This guest series has actually been written by Howard, a reader and frequent commenter/educator here on Thank Heaven for Beer.  Since his experience far outweighs ours, we thought it only fitting to open up the floor.  Thanks Howard!

BIF stands for Beer It Forward, which is just like the movie “Pay it Forward”, but with beer instead of good deeds. Sometimes they’ll allow new traders, but they usually require you have at least a little bit of trading history. The way these trades work is:

1. A user posts that they’re starting a new BIF. They will either lay out the rules, or they’ll look for other people’s input on what the rules should be. There is usually a minimum or maximum amount of beer per package, plus a theme like local beer only, >10% ABV beer only, Top 100 only, etc. Sometimes there are extras, like X number of beers and X number of cigars, or a T-shirt, or glassware, you get the idea.
2. Users sign up for the BIF by replying to the thread and asking if you can join in, or by sending a private message to the original poster.
3. A master list is compiled of all of the participants, including their user names, real names, addresses and phone numbers.
4. The person who started the BIF picks one person on the list and builds and ships a package within the constraints of the rules. You usually try to hit as many of their Wants as you can. They might give hints about where the package is going, but nobody knows for sure.
5. When that person receives the package, they pick a target from who is left on the list, and build and ship their package.
6. This continues until the last recipient gets their package, then they build and ship a package for the originator of the BIF.

All of the hops of the BIF are usually recorded on a website, so everybody can see who got what, and who’s left on the list to receive. There is also a sense of competition with these, because nobody wants to be outdone by the other participants, so the boxes keep getting bigger or loaded with more rare beer. These are the most fun for me; it’s like Christmas morning wondering if you’re the next stop, and what will be in the box when you open it!

You’ll see other types of trading opportunities in this forum as well. LIF stands for Lotto it Forward, which is where somebody is setting up a game with beer as the prize. The usual rules are that you’ve never had the beer they’re offering before, don’t have access to it, agree to review it, and will hold your own LIF in the future. I’ve seen stuff like “guess my daughter’s middle name”, “guess my favorite guitarist”, “guess how many miles I drove to Dark Lord Day”, and others.

GIF stands for Growler it Forward, which is exactly like BIF, but with growlers. They usually run these trades with assigned targets, so you know who you’re supposed to ship to and everybody ships around the same time.

There will also be Secret Santa and Secret Bunny opportunities, which are exactly like any other Secret Santa you may have been a part of, but with beer. You’ll be assigned a target, and have a shopping and shipping window to get your package out to your recipient.

Howard’s other articles in this series:

The Suds Swap Meet (1 of 5)

Beer Value and Ettiquette (2 of 5)

Getting Started (3 of 5)