Jeff's link to another blog's commenting on price brought me back to 2007. This post and in particular the massive debate in the comments on the place of the consumer in understanding price. I started off with this understanding but I am pretty sure I did not end there:
First, beer is bread. Beer is craft, a mass product. It is not art. And, as a craft in the medium of food to boot, a consumable that depends on its destruction. Second, while I admittedly have a very high level of sensitivity to it, this line of discussion could really be taken to smack of snob (not something I associate with the three gents mentioned so please leave that alone) or at least it is an idea that is paying a visit to the Neighbourhood of Snob and, you know, is finding it somewhat attractive. Fergit it. Almost twenty years ago Andrew Barr nailed the wine trade, primarily in the UK, in his book Wine Snobbery pointing out especially how champagne created false value through the control of hype and trademark. Let's not see great beer go there. Third, snobby is a mechanism, like any branding, to make that which is not, something that is - like a 15 dollar beer. Wait for them to say if you do not get it, you don't understand it.
I think what has happened in the intervening years has proven my arguments to a certain degree. So many breweries now sell premium priced craft beers that the notion that each is rare or even all that special has clearly been refuted. But the same notion has also been refuted by the volume of excellent beer at lower price points. There is simply no need to get suckered anymore.
What I think is most interesting, however, is how the room for further manufactured inflation may be getting limited. There are few worthy rare ingredients as yet unbrewed, few undiscovered ancient techniques still waiting to be sprung on the market. Collaborations have become a bit of a yawner, too. Without the constant parade of "innovation" can the general price point even hold? It is an interesting question as manufactured inflation inevitably falls back upon itself. Separate from the idea of a collapse of any craft bubble, the market forces against premium priced craft may have already been triggered. We may have come to the point of price equilibrium that I was looking forward to back then due to both better informed buyers and a more broadly based supply of good beer.