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Burlington woman charged with selling beer online - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington woman charged with selling beer online

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"It's been rated the number one beer in the world," said Brian Maloney, the beer and wine manager at Healthy Living Market.

People are ready for a Heady at Healthy Living Market in South Burlington.

"It goes very, very quickly," Maloney said.

Heady Topper is a double IPA brewed by the Alchemist in Waterbury, Vt., and it's Healthy Living's top seller, with around 50 cases a day going out the door.

"There's a market for it and people will pay for it," Maloney said.

Yes they will. The beer is brewed in small batches and is only delivered within 25 miles of the Waterbury brewery. So it's hard to get and there's not a lot of it, which means there's a problem brewing.

"We're starting to see it more and more," said Bill Goggins, the director of education, licensing and enforcement for the Vt. Department of Liquor Control.

Liquor Control says too much demand and not enough supply is fueling illegal sales of Vermont craft beers like Heady Topper. Last month, state investigators got a tip from the Alchemist that someone was advertising cases of Heady Topper on Craigslist for $250 apiece. Places like Healthy Living sell it for around one-third of that at $75 a case.

"Part of it is people want what they can't get," Maloney said.

To make the deal seem legit, undercover investigators negotiated down the total Craigslist asking price for the five cases from $1,250 to $825. They say the seller is Stephanie Hoffman, 28, of Burlington.

"She gave him the beer, he gave her the money, and then she was promptly arrested," Goggins said.

Hoffman allegedly sold the beer without a liquor license, which is illegal and a misdemeanor. She could face a $1,000 fine and a year in jail or both for this crime.

"There's only two places in Vermont to get alcohol: in a private dwelling or a place licensed to sell alcohol," Goggins said. "The assumption is people know you can't sell a regulated product out of the trunk of your car on the street corner."

Whether she knew that isn't clear, but she does know a thing or two about law; she's a lawyer at Langrock Sperry and Wool, a prominent law firm.

As far as the craft beer craze, people are thirsty, even posting ads online searching for the 8 percent alcohol beer.

Bill Goggins: You'll see people from as far as California saying, hey, can someone buy this ship it to me. I'll pay for everything and give you $100 to do it.

Reporter Gina Bullard: And that's illegal?

Bill Goggins: That's illegal.

We hoped to talk to Hoffman for this story, but messages left at the law firm where she works were not returned. She is due in court later this month to face the misdemeanor charge. I did speak with the Alchemist and owners say it's a shame someone is getting arrested over beer. They say it's just not worth it and hope people realize this needs to stop.

If Hoffman is convicted, it's unclear how it may affect her ability to practice law. Lawyers have rules of professional conduct, but most disciplinary action is for very serious crimes like felonies, not misdemeanors like in this case.

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