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A reminder beer price matters

It seems that beer is no casual acquaintance of people who read this blog. So were I to conduct a poll — say how much money you send on beer — the results likely wouldn’t necessarily reflect the buying habits of the “average” beer drinker or even the casual “craft beer” drinker.

So it’s interesting to “eavesdrop” on comments posted about beer at a non-beer site.

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune published a story about two new microbreweries in the city. What seemed to get the most attention is that 6 packs of Half Acre beers cost $9. We’re not talking a knee jerk reaction about how that’s ridiculous, but a discussion. Check out the comments.


16 Responses to A reminder beer price matters

  1. Bill March 23, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Two things about the comments: First, Metropolitan’s sixers run $10, which should have freaked the first guy saying the price was too high even further. But second… the poster from Ohio saying $6 or $7 tops — if purchased by the six-pack (as opposed to the frequently discounted 12-pack or case), even Budweiser and Co. are up around or past $6, and the only craft brews I’ve seen that comes close to that price at most stores in and around Chicago are Red Hook and maybe Sam Adams. Goose Island, New Belgium, other brews found in supermarkets are at least $7.99 without any discount pricing, and brews without the distribution push to get into supermarkets start at $7.99-8.49. Maybe Ohio is a cheaper place to buy beer?

  2. Bill March 23, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Forgot about Berghoff — sixers might be $6.99

  3. All Beer Blog March 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    I agree beer prices are getting a bit ridiculous. I pay anywhere from $6-$8 for my favorite I think because it is imported. I figure microbrews have to be more expensive because they don’t have a corporate backing and have to buy/supply all materials themselves. I would pay more for microbrew.

  4. Wortwurst March 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    The craft beer revolution is slowly turning into a three ring circus. $10, $15 and $20 bombers are absolutely ridiculous no matter how much better they taste or supposedly taste. I can see releasing a specialty beer once a year but many microbrewers are putting out entire lines of specialty big brews. Say what you want about the macros but at least they somewhat care about affordability whereas it’s seemingly a badge of honor to pay extra for a hop monster calamity. I never buy full sixers anymore and won’t often pay much more than $3 for a single serving. Of course I don’t go to bars, pubs, clubs, keg parties, etc but I think this is a reasonable course. I mean, it is only beer afterall.

    On top of the prices is the fanaticism. Bloggers now regularly fly across the country for festivals, go to specialty tasting dinners, new beer releases and everything under the sun that reeks of a fad. If you’re purposely flying across country more than one time a year for a beer tasting then you are probably either mentally ill or a rich alcoholic.

  5. helena March 23, 2009 at 5:40 pm #

    We had a bottle of Signature Ale (Lost Abbey/De Proef collaboration) this weekend. Got it in Whole Foods for if i recall correctly $15. Totally worth it – just to put things in perspective compare this to a wine price – i won’t be able to get a bottle of red wine of this quality ever.

  6. Mages64 March 23, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    I appreciate this thread especially helena’s comment. I live here in japan and a six pack of regular macro Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory or Asahi costs 12-15$. Also a draft beer costs 8$ at most bars. So I’d KILL to for a six pack. I’ll never seriously say “you don’t know how good you got it until you don’t” but I can’t help but be shocked at someone bitching about a wonderful handcrafted brew is expensive. The amount of time and emotions that these micro-brewery owners put into making delicious beer is laudable. What’s wrong with paying for quality? If it’s to just get drunk then why even bother? I really don’t get it. The one commenter actually wrote that 6-7 is acceptable but 9 is crazy. Maybe it’s the difference of living here for so long using yen instead of dollars but holy hell, it’s a 3 dollar difference! Is it because people are so afraid of getting “ripped off” ? I’d gladly pay 10$ for a nice Belgium here. I have because macros are shit here. any trappist beer is 10 in any bar and 5 in any supermarket.

    Appreciate the discussion! thanks!

  7. Peter March 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    I know this got beat to death last year during the hop crisis but I still want to reiterate. From a producers point of view, we are discontinuing all but one brand in six packs because even at $8.99 (price to consumer) we are loosing our shorts. Everything is going up. Bottles cost more because it takes lots of energy to make them. Energy to keep our walk in coolers cold and our boilers hot is more expensive then ever before. Delivering said bottles cost more because the fuel surcharges freight companies established last year have stuck around. Hops cost more then they ever have and malt prices have doubled. THEN add to that that our distributor takes a 30% markup and stores take another 30%. The price we small brewers realize for that 8.99 six pack is really only about $4,90 each.

