Why people happily line up to pay more than $100 for a single beer

A beer festival conjures up images of inebriated 20-somethings wearing six-pack boxes as hats and generally behaving boorishly. But as such events go, The Boston Beer Co.’s soiree during Toronto Beer Week in mid-September had very little, if any, of that. Dubbed “For the Love of Beer” and held at 99 Gallery, an event space that doubles as a gym in the trendy West Queen West area, younger folks clad in the city’s hip uniform of dark jeans and black tops (even the band was dressed in all black) were throwing the beer down — but not the way Blue Jays fans do.

On draft or in bottles was an array of brews such as Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, Octoberfest and the near-ubiquitous Boston Lager, the flagship responsible for making Boston Beer the largest craft brewer on the continent. If chai tea was more your jam, there was a Chai Saison on tap that brought a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg to the party; if something smokier to match your eyeliner was needed, perhaps Cinder Blonde Gratzer hit the spot.

One beer was conspicuously missing from the free-flowing taps — Utopias — and for good reason. A 710-ml bottle of this 28 per cent alcohol nectar will set you back $112.25 at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the crown corporation that controls liquor sales in the province. Let’s repeat that: one beer, $112.25. And that’s cheaper than it can be bought anywhere else, even in the U.S. In Ohio, for example, that same bottle costs about US$200 now that the state has allowed high-alcohol beers to be sold.