Showing posts with label three tier system. Show all posts
Showing posts with label three tier system. Show all posts

Monday, March 25, 2013

Is It Still Worth It?

Wandering around one of the local supermarkets the other day, I instinctively took a detour down the booze aisle. I haven't been buying beer in the shops much lately, preferring to either have a few pints in the pub or when I am drinking at home mostly drink my homebrew and work my way through the cellar. What I saw in the beer aisle was quite the eye opener. Six packs of 'craft beer' in this neck of the woods seem to have jumped in price to $9.99. It didn't matter whether the beer was from one of our local breweries or from further afield, once you add on sales tax, a six pack of beer will now set you back more than $10.

Price, it seems, is becoming an issue in the craft beer world, with 22oz bottles of specials routinely costing between $8 and $10 by themselves, regardless of strength and ingredients, unless of course you are buying the big bottles of standard beers from the likes of Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Samuel Adams. Of course smaller brewers can't enjoy the economies of scale that are afforded to the bigger brewers, and I really think we need to dispense with the myth that the major craft beer brands are anything but big brewers, not multinationals (yet) for sure, but still not exactly brewing on 10 barrel kits for their local markets any more.

I am perfectly open to the idea that I am more sensitive to price at the moment, given my lack of full time employment, but I wonder at times if the craft beer industry is in danger of pricing itself out of the market? I have to admit that prices are getting to the point that I seriously have to consider whether it is worth spending $10 for a 6 pack of craft beer or going Trader Joe's and getting their Gordon Biersch brewed German style beers for about $6, or their Unibroue made Belgian style ales at a third of the price.

Usually, it seems to me, when price is mentioned with regards to beer it is often in the context of the so-called 'wine-ification' of beer, because obviously bigger bottles and higher prices make it more like wine. As I discussed last week, this view, I believe, does a disservice to both beer and wine. Better, I would suggest, is to talk about the 'gentrification' of beer, like run down neighbourhoods into which artists and the like move and start making it a happening place to live, followed by the hipsters and eventually the more monied folks wanting the cachet of living there. There are certain segments of craft beer which are very much in the final phase, they have a certain level of cool which people want to be part of, and so up go the prices.

I have no problem with brewers making a living, perhaps in the US context part of the problem of price is really the three tier system, and the fact that a keg of a big hitting IPA will cost the same as a German Pilsner rather than having price based on ABV. Taking that into account though, it baffles me at times why more brewers don't push their session beers more, they are cheaper to make and the profit margin under such a single price system is much higher.

What then do you think is a sensible, fair price for a six pack of regular beer in the shops?

Beyond January

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