    That being said, some of the most expensive beer (not the best – trying to be objective here) can be purchased for $20-30 dollars a bottle. Compare that to wines, whiskeys, and whatever other craft fermented beverage that regularly exceed $100 per bottle. I will willingly plunk down $25 per bottle for a great beer because it will beat the pants off of most $25 bottle wines in the market. Price per value beer has the market beat hands down.

  8. SteveH March 24, 2009 at 5:27 am #

    So, $9 a sixpack, $1.50 a bottle, that’s about .13¢ an ounce — I paid $5 for a 16 ounce (.31¢ an ounce) glass of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day (and it wasn’t a place that would jack the price for the occasion), packaged beer is still the better deal in my book.

    If the beer is better than most you can find out there, is it worth a little more? I had the opportunity to sample some of the Metropolitan beers a few weeks ago, pretty good brews. OTOH, I probably won’t be dropping $9 for a sixer anytime soon with so many equally good beers at lesser prices.

  9. Mario (Brewed For Thought) March 24, 2009 at 10:19 am #

    $9 for a six is about right here in the Bay Area. If you’re hurting for cash, Trader Joe’s has great deals on beer. Their Mission St line (brewed by Firestone) won gold for the Pale Ale at GABF and runs at $5.99 a sixer.

    Wort, I love the irony in your comment. You write a blog. You are a part of the fanatacism. Sure, you might not back it with your wallet, but you’re feeding that portion of society that is thirsty for beer.

  10. Jeff Alworth March 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Stan, this is a surprising thread for your blog. I imagine that most of your readers do regularly pay $8-$10 a sixer and are surprised only by the reaction they’re seeing to these prices.

    There’s a lot to tease apart in the price of a beer. Let’s consider cost. No doubt few of the readers know that the price of barley and hops went up in the past year, raising the price of regular six packs. Specialty beers might have been aged months or even years. I read yesterday about a Scottish brewery that is shipping its IPA to India as an experiment of historic shipped beer. The experiment will be underwritten by the people willing to spend lots of money on a bottle. So costs matter.

    But then there’s this: what’s “too much?” How much did we pay for a sixer of beer at the start of the micro revolution? If you take your nine 2009 bucks back to 1990, they shrink to $5.54. Is that a whole lot more than we were paying back in ’90? My guess is no. So part of the reason prices seem so high is because they were artificially low for a number of years. Take seven 2005 dollars–probably a decent average for the price of beer then–back to 1990 and it’s just $4.68. I definitely know we weren’t buying beer for less than five bucks a sixer then.

    There’s a lot of class commentary in the comments here and on the Trib thread. I’m wondering how much this is a function of real price inflation and how much it is a sign of the economic times.

  11. Stan Hieronymus March 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Jeff – I pointed to the Tribune comments because I figured they better reflect the “average” drinker, and I was a little surprised that some of the comments here were in the same vein.

  12. matt March 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard & Ruination are both $15 for a 6 pack here in San Diego.

  13. Stan Hieronymus March 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    So Matt, do you consider that a fair price, and outlandish price or just something to yawn about?

  14. SteveH March 25, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    “Goose Island, New Belgium, other brews found in supermarkets are at least $7.99 without any discount pricing:

    This just in: local good beer store in Chicago’s N. ‘burbs; Goose Island, all labels, now (as of this week) at $8.50. Sheesh.


  15. Bill March 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    “…and I was a little surprised that some of the comments here were in the same vein.”

    Mine wasn’t, but in practice, I fall that way because money is tight. So I drink much less than I would otherwise. I like to hit my local brewpub weekly for 2-3 glasses (probably works out to three times a month rather than weekly) for conversation to go with good beer, which means I don’t buy that $10 sixpack for home consumption that often. These days, I don’t buy any price sixpack for home consumption, figuring that $15 or so/week on drinking is enough.

    I mean, I sure do understand that it’s only a buck or two more a sixer, but that $50-100 over a year can mean something. And for folks who’d drink more than a sixer a week, it can mean a lot more.

    This doesn’t fault brewers at all. The beer is certainly worth $10 a sixpack to me, if I had the money or made different choices. But beer is a (take your pick) luxury/entertainment choice/something that’s not food or medicine or a roof over my head.

    And i think that psychologically, when money is tight for anybody, be they craft beer lovers or the wider Chicago Tribune audience, even when you show that the monetary difference isn’t that great between beer X and Y, nevertheless there’s resistance and/or discomfort in paying/justifying the higher price. Or if one’s price point has long been X, disbelief that a beer that costs X + Y can be that much better.

  16. Alan March 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    You got me thinking about price again.

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