10 California Craft Beers That Cost a Bundle on the Black Market
By Jason Notte

California helped pioneer the U.S. craft beer movement, and some of the beers that started it all fetch thousands for private sellers.

We want to reiterate that private second-hand beer sales are 100% illegal.

But if you're going to buy some black-market beer, you may as well get an education out of it. For fans of U.S. craft beer, there are few places better suited for starting that education than California.

Back in 1965, young Stanford graduate Frederick Louis "Fritz" Maytag heard that San Francisco's Anchor Brewery was going out of business and scraped together a few thousand dollars to buy a majority stake. By 1975, he was not cooling Anchor Steam beer in shallow coolships on the roof of his brewery (hence the "steam" name of this California Common lager), but bottling it and selling it alongside Anchor Porter, Old Foghorn Barleywine, Christmas Ale and Liberty Ale -- the earliest U.S. ancestor of West Coast IPA.

In 1976, however, Navy man Jack McAuliffe had taken his experience with Scottish Beer and Maytag's Anchor Beers, brought what he'd learned to professor Michael Lewis at the University of California at Davis -- who'd become a mentor to other early craft brewers -- and used their collective knowledge, and the investment of Suzy Stern and Jane Zimmerman, to open the first post-Prohibition microbrewery. New Albion had to fabricate its own equipment -- turning Coca-Cola syrup drums into fermenters and copper tubing that McAuliffe forged by hand --and had a tough go of it despite brisk sales. Its pale ale, porter and stout weren't enough to keep the doors open, and New Albion closed by 1982.

It's legacy, however, was far-reaching. Sierra Nevada founders Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi credit both Maytag and McAuliffe for advising them as they built their Chico, Calif.-brewery in 1979 with old dairy equipment, scrap metal and second-hand copper kettles from Germany. New Albion's old equipment helped Mendocino Brewery grow, while its original sign sits at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.

California had 518 craft breweries at the end of 2015 and is rumored to already have 600 at this point. By comparison, the 305 breweries in second-place Washington were roughly half California's total. The 3.8 million gallons of craft beer California brewed in 2016 was second only to Yuengling-aided Pennsylvania's 4 million. However, during the big brewers' craft beer buying spree of the last two years or so, California brewers became a sought-after commodity. San Diego's Saint Archer (Miller Coors) and Ballast Point (Constellation Brands), Los Angeles-based Golden Road (Anheuser-Busch InBev) and Petaluma's Lagunitas (Heineken) were all coveted targets, with Ballast Point and Lagunitas each valued at $1 billion.

California's craft beer landscape is changing rapidly, which makes its artifacts only more precious. The last time we went trolling the black-market listings, we uncovered the earliest predecessor to Russian River's Pliny The Elder double IPA, the beer that helped San Diego's Pizza Port launch its Lost Abbey spinoff and perhaps the greatest California beer collaboration of all time.

We dug through MyBeerCellar.com's offerings again and found ten more lots that fans of California's craft beers should love: READ MORE HERE