The Beer End User Licensing Agreement: Genius Idea To Put a Curb On The Beer Black Market?

San Diego's Stone Brewery turns to the BEULA to curb beer black market (Photo: Bernt Rostad on Flickr)


NOTE: April Fools! A great joke from Bill Night at It’s Pub Night - that for once has something to do with law. Kudos to Bill.


Stone Brewing is so damn clever. For years, brewers have been posting diatribes about the underground beer resellers market on eBay. I don’t blame them, these resellers are making immense products and creating a mass hysteria that prevents many select beer releases from reaching normal consumers. Well, Stone thinks they have a solution.


The concept is beer licensing. The Beer End-User Licensing Agreement (BEULA) aims to add restraint to the beer market. That’s right, that bottle of beer in your hand is yours to drink merely because you own a license to drink it. You don’t own it, and therefore you certainly cannot sell it. Stone Brewing – masterminds.


Stone’s first foray into BEULA is being launched with the triple IPA, Not For Sale Ale. I think it was very fitting that they chose to offer up their first BEULA with a Pliny the Younger look-alike, the same beer that has caused unprecedented mass beer nerd hysteria (perhaps Portsmouth’s Kate the Great or Three Floyds Dark Lord are up there as well). The beer should be out in the market for “licensing” soon enough, and will be followed by rare releases from other California breweries like Lost Abbey (San Diego), The Bruery (Orange County) and Russian River (Santa Rosa).


How does this beer licensing work? Stone has already provided a copy of its BEULA, and apparently the other brewers mentioned above are working with legal teams to develop their own terms. The terms briefly provide that the user is entitled to consume or serve the beer and is prohibited from selling, redistributing or sub-licensing the beer. Using a BEULA, brewers can even protect their recipes and how their beer is used or consumed.


Will this work? Who knows. Licensing something consumable is rather unprecedented, as far as I know. But I would seriously doubt that it would have any impact on the beer consumer and certainly will not prevent people from purchasing rare beers. The issue that I see is how the license is distributed. Presumably all distributors are actually bonafide sub-licensors, permitted to transfer licenses, though I am sure that none of them are ecstatic to have to deal with this new legal wrestling match.


What will be interesting to see if the first enforcement lawsuit. Will Stone actually sue a guy selling the beer on eBay? I’m sure they will. The courtroom showdown will be closely watched by all in the beer world.



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