A Beautiful Exchange…of Brews


In your workplace, you may hear whispers about a “pick up time” or a special meeting place. Perhaps you heard one of your co-workers say “just put it in a black garbage bag, but be discrete about it.” You’re wondering to yourself if this is something you would want to be part of or if you should be happy that you don’t have whatever burden it is on your shoulders. Regardless–you want to know. Well, you are witnessing the inner workings of the underground: a beer exchange.

Yes. Amongst the elitist suds drinkers, there is a small group of “beer snobs” who bask in the glory of sharing beer rarities amongst the clan. But what goes on in the back parking lot? What the hell is a beer exchange? Is it costly? Is there a theme? How much beer is exchanged exactly? Lucky for you, I’m a newly initiated member of the elite beer snobbery. And I’m pretty damn excited to be part of this BOSS club.

I guess I’ll “learn you,” but don’t tell anyone I told you. The beer exchange is an intricate system of purchasing and trading precious brews. Typically, the exchange is made up of a very elite, upper echelon, practically genius group of 12 people. These people will likely be on the cover of GQ one day. A beer “skull and bones,” if you will. After carefully aligning the group and setting up an ambiguous subject chain email, the planning begins.

There are two ways that I’ve seen the beer exchange operate. First, there is the “pick your own, buy your own” method. Here, the grand master wizard in chief selects the amount of exchanges in one year (4x is suggested – by season) and a theme for each exchange. For instance: fall brews (oktoberfest/pumpkin). From there, the chief selects a price range ($30-60 will typically suffice for a delicious rarity). It is now up to each member to select a rare brew that others will not bring, purchase it from a distributor of their choice, and bring to the exchange. At the exchange, each case is picked apart by two so that each member will receive two of each beers. Now you have a “build your own” case.

Second method: “pay the dealer.” The chief accepts the role of the middle man and sets out to make an agreement with a distributor. The agreement will place a bulk order of beer for a discounted price. The chief collects money from each member. Members can make beer suggestions, or the distributor will make the recommendations and pick the rarities him or herself. From there, the chief comes back to the exchange with the cases, and the cases are split as per the above rules.

Finally, many exchanges will host a shared document that provides all members with a way to share their knowledge and opinion of each brew, creating a master list of analysis.

Keep in mind – you will not find these rules written. Cherish this gift, and look for the clues. Sketchy deal in the back parking lot? Probably a beer exchange. Weird subject emails about book clubs amongst the bros? Beer exchange. Whisperings about the cheapo who only paid $30? Beer. Exchange. All I can tell you is that this is similar to the freemasons – you must be related or do a good deed. So read up on beer and impress your friends with your knowledge (and some free beer). Best of luck and godspeed. You’re missing out.

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One comment

  • Jeff October 15, 2013  

    So what does BOSS mean?

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