A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Lew Bryson -

I have no problem with price being in reviews. I am fully in favor of prices being part of reviews of bars and restaurants. I think you'll agree that the 'value' of an individual beer has more to do with what the individual drinker thinks of it, though. Good value means different things to different people in different cities and countries. I was pretty damned pleased to get a pint of Victory Donnybrook for $4 Saturday night (especially since it was in an honest glass, not a 'cheater pint'). I was not happy about paying $7 for a pale ale last month...and I probably won't be back to that place.

If you want price in every review...what price? The suggested price from the brewer? The price you paid at a local bar? The price you paid at a store? Brewers often won't give a suggested price (for various reasons: multiple markets with different taxes, for one thing), and the prices at local bars and stores may well not be representative. I'm not saying don't give a price, but what price do you give?

(BTW, Alan...in 2012, I have to tell your site to put http:// in front of my website URL? Really?)

Bailey -

As always, an interesting topic. We've got another post about the price of beer half-written ourselves.

We're not completely immune to considering the price of a beer when choosing what to drink, but we all have our own threshold for 'too much', and our own sense of value. For our part, these days, we tend not to buy expensive limited edition beers, mail order only, with huge delivery charges on top, because we can get beers which are just as exciting for less cash nearer to home.

As for reviews, we'd probably mention the price of a beer if it was extremely high or remarkably low. Otherwise, it's just not that interesting.

Alan -

You'd think wrong. I think you make a false distinction between "the 'value' of an individual beer has more to do with what the individual drinker thinks of it" and "Good value means different things to different people in different cities and countries" as each person makes one decision to have one beer at a time. I want to know the price each person pays. You are right that there will be a range but I want to see that range. It is, after all, just data. The more I have the more informed my decision.

Sorry about the URL thing. I would like to say that it's technology's fault but it's a trendy retro thing I am into.

Alan -

Bailey, I like to think I have both "too much" and "that's as good as this for less". I still have my $8.99 for 750 ml check point. That serves me well. It is the point at which I decide, for example, amongst Hennepin, Saison Dupont and Local 1. All are excellent beers and all are great value. But in central NY they seem to hover around each other depending on the retailer.

Also, the fine points of US consumer prices are always of interest to Canadians as we have a price control system that is not the marketplace. It is as true of beer as with most other products. We pay 3x the price for good cheddar, for example. That alone is why I cross the border once a month.

Alan -

+1 for this comment at the BBsters.

Stan Hieronymus -

You haul cheese across the border? Is that legal?

Curmudgeon -

In the UK, bloggers will often mention the price when reviewing bottled beers bought in the off-trade. For draught beers, it's more difficult, as there is such huge variation between different pubs, often very close to each other. People will often say what they paid in a specific pub, but you can't generalise from that.

Alan -

Stan: Canadians get $20 per day dairy quota tax and duty free a day. A kilo of Cabot Extra Sharp is 9.99 and decent no name old cheddar in NNY can be found for $8.49 a kilo. I would pay nearing $30 bucks a kilo for good equivalent eastern Ontario old cheddar. Love them both but need to feed a family.

Plus there's a good beer store in Watertown, NY!

Curmugdeon: it is just data. I can extrapolate from any well contextualized data. As a professional buyer, if I could not I would have no job.

Stan Hieronymus -

Another data point. If you use Bill Night's Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator you'll see that a $8.99 750 is equivalent to a $25-plus 6-pack.

FYI - the calculator is also available as an app (I receive no compensation).

Alan -

Living the metric zone means knowing a six pack is 2 litres or 2000 ml. But the 2 bucks premium (as I have been informed) on the cage cork and bottle for those special occasions has me in its spell. And, frankly, I am focusing my efforts on not being taken by the 52 dollar six pack.

Tiffany -

Another interesting topic, Alan.

As a beer retailer, there are certainly beers of which I think, "...this is gonna be a hard sell at $12," and that's with a standard beer mark-up. While I'm not opposed to seeing prices included in reviews, what concerns me with seeing prices included is that the price can vary considerably with the type of establishment.

For example, most beer has MSRP at 25% and 30% mark-up, respectively. A handful of our suppliers have MSRP at 33%. That's not a high profit margin, considering all the overhead of operating a bottle shop. Of course, there are a handful of beers for which a higher margin can be attained, depending on scarcity and demand. In my bottle shop, we are at 30% margins in effort to remain competitive in the marketplace, make enough to cover our operation costs, and offer fair prices to our customers.

