Philadelphia Brewing Company Becomes the First Brewery in the U.S. to Accept BitCoin

by The Drink Nation on Feb 7, 2014 in Culture


In spite of Apple’s decision this week to pull Bookchain, the only Bitcoin wallet available for iPhone users, from its app store, the number of businesses adopting the virtual currency doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Nancy Barton, whose Philadelphia Brewing Company recently became the first brewery in the US to accept the often misunderstood peer-to-peer payment system for purchases, could care less what type of smartphone her customers prefer. All she’s concerned with is plying them with the tasty, craft-brewed beers they love, and making sure those virtual chits are turned into cold, hard cash when sales at the brewery’s tasting room are finalized.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea,” Barton told The Drink Nation, admitting that she was a little uncertain about Bitcoin at first. “What is it? You’re not holding on to anything. It’s just this weird stuff out there in the ether.”

But once she accepted the fact that it is in fact legal tender, she decided there was no reason not to get on board with it.

“I wonder if this is how people felt when credit cards first came out?” she added. “It’s just fear of change, adopting new technology, or just not understanding the technology.”

It turns out she does a little better when payments are made via Bitcoin rather than traditional credit card transactions. The fees that go with credit cards cuts into her sales by as much as 3 to 4 percent on each transaction. Bitcoin on the other hand only costs her about one percent. What’s more, the Bitpay service she uses ties seamlessly into the brewery’s existing POS system.

“When we take it, the bitcoin gets converted to US dollars and goes right into our bank account,” she explains. “It’s a regular old transaction for us. It’s taxed the same, there’s really nothing different about it.”

Cases of PBC’s beers run approximately 0.00000016543 bitcoins. Barton said she was amazed that the figure went to the eleventh decimal. But at the end of the day, what’s really important is that those decimal expansions, no matter how far they stretch, get converted into dollars in PBC’s bank account.

“It seems a little too easy and it only took about fifteen minutes to set up our account,” Barton said. “It makes you wonder, why isn’t everyone doing it? It’s so easy.”

Barton told us she first became interested in Bitcoin at the urging of a neighbor, who it just so happens buys, sells and trades the virtual currency. The way the system works, the more who use it, the more valuable the Bitcoins become. So it’s only natural that people like him, who see it as more of an investment opportunity than an alternative to cash and credit cards, would help grow the Bitcoin community.

“Right now, we’re not buying, selling them, or holding on to them,” she said. “We’re just accepting them as payment on our retail side.”

But that could all change further down the road. Barton is open to using the digital dollars for business purposes too.

It’s possible we could adopt it for our wholesale business as well,” she said. “If our suppliers were to accept it, we would consider using it to purchase things.”  

Photos: Flickr user aimeeknight; Philadelphia Brewing Compnay; Wikimedia Commons


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