lord and sell it yearlong? Of course they could. The barrier to higher production if very low: there is no shortage of equipment, ingredients, or skills required for the beer’s production. It would only take an investment of money, time, and additional space. However, that would defeat the purpose of the Dark Lord. It’s real benefit to production is to increase the stature of the brewery itself, not the beer.
The marketing ploy surrounding the Dark Lord means that 3Floyds get a great deal of media coverage. In turn, that promotes sales of its other beers, most of which have higher profit margins than the Dark Lord. Brewing is a business, and false scarcity is a proven way to increase revenue. At the end of the day, everyone has to pay their bills. Even the Dark One himself.
This year may pop the bubble, finally. There are reports that the Dark One is tasting strangely of green apples this year, probably do to a touch of acetaldehyde.