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Craze for coveted craft brews creates black market

  • In this Sept. 4, 2013 photo, cans of Heady Topper roll off the line at the Alchemist Cannery in Waterbury, Vt. The company announced Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 that they're closing the retail portion of their business on Nov. 15 until they can find a better location for it. While the retail end of the business is closing until a new location can be found, the brewery will stay in business and its 25 employees in their jobs. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Fancy a pint of Pliny the Elder or Heady Topper double India pale ales, but can't find it in your neighborhood? Get out your wallet.

As craft brews gain an intense following, a black market has bloomed in which some opportunists are selling for hundreds of dollars top-rated beers that are hard to find, in short supply, expensive or illegal to ship.

In Vermont, a Burlington woman was charged recently with selling five cases of the popular Heady Topper beer for $825 on Craigslist, which brought about mixed feelings for its brewer.

"It's a compliment in an odd way," said Jen Kimmich, owner of The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, which produces Heady Topper. The hoppy concoction, which retails for $3 a can and $72 a case, was recently ranked No. 1 by Beer Advocate magazine out of the top 250 beers in the world.

"But at the same time," she added, "we don't want to see the consumer being cheated by paying too much and getting a product that hasn't been taken care of properly."


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