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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Bailey -

This brings to mind Tandleman's musings on the price of lambic beer in the UK. The market in operation and all that -- you charge what you can get away with or you're a charity -- but why aren't there more people forcing their way into that market and undercutting? How watertight are these exclusive import deals?

(And congrats on inventing a word, by the way: a couple more uses and it might get into the OED.)

Jeff Alworth -

It's not exactly on topic with the Shelton Brothers thread, but you are certainly right about the peculiarities of pricing. Orval is maybe the most dramatic example. Even at six bucks, it remains one of the most amazing deals on the planet. Orval has a maximum capacity of a little under 60,000 barrels, owing to the fact that their monastery is too small. They expanded a few years ago and are now as big as they ever will be.

Demand FAR outstrips supply. 86% of their output stays in Belgium (very high for a famous beer like Orval) and 92% Benelux countries. France gets another 3%, N. America 2%, Italy, Japan 1%, UK .5%. Nordic countries the rest, plus tiny shipments to Switzerland and Spain. Orval now honors old agreements with countries, sending them beer because they supported Orval before it was world famous. Countries like China, clamoring for the beer, are out of luck.

Of course, you could say Orval is just being dim. If they charged ten bucks a bottle, supply and demand might come into equilibrium. But the monks of Orval oversee their operation in a way that is not exactly consonant with the most aggressive capitalist practices.

Nevertheless, when you shell out fifteen bucks for a bottle of random beer that turns out to be nowhere near in Orval's ballpark, you wonder: how the hell do they get off?

You are astute to point out the role of companies like Shelton Brothers, and I shall endeavor to use "shelted" in the future. (It's worth noting that Orval is imported by Merchant du Vin--a company whose imports are all modestly-priced.)

Lew Bryson -

"(It's worth noting that Orval is imported by Merchant du Vin--a company whose imports are all modestly-priced.)"
How things change. 25 years ago, MdV was a company noted for what everyone I knew considered as rapacious prices. But we paid them...

Bailey, the exclusive import deals are pretty tight. If you check the beer registration fees mentioned in this context, it seems pretty apparent that what they're really for is so the states can enforce exclusivity contracts, a neat little farming out of enforcement costs the wholesalers have gotten away with. We had legislative hearings about a beer registration fee-asco (sorry...) about two years ago here in Pennsylvania, and it was ludicrous, watching various state officials and legislators who clearly had no idea why the registration fees even existed.

Tim Collins -

I love the use of the word. I have been buying imports for 30 years and it still amazes me how much we are willing to pay for some of them. I remember the days when a case of Blue cost the same as a dusty old bottle of Duval. Luckily, I don't crave the sour beers the way some do or I would be up a creek without a paddle or dare I say Shelted daily. I discovered years ago that I could make beer that is the equal or better than most and that most types of beer can be produced here in the states by craft brewers.
The real problem with the law suit and ruling, is that it will make it harder for new breweries to open and for them to produce a wide variety of products.