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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Joe Stange -

Alan, you know I'm with you on being cranky about prices, but we can't pretend that people aren't paying them.

As much as I'd like to try that, I dunno, 75cl hyped-up funky saison for $20, I have no qualm with brewers getting some extra cents per ounce. These are not dastardly tycoons, they're guys trying to make a good living. I shrug my shoulders and go for six-pack of something reasonable (or maybe Dupont 75cl for $10!), but I don't lose sleep over that bottle I never bought. Neither does the brewer, because other people are buying them (even if it's not you or I).

Having said all that: smart breweries, bars and shops offer different price points. Including lower ones. I'd like to see more on the lower end, and I know how to vote for that.

Alan -

Oh, I am not cranky. I am just watching and quite happily enjoying well priced bevs just like you.

Not sure how you can say "they're guys trying to make a good living" though. On what basis can you say that of an entire trade? Where does that idea come from. Put it this way. When I was a kid I worked in a number of situations related to entertainment and drinks and certainly visited my fair share of establishments. As with any other part of life I have worked in, I was well aware there were jerks and good guys as with any part of life. Ambitious soakers were part of that continuum. I can only assume they exist in brewing. I would never exclude them. Surely you are not suggesting otherwise.

Joe Stange -

On what basis can I say that of an entire trade? Because they're in a trade. It's a business. By definition, they're trying to make a good living. (If they wanted to make a bad living, maybe they would be beer writers. AHEM)

I'm also basing it on brewers to whom I've spoken about pricing. For example, one is an owner-brewer who has two small children and is trying to make his business work. Not a rich guy, I think it would be fair to say he is making a middle-class living selling beer to middle-class drinkers. The 75cl format is an opportunity for higher margin. Does he hear from people who wish the beers were cheaper? Yeah. But other people are still buying them.

I also have two small kids, which is maybe why this one jumps to mind. When I have a chance to sell my work at a higher price, I do it. Ambitious soakers? I don't see it. I just see beers that cost more than I'm willing to pay. I'm only getting soaked if I choose to pay, and then it's my own fault.

Consumer campaign not a bad idea though... Not so much to harp at businesspeople as to remind each other that we have choices.

Alan -

I have small kids, too. It does not really bear on the point though, as few breweries are single family operations at that level. Not trend makers.

Two things I would add. I have heard of brewers under pressure to "innovate", to keep up. If you don't put the sort of bottle, the sort of claims to rarity of ingredient, what are you as a brewer these days? A dull one falling behind, that's who. Further, bubbles tend not to be conscience and I am not suggesting or needing to suggest that this is all Scrooge MacDuck. But if you go to conferences and read magazines about this method of over hopping, that manner of cask aging are you really going to feel confident about your amber ale and your dry stout?

Result? The decision of a few to charge more to put themselves in a different tax bracket - to teach people to pay more - spreads and becomes, the ambitious soaker would wish, normal. Where there are consumer organizations there is a counter argument, a push back against manufactured inflation. Not just to remind each other we have choices but to advocate for a focus on low price choices and to call out unacceptable markups.

Pivní Filosof -

There is a principle that works for every business transaction

As a buyer, I'd be a fool to pay 10 for something I know I can get for 8, or isn't worth more than that. As a seller, I'd be a fool to sell for 8, something people is happily buying for 10.

And that is how it works here. You can't expect businesses to sell cheaper, when they are selling well enough as it is. The fault (if we can say that someone is at fault) is the people who blindly believe pretty much anything a manufacturer tells them in order to justify their prices, while all the time considering themselves a savvier consumer than the average, when the truth is that in most cases they are herded every bit as much as the macro beer drinker.

Alan -

But there is also no reason to not mention that the 10 dollar beer is foolish which is why I wish there was a consumer's organization to get that news out. But there appears to be this pressure to treat brewers like our dopey cousins and give them the money. That is why, in part, I have no interest in getting to know too many brewers. Muddles the waters. Attracts junket offers. Picks up attachments that come back to haunt or bind.

