This story has it all. Beer, Demand, Supply, Intrigue, Social Media Shaming, Denial. Really, What more could you ask for on a Friday?
Jude DuPart first took the picture because he couldn’t believe the audacity of this guy. There he was, up by the grocery store cash registers, trying to buy more than 400 bottles of a limited-release beer.
DuPart pulled out his phone and snapped a photo.
He didn’t expect what happened next.
In the world of beer enthusiasts, the annual release of a limited batch of brew is better than a birthday party. Bars announce the arrival of a tap like it’s a newborn baby.
And so DuPart, a 24-year-old beer enthusiast, went to the Giant Eagle in Clintonville on Jan. 24 to buy Hopslam, a super hoppy bottle of joy that Michigan brewer Bell’s releases once a year. That’s when he saw the guy, with more than $1,200 worth of Hopslam, talking to store employees about whether he would be allowed to buy all of it. In the midst of the debate, DuPart grabbed two $17.99 six-packs for himself and left before the situation was resolved.
At home, he started connecting the dots. He recognized the beer-buyer as an employee at a nearby beer shop. He posted the photo on a message board: “This guy works at Savor Growl and just tried to buy ALL of Clintonville GE’s Hopslam.”
And the Internet took it from there.
The post to online message board Reddit got more than 100 comments. People started peppering the Facebook wall of Savor Growl, a Clintonville beer and wine shop that opened last year. Someone created a fake Savor Growl Twitter account (“ Retailing unethically, one hard-to-find beer at a time”). Others contacted Bell’s and Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control, which is investigating whether any laws were broken.
At Savor Growl, which offers 60 beer taps and more than 1,000 different beers, owner Firas Habli watched his Facebook page quickly unravel. He tried posting an explanation, but that seemed to anger critics even more. Eventually, he deleted everything.
But the comments keep coming. Someone called him and his employees an unprintable word.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know what happened,” Habli said. “It was too fast. ... I didn’t know what to do.”
He said his employee left work on Friday night and stumbled into an incredible deal at the Giant Eagle store, which apparently wasn’t limiting its Hopslam purchases. So his employee, who’s allowed to buy little if any of Savor Growl’s rare beers, bought as much as he could — for himself and his friends, Habli said.
Habli said he never tried to sell any of the beer. Doing so would have been “stupid,” and besides, he said, there’s still plenty of Hopslam to be found in Columbus.
Savor Growl had 30 cases of its own to sell, Habli said, and single bottles are still available there for $2.99 apiece. Habli dropped the bottle price by a dollar after some online posters said the higher cost proved that the store had bought it retail and was trying to turn a profit.
Habli said he has learned a lesson about the power of social media, and he has talked to his employees about their outside beer purchases. He wants to make peace with the beer community.
“If one of us (made) a mistake,” he said, “it’s definitely not an intentional mistake.”