However, I've seen some craft beer in grocery chains priced at very low mark-ups, 5-15%. As the average consumer doesn't realize the beer is being treated as a loss-leader, some expect bottle shops to be able to match those prices. Sorry, it just doesn't happen.

On the other hand, taverns and restaurants have higher mark-ups, and that's expected due to their higher operational costs.

What I hope to never (or rarely) see is 400% restaurant mark-ups on beer, like is often done with wine. Beer is everyman's drink and even the best beer should be affordable to most.

...and then there's the wholesaler mark-up, but that's a whole other topic. ;-)

Lew Bryson -

I don't see how it's a "false distinction." Value is a personal judgment; as Bailey says, "we all have our own threshold for 'too much', and our own sense of value." I agree.

And you want to know the price each person pays? How much is that information worth to you? Because that would be information that would be of real value to wholesaler or producer, and information they'd pay for. Would you be willing to pay for it?

Alan -

I mean it is false in this sense. It is not a complete toggle switch. I do not agree that personal values makes it a non-factor and stands opposed to what is objectively good. The only way you determine the good is through the exercise of individual judgement. There is no collective judgement just a lot of single instances. Informed individual values is a process of education. Should not the buyer try to establish the breadth of their own understanding of value through research?

And I am not sure how you have an issue with price that I should not want to know. If this was cars, bread or houses you would not question the importance of shopping around and informing yourself. Why would I pay for it when, through aggregation of consumer experience, I can establish it for free?

Lew Bryson -

Oh, I'm not saying you shouldn't WANT to know the prices. I'm just asking: how much is that worth to you? You're asking everyone to post the price of beers when they buy them to help the collective beer drinker. If that works, great; if it doesn't...then what? Because I haven't seen it work yet. I use a free app on my phone to get fuel prices when I'm traveling, but it depends on free reporting, the 'aggregation of consumer experience.' I post prices when I buy -- just did so this morning -- but I'll tell you, the reports have been really wrong at times, like the time I went someplace to get the cheap diesel my app said was there...and that station didn't even SELL diesel. What's the value of free information like that?

As for your statement on value...to be honest, I'm not sure how what you're saying -- "The only way you determine the good is through the exercise of individual judgement." -- is different from value being a personal judgment. "Objectively good" is a slippery concept when you talk about people's senses and tastes. You want a lot of information about the price of your beer, but do you really want ALL of it? Or are you going to throw out factors you don't agree with? For example, if a bar charges more for a pint because they're paying their staff a living wage...is that of value to you when all you're doing is buying a pint? Or if a store charges more for a sixpack because their rent is higher: is that of value to you? In both cases, it would be a valid additional cost that other retailers didn't incur. (And I'd question how likely either establishment is to tell you that information.) I would tell you, if the beer is good, you'll have to make up your own mind on whether it's worth it to you to pay more at those places. I don't think you can factor all that in objectively.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Can you explain?

Alan -

I want to see the data and be able to take those variables into account. I do it all the time for other information. I know a beer in Toronto costs more and a litre of gas is cheapest in Newmarket and Gananoque Ontario - for reasons beyond my ken. And I know the price of bulk gravel and the price of concrete at certain times of the year (as well as a bunch of other items) as I get to see the evaluation bids on construction contracts as part of my job. It's really not that hard to keep track of retail beer as it is a far smaller set of numbers than other stuff I deal with.

Then I take that data and exercise my judgment. I know, for example, that I will blow money on my upcoming trip to Montreal compared to staying at home. But I also know that I like paying less for cheddar in NNY and also that I prefer to spend ten bucks in NNY buying 4 cans of tasty Sixpoint compared to more for the same Ontario craft beer that is not as tasty. We all make this sort of decision all day every day. I am an aggregator. It's just life in the marketplace. More data good.

Paul -

Ultimately I'd like to not have to think about price, but the prices on the high end of the craft beer market makes me think that it's a data point that's worth recording. Because it can be so extreme in either direction, it is also something that's worth commenting on in my conclusions about any particular beer.

It might also prove amusing for any American readers to find out just how much we're getting gypped in the UK! I really want to review a Stone IPA, but I don't want to pay £5 ($7.80) for a 12oz when I know I could get a six-pack for under $10 when I was in California.