Alchemist Fights Back Against Beer Black Market

Alchemist Fights Back Against Beer Black Market

In what is likely a first in Vermont, The Alchemist has launched a new program to help people know where to buy its signature beer Heady Topper and how to spot a place it likely should not be bought.
WATERBURY, Vt. - In what is likely a first in Vermont, The Alchemist has launched a new program to help people know where to buy its signature beer Heady Topper and how to spot a place it likely should not be bought.

Every week The Alchemist produces thousands of cans of Heady Topper in Waterbury, Vermont.

"Now it's a game of juggling supply and demand and keep everybody happy," says John Kimmich, co-owner & head brewer at The Alchemist.

And each Friday three cases are delivered to Sunflower Natural Foods in Waterbury Center.

"Usually by the end of the day it's sold out," says Peter Ruelke, a worker at Sunflower Natural Foods.

It's a similar story for the dozens of places that are authorized to sell Heady Topper. But after complaints of bad beer, Kimmich says he realized unauthorized places were trying to make money off of the popular beer.

"To legally be able to sell our beer you need to have legally bought our beer from us. So for these places that are selling it and aren't one of our established accounts they are breaking the law," says Kimmich.

That's one of the reasons The Alchemist is trying to fight back against the black market.

Now if you go into a store and want to know if Heady Topper should be sold there, all you have to do is look for an authorized retailer sticker.

Kimmich says the sticker also means the business followed rules including keeping the beer cold at all times. He says the idea is to make sure the beer tastes as good as the day it leaves the brewery.

"It's our constant quest for quality control really," says Kimmich.

The Vermont Brewers Association says other breweries might follow The Alchemist's lead to also protect their brand and beer, especially when one can of Heady Topper can sell for about $3 to $4.

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