Friday, November 16, 2012

Price-gouging on Venetucci Pumpkin Ale: Year two

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Remember how just about this time last year, we confirmed reports that owner Wayne Harris of the Colorado Liquor Outlet was charging $25 per bottle for the last of his Bristol Brewing Company Venetucci Pumpkin Ale?

To recap: That's a beer that every other liquor store in town tends to sell for the same $5.99 that Bristol's tasting room sells it for via an always mobbed pre-sale.

And as part of the brewery's Community Ales Program, proceeds go directly to Venetucci Farm to support the mission of sustainable agriculture and community-building.

But Harris kept the difference as profit, outraging many loyal drinkers of the popular annual brew, whose comments can be viewed on our website and local beer blogs.

I quoted Harris as defiantly saying, "Capitalism is a wonderful thing" late last November, and it's clear that he and his wife Kathy's stance on that statement hasn't changed in the 12 months since.

Because today, we just received a tip that Kathy's store, Springs Liquor Outlet, is now charging $19.99 per bottle.

That is, unless you have a family card to the store, and then the price is $18.99.

I just called the store to confirm the price, but an employee said that there's a store policy to not give any pricing over the phone. (That same policy, oddly, does not extend to Colorado Liquor Outlet, as I just received a phone quote from them.)

So lucky we received this photo as evidence:

Springs Liquor Outlet Venetucci Pumpkin Ale
  • Witness: a potential lesson goes unlearned.

Once again, we called Bristol owner Mike Bristol for comment, and here's what he had to say:

It's a weird situation for us ... as a wholesaler we don't have any control over the retail sale of these. Even between our regular brands, you'll see different pricing between stores. We have a suggested retail price, but they're free to sell it as they please ... I don't monitor it that much.

It's a product that's in high demand, so it's hard to have any control over it. Ultimately the consumer is the one that has to make that decision of whether they want to pay $20 for it or not.

Bristol went on to say that he's more interested in the future in essentially streamlining consistent sales and allocations of all of Bristol's community ales, including the Smokebrush Porter and Cheyenne Canyon Pinon Nut Ale.

By that, he explains that he'd like it if stores sold an equal amount of the other charitable ales rather than a disproportionate amount of the Venetucci Pumpkin Ale. So basically not asking for 20 cases of the popular pumpkin if they're only moving five cases of one of the others, for example.

But again, that gets back to consumer demand ultimately.

Understandably, Bristol did not care to comment on the amount of Venetucci ale allotted to the Springs Liquor Outlet this year, nor any other retailer. As he acknowledged, it is in high demand and there's already ample desire from stores for larger allotments.

I have a call into Springs Liquor Outlet for comment and will post an update to this blog should I hear back from the Harrises with a response.

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