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All Hail the Darkess
Would you wait in line for hours for the chance to buy four bottles of beer? Would you pay hundreds of dollars for a single bottle of beer? If you want a bottle of Dark Lord, those are your two options.
The beer is brewed by the 3 Floyds Brewery, located about a half-hour outside of Chicago. Released to great fanfare every year in April, the Dark Lord is an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, molasses, and honey. Lush and round and delicious, it’s one of the top beers brewed in the USA every year. At 13% abv, it earns its name for being both enticing and dangerous.
The Dark Lord
True to its namesake, the beer has more acolytes than most religions. To get your hands on a bottle, one has to pre-purchase a $15 ticket, travel to Illinois on the last Saturday in April (aka Dark Lord Day), wait in line with 6,000 other like-minded worshipers in the brewery’s parking lot. Only then will you have a chance to buy a few bottles for $50 apiece.
The eBay Connection
If that seems like a bit too much work, you also have the option to purchase a single 750ml bottle on eBay for $200.
Let’s back up here. $50 for a bottle of beer? $200? Has beer geekery gone too far? Are we willing to spend more on a great bottle of beer than a great bottle of wine? Or is this the point when we realize that we are falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book?
Beer & False Scarcity
False Scarcity is a well-known tactic used by marketers the world over. If you can create the impression that a particular product is not available to everyone, the consumer will covet it much more. It’s very effective to pull it off since economics teaches us that only rare things have value. It’s a tactic used by several high-profile beer brands, including Russian River’s Pliny the Younger.
Could 3Floyds make more Dark Lord and sell it yearlong? Of course, they could. The barrier to higher production is shallow: there is no shortage of equipment, ingredients, or skills required for the beer’s production. It would only take an investment of money, time, and additional space. However, that would defeat the purpose of the Dark Lord. Its real benefit to production is to increase the stature of the brewery itself, not the beer.
The marketing ploy surrounding the Dark Lord means that 3Floyds gets a great deal of media coverage. In turn, that promotes sales of its other beers, most of which have higher profit margins than the Dark Lord. Brewing is a business, and false scarcity is a proven way to increase revenue. At the end of the day, everyone has to pay their bills—even the Dark One himself.
This year may pop the bubble, finally. There are reports that the Dark One is tasting strangely of green apples this year, probably due to a touch of acetaldehyde.