Let’s talk about Veblen Goods. These are items where the demand increases as the price increases. This is usually irrespective of increasing quality, the premium is in possession itself. Most of the time we are talking about Rolexes, boats, rare handbags: today we are talking about Firestone Walker.
Rare bourbon or sought after beers are weird in that they have an upward sloping curve: when dudes in cargo shorts see the price rise, their hearts beat in those North Face fleeces. Veblen items usually cover themselves by 1. Being accessible to only to people who spend a ton on a brand or 2. Being inaccessible for other reasons.
Firestone Walker has a $600.00 reserve society, it’s basically a bet, in exchange you get some rare goods. Some of these beers people want simply because they are not available. Nike Dunks tell people that you are a renter even if they’re in a rare colorway.
When the hype planets align, you get a beer that is both underwhelming, expensive and inaccessible, that people want. Astrologists call this Veblen in Gatorade.
I was so excited for a Brandy Barrel Barleywine. I had dreams of single cask Sucaba, the majesty of such luxury. Surely I wouldn’t once again get something worse than Bravo still sitting on shelves? Then I read the label.
Two winemakers were involved in the anniversary beer. Why? Oh because the barleywine was made with 48% fermentable grape must. Who asked for this? The winemakers. You get a free olive oil in the box. Oh. Then find out that the GM of barrelworks spent 15 years in the olive oil industry.
The barleywine is wiped out, has a body that is absolutely drilled down to an Altbier consistency. Hey don’t worry, it’s still 13% abv so it’s bone dry, wafty, fusel, and we got residual fermented grape flavor to balance out ::checks notes:: leather and graham crackers.
For that consumer who wants something both too big and insubstantial at the same time, weird fruit stripe gum merged with a Skor bar. I can only assume this merged lovingly in FW25 with the tequila barrel aged Velvet Merkin [I am not making this up.]
I wanted this so badly, but this is one veblen good that sent my curve straight downward.