Alan -

Somehow think there is an analogy here but not sure what it is.

Stan Hieronymus -

If you are going to toss prices around, might as well look at the beer menu at Meridian Pint, the bar in question. Some DC markup in there, but a lot of beers in the $6 range.

Joe Stange -

And there is another issue... geographic difference in markets. The $6 range is borderline cheap for craft beer in DC.

(fondly remembers Shiner Bock draws for a quarter at the Asylum, and when everything was $2 at the Common Share...)

Ben -

I enjoy your blog and enjoyed the post, but I disagree with the tone, as I read it, of blame. Could you clarify what is it you wish a consumer group to say and to whom? Do you wish to say to brewers, "you have an opportunity here," or, "you are screwing up!" Or do you wish to tell fellow consumers to stop inflating the prices of your favorite beers? It sounds like you wish to say all of these, but I disagree with the existence of "unacceptable markups;" either people will pay the price or will not. And I am skeptical that any such group would affect change that would not naturally occur anyway.

As far as I'm concerned, if a brewer is making money, they are doing it right. It is a business, and profits mean they are supplying a demand.

I do, however, agree that craft prices prevent many from indulging in more than a sample, and I think there is an under-supplied market for reasonably priced craft beer. I think I'm representative of a growing population of drinkers who occasionally splurge on those $8 pints, but keep Yeungling in the fridge. I see more friends every year start drinking better beers, but it isn't reasonable for someone to change their beer budget from $18/case to $10/pack, so we settle somewhere in between. The same economics apply to drinks in bars or restaurants; the more I go out, the cheaper I drink, because even $5-7+tip adds up fast. I may start with a stout or Belgian ale, but have to wash down my buyers remorse with a PBR.

I am 26, and in the 5 years I've legally been buying beer, I have seen available selection improve dramatically as more and more expensive beers prove profitable. With or without the "collective bargaining" of a consumer group, I expect this mid-range market to fill out in the next few years as craft beer drinkers become immune to the lure of every expensive new brew to appear in their market and bar.

Alan -

["I disagree with the tone, as I read it, of blame..." And who, Ben, are you? Not really interested in hand puppets asking me to explain myself.]

Stan and Joe, that is great that prices are reasonable though I can pretty much bet that this is not an issue related to one bar in DC. The point is the consumer manages when prices are unreasonable and should discuss the matter and advocate for their interests but that is being deterred, implicitly or not, in the market.

Jeff Alworth -

I would love to know what people pay for a pint. Because here in Portland, prices have remained pretty stable. We know because Bill tracks it with his delightful Beer Price Index. The winter PBPI looked like this:

16 oz. draft: $4.44 up 5 cents
16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.61, up 2 cents

He's been doing this quarterly since Autumn 2009, when the prices looked like this: 16 ounces draft: $4.27. (He didn't do happy hours to begin with.) In a little bit over three years, the price is up 17 cents, which relates to inflation ... er, I'm no economist. Anyway, not much differently. These are not pours of eight-year-old barrel-aged spontaneous sours, of course, but it being Oregon, they are a pretty spectacular range of impressive regular drafts. (My local movie theater often has on Lips of Faith beers for the same price as Widmer Hef.) You go out for a session here, and you have a very good session and it costs you fifteen bucks.

I have the sense we're low, though.

mark -

20oz basic craft beers are in the $8-9 range now in Regina, Saskatchewan. Just a few years ago, they were $6-7. Average annual increase the last 4-5 years has been 10-20%.

Alan -

You guys's (the actual spelling) BPI is one of the most wonderful things in the beer world as it is both consumer focused and plainly authoritative. Thinks like that keep it low.

When I do my taxes and have to go through a years worth or receipts I am going to cross reference some of the buys I have bough year after year and graph the results. Yes, I said it. I am going to graph them.

It would be good to have some crowd sourced beer price indexing done in more places where there were back catalogs of beer receipts or other archival material. Speculation is all fine and good but data is the thing. Then, with that data analysis an Angie's List for good beer could be built.