Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Dupont News, and More from Westvleteren.

Chuck Cook, one of the hardest-working dudes in the beer writing business, recently came back from another busy trip to Belgium, his luggage stuffed with loads of photos and knowledge and recorded chit-chat. Much of it will appear in his articles for the Ale Street News and other publications. As usual.

This time, however, he's done something a bit different. Editing together several photos from a visit to Brasserie Dupont, and laying over them bits of conversation with brewmaster Olivier Dedeycker, he has put together a package that includes an in-depth 5,000-word article (more than twice as long as your typical magazine feature). Basically, it's saison-o-porn for saison-o-philes.

Now, here's the really different part: He has self-published the package and is charging for it. You can download the whole thing via his site for US$4.99. That's about what you Dupont fans would pay for a magazine if you saw it had an article on Dupont, and less than you would pay for a glass of Saison Dupont in the States, in most cases.

Of course, you could always download the material and start emailing it around and sharing it on the Internet for free. If you're a douchebag.

As an aside: It has never occurred to me to self-publish and sell in-depth or "extra" content, the sort of thing in which publications either have insufficient space or interest. What do you guys think? What sort of stuff would you pay a few bucks for, honestly?

Now, a Westvleteren update: Lots of snafus with the Colruyt supermarket release of Westvleteren last week. Long lines, some stores ran out, many people had coupons but couldn't find the beer, other people couldn't find the coupons even though their local store had the beer. So, far from perfect.

My early hopes that this would take some of the steam out of the grayish-black online market has proven unfounded, so far. Here is one joker selling the box of six Westvleteren 12s plus two tasting glasses for $899. Or you can "buy it now" for $1,500. Charming, no? Zero bids so far, and if there is justice it will stay that way.

One way to ease the hype, if anything can, would be to spread the word that Shelton Brothers will be releasing next year's batch of fund-raising Westy to the U.S. public. (As far as I know, the Brewbound website first broke that news on Friday.) The importer has a lot of experience with distributing hard-to-get beers to its clients as fairly as is manageable, even if there are inevitably disappointed folks in the end.

Daniel Shelton told Brewbound that in April he will import 7,760 of the special gift boxes, the same sort that went for sale last week in Belgium. Shelton also said that Texas-based importer Manneken-Brusel would be importing some of the boxes as well.

My hope that the eBay pirates will drop their absurd prices is based entirely on the hope that people will stop paying them. This news ought to help in that regard, and give more people a chance to taste the beer for themselves and see if it's worth all the fuss. We shall see.


  1. I don't think it's quite fair for someone to put out a new monetization format and then for you to immediately call people douchebags for not respecting it. I wouldn't pay for it and if I felt like doing a review as the law allows me to, I would display images and text. If he makes some cash, that is fine and - sure I was pissed off when BeerAdvocate nicked one of my photos without payment - but given the second part of your story, I know who I would call douchebag.

  2. Did I say a review wouldn't be respectful? Quoting the article liberally and borrowing an image or three from the movie strike me as fair game.

    But I think there is an ethical code in play here. Chuck has put some work into a product and put a price tag on it. Inevitably, I suppose, someone's going to make copies and send them around to their friends, who probably could have afforded the $5 to pay for it themselves. Yes, that strikes me as douchebaggery.

  3. A little aside... Vanberg & DeWulf has a link to cook's film and story. Aim was to make it available in time for showing at the Coast to Coast toast on 11.15.11.
    We hope that plenty of accounts will want to run it and that Chuck who has put an enormous amount of time and care into project makes a pile of money.

  4. Just wanted to add a few thoughts after sitting down to read, watch and listen to the whole thing.

    I suspect that serious Dupont fans will have little issue with paying the $5, and for them it will be worth it. For many of them it will be the first time that they have seen more than two or three photos of the brewery, or heard the voice of Olivier Dedeycker.

    The long-ish and pleasantly rambling article reminded me somewhat of the late John White's reports. It is uncut, for those of us who would prefer that nothing be cut out. Chuck occasionally shares his enthusiasm with exclamation points. Along the way are lots of details and history (though I could have done with more of the brewing process details... temperatures and hop additions and that sort of thing).

    It's not meant for the general public, and not everything has to be.

  5. But I am a serious Dupont fan. I am not a beer porn fan - except for the Christmas photo contest, of course, but that to me is the value of good amateur photos. They are for sharing with enthusiasts.

    That being said, I have nothing against a guy trying to make a buck. I make bucks with my beer blog but not directly from my readers and not even from beer related things for the most part. So I would be interested to hear the results. I would also be interested to know if there were different ways to approach the sale - say, if there were low quality thumbnails that cost "X" for a high res version.

    For me, only through seeing how the buyers respond do the ethical implications get elaborated.

  6. Fair enough. It might change the perspective a bit if it turns out there is a small market for it.

    Back to the topic on unarguable douchebaggery, the guy who was selling the $1500 sixer of Westy has pulled the listing. Wish I'd taken a screen shot. At the moment they seem to be anywhere in the $150-320 range.