Popular local beer brewer takes on price gouging stores

Eighteen bucks for a bottle of beer? If you think that's outrageous, so does the man who brewed it.

The owner of one of the Chicago area's hottest breweries is taking on some liquor stores who he says are unfairly jacking up the price of his product.

Mike Pallen is doing what he loves. He’s brewing beer.

"It smells awesome. We're using Mosaic, Ella and Simcoe hops today. It's like tropical fruit bigtime,” Pallen said.

A long-time home brewer, Pallen quit his marketing job years ago and started Mikerphone Brewery in Elk Grove Village, making tiny batches of popular craft beer.

But that popularity is causing a problem.

"I don't want to see these bottles going for astronomical prices. It's not fair to consumers and it's not fair to me,” Pallen said.

A couple days ago, Pallen received an e-mail from a frustrated customer saying their local liquor store charged him $18 for a bottle of Imperial "Smells like Bean Spirit,” which is a coffee infused double IPA that just hit the market. That’s four dollars more than the suggested retail price.

"Pretty big markup. And what we call that is price gouging. And to me, I don't ever want to see a consumer taken advantage of, and that's exactly what's happening in this case,” Pallen said.

So, Pallen responded by posting a message on Mikerphone's Facebook page saying he is "incredibly upset,” but can't control what liquor stores charge.

However, he warned that because he also distributes his beer, there will be payback.

"I can control who gets my beer. So if a store's gonna take advantage of consumers, they're not gonna get my beer anymore,” Pallen said.

"When I opened my door that day I had eleven people in the store ready to buy it,” said Dave Hawley.

Hawley owns the "Beer Cellar,” which is a tiny bottle shop in downtown Glen Ellyn. He says he has resisted the growing practice of jacking up the prices of the hottest craft beers.

"I want my consumers to keep coming back and purchasing those products from me. So I'm not gonna increase the markup on rare or limited beers,” Hawley said.
Pallen's Facebook rant has now gone viral with craft beer fans thanking him for taking a stand.

"It's an interesting world of craft beer right now. It's a lot of fun. But what's not fun is when people are getting taken advantage of, and I just wanted to let them know I noticed it and I'm looking out for them,” Pallen said.      

The conversation about beer pricing is timely as next Thursday is the start of "Craft Beer Week" in Chicago.