Yes, hops and barley shortages have driven up beer prices – that’s for sure. But $3,500 for a six-pack goes a little beyond high ingredients costs. Five 12-oz bottles of Dave, a 1994 barleywine by Portland brewer Alan Sprints of Hair of the Dog Brewing sold for prices ranging from $478 to $719 each in an online beer auction as part of FredFest, the annual Fred Eckhardt birthday party, celebrated last Saturday in Portland. Had there been six bottles, and had the last sold for $700, it would have made for a $3,500-plus six-pack.
“That was pretty amazing,” said Sprints, who still has stocks of the 14-year-old beer. “My other beers did well, too. I had a bottle of Adam from the first batch that went for $151, and a bottle of Anchor Steam commemorating beer writer Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday that sold for $444. The beer probably wasn’t any good in that one, it just shows the affection people have for Michael.”
The online rare-beer auction, which raised more than $6,000 and FredFest 2008, the weekend’s celebration of Portland beer guru Fred Eckhardt’s 82nd birthday could raise more than $15,000, which will be donated to Parkinson’s research in Jackson’s memory.
“I brewed Dave to make a point about how beer could be more, how it could challenge assumptions and blur boundaries.” At 29 percent alcohol, it could blur more than that, but that’s why Dave bottles have screw-on tops, Sprints said — they’re not meant to be drunk at one sitting.
Sprints brewed just 90 gallons of Dave in 1994 and didn’t let any out of the brewery until 1998, when he took it to the prestigious Toronado Barleywine festival in San Francisco, where it got a gold medal and a name. (Dave is named after Toronado owner David Keene.) He’s brewed none since and sold just a few bottles.
But he does plan to release 15 bottles — for the retail price of $80 each — on the brewery’s 15th anniversary on November 15th, 2008. “I’m trying to figure an equitable way to sell them, because I’ve already heard from folks who are planning to fly in for the sale,” he said.
“Usually, the people who get in line earliest buy up all the rare stuff, but I may have to come up with some kind of lottery for this.”