Hopefully, after reading my first article about craft beer trading, you are less intimidated and confused about what beer trading is. So, now what? Well, now you need someone to trade with. The nice thing about the craft beer community is that many people are really dialed into what is out there and what is hot. Different people want different things. It is just a matter of finding out who to trade with and how to make both parties happy.
Before I get too much further, I want to make it clear that you should never trade beer with someone who is under the age of 21. You should never ship beer through the United States Postal Service because it is illegal. Shipping via FedEx and UPS is not illegal, it is just against their policy and if they find out that you are shipping beer, they will not be happy and you may or may not get your beer back.
There are two types of trades, in-person trades and trading via shipping. There are some other acronyms to know that I will briefly define below:
IP Trade: An in-person (IP) trade is where you exchange the agreed upon beers to be traded in-person. This is a good because it does not require you to ship the beer and it will also make it very easy to tell whether or not the person is of legal drinking age. I say this knowing full well that it would be darn near impossible for a 12 year old to get their hands on a 3-year vertical of Surly Darkness because they don’t even like to work hard enough to write their name on a homework assignment.
ISO: This acronym stands for in search of. This allows you to let other people know what you are specifically looking for.
$4$: This is a common method of valuation that allows the parties to agree on what is traded for what. It means dollar for dollar spend on the beer in the trade. For instance, if I was trading someone a 2015 Surly Darkness that I paid 20 bucks for, I would expect the other side to trade me beer that added up to 20 bucks so the trade was equal. This is probably the fairest way to measure beer values.
ISO: This means I seek only and it spells out exactly what the person is looking for in a craft beer trade.
FT: This means for trade. It is what the person has available for trade.
So, how do you find someone to trade with? When I took my beercation out to Colorado this past summer, I brought along a lot of MN beer. Some I gave to brewers of places I visited and interviewed, and others I traded with people. I started out using Beer Advocate as a place to see if anyone was interested in stuff from MN. They have a beer trading forum on there that is very well regulated. When you go to the beer trading forums on Beer Advocate, it lists a bunch of tips and information that is very helpful. I registered a username and was on my way. I posted in the In-Person section and picked the region that included Colorado. This helped narrow down the area where I could find people to trade with. I posted that I was on vacation from MN and had some Surly, Bent Paddle, New Glarus, and Steel Toe for trade. I also found a Facebook group called Colorado Let’s Talk Craft Beer, which was also a nice way to get the word out about trading. Within the hour, I had messages asking what I would want for the New Glarus and Surly. I was looking for anything decent in the barrel-aged stout category. Once I weeded out the folks who didn’t really have what I wanted, I was left with a few people who would be good trade partners. We agreed on some trades and then it was just to try to figure out where and when to meet. I recommend arranging the meeting place at a taproom. To me, doing a beer trade in a public place is safe and lessens the worry that something could go wrong. As a matter of fact, one of the breweries where I was doing a trade offered to keep my beer in the cooler for me and I was appreciative of that. If you want to read a more in-depth rundown of my first beer trade check out this article about my Denver leg of the Summer Beer Odyssey.
In total, I made 3 in-person trades on my trip. I would say that they were all wonderful experiences and everything went smoothly. If you are just starting out, I recommend doing in-person trades at first to figure out the nuances of trading. Another helpful tip when doing an in-person trade is that if things went really well and the communication was good, thrown in a little something as a thank you. In my best trade that I made, I threw in a bomber of Steel Toe and the other dude threw in a Pliny the Elder as a thanks for a trade well-done. This is not necessary, but goes a long way in beer karma.
Locally, there are several different Facebook groups that focus on craft beer trading. One Facebook group that is very active is Minnesota Beer Trading. Recently, Lift Bridge had their Barrel-Aged Silhouette Release party and a lot of people headed there to trade beers. I saw countless posts on the MN Beer Trading group page about people who were arranging trades that would take place at the Lift Bridge event.
While in-person trades are logistically a lot simpler, shipping beer to someone is also a good craft beer trading option. One of the people I met in my beer journey was a dude who had recently moved to Fort Collins from South Carolina. We hung out a few times while I was there and we talked beer, sports, and everything in between. He has done a fair amount of beer trading and is a very trustworthy guy who likes to get a variety of craft beer from different places. Since I have been back in MN, we have made two different trades via shipping. The trades have been awesome for both sides. Now, I have a trading partner who is alway looking for cool stuff for me and I am looking for cool stuff for him. Currently, it is my turn to send some stuff out his way. How to properly ship and package beer will be the focus of the next beer trading article. Prost!