(Greensboro, VT) – Hill Farmstead Brewery Founder, Shaun Hill, has been vocal about eBay sales in recent weeks to the extent that we can devote a whole post to the Hill Farmstead vs. eBay battle.
Why all the chatter?
There is a ton of buzz around Hill Farmstead, in particular. Hill runs a brewery that was crowned sixth-best in the world on RateBeer earlier in the year and the message board buzz is palpable. Between trading and reselling of his beers, the Hill Farmstead aftermarket is on fire with some individual bottles being valued at over $200 (not just Buy It Now listings…people have actually bought Hill’s beers for more than that).
A couple recent references per Hill Farmstead’s Facebook page illustrate…
On May 23:
For a mere 249.99$, one of you lucky facebook fans could purchase a bottle of Damon on Ebay! (or, you could wait until next year when we release thousands of bottles for 15$)…
On June 30:
Looks like our good friends at Ebay are back at it. Even after selling Damon for 200$, Offnewburystreet continues to try and move forward by selling a Mimosa for 200$. Maybe we’ll start charging more for our beer… July 14th Bottle Release: Ann will now be 200$ a bottle.
On July 11:
Is this email a joke?
“Haha, thanks for complaining to eBay about my auction. Which, followed all the rules because im selling the bottle and the contents are not of value. I think that is a low blow. You sold the beer to me and I have free reign to do with it as I wish. Pathetic business practice and I will for sure not be drinking anymore hill farm beer.
I guess if this contents are not of value, then this person shouldn’t be drinking our beer anyway? And…perhaps the Federal Government would disagree about this person’s ability to do as they wish…?
Hill isn’t sitting by idly though the eBay system limits what he can do:
We haven’t reported anyone to ebay. Ebay doesn’t even work that way… you can report an “item” but, as you say, ebay wouldn’t report to someone that a particular company “called them out.” This gets ever more ridiculous by the day… What is Entitlement? I’ll tell you: It’s people that show up for bottle releases, hoard the beer, and then resell it because they believe it is their given right as Americans… To all that didn’t get to taste Mimosa, Damon, Tragedy, Ann, etc – I’m deeply sorry that you can blame OffNewburyStreet or this “disgruntled consumer” for your loss.
The result of eBay sales will impact all Hill Farmstead customers. Per one of the comment threads, the future of some Hill Farmstead limited releases looks like this, according to Hill:
When the taproom is finally constructed, we will take the Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey road and only allow our small release bottles to be consumed on site.
Of course, not everyone agrees with Hill in his opinion of eBay. Some have argued that buyers should be free to do as they please with his beers once they buy them. To that, he responds:
It’s not the seller and the buyer’s business. Our name and logo are registered trademarks – and profiteering individuals that drive here for small releases are taking beer away from folks that also waited in line but didn’t get a chance to purchase. They then use our name and our logo to promote what they are selling, illegally. And – as Bob M. Montgomery points out, it is illegal on at least 4 or 5 accounts… The TTB and local liquor control really need to begin the crackdown on this sort of illegal activity.
One way he plans to begin the crackdown himself:
We aren’t going to begin selling our beer at 200$ a bottle, obviously, and it wasn’t a threat. What is a threat is this: Anyone caught selling our beer illegally on Ebay will be forever banned from our brewery and will be served a cease and desist letter from our lawyer for trademark infringement.
UPDATE: a reader just sent in a link regarding the First Sale Doctrine which gives those in secondary markets shelter from trademark and copyright infringement law. It doesn’t appear as though Hill has a legal position in that regard.
As to his overall philosophy on the matter, Hill tells BeerPulse in an email:
“At the beginning and the end of the day, it is only about the beer for us. We do everything possible to produce what we consider to be the best tasting beers available. If a bar is pouring our beer through dirty draft lines, we stop selling them beer. If a consumer is reselling our beer for 200$ on eBay, we do whatever is possible to prevent such activity from happening.”
What say you, readers? Where do you stand on this hot button issue?