The march of beer diversity and ever more flavourful beers continues to pervade the general beery landscape. We have come so far!
The availability of this choice is a wonderful thing of course. Remember the days when all beer was pretty much the same? They were sold by all of the big brewers and exotic foreign hops were never seen in beers. Those were the days when beer was categorised easily by abv. The only real variable in those beers was the difference in alcohol content. The amount of hopping and which hops was pretty uniform.
Amazingly I still see beer being rated by abv these days. When I say rated I mean valued….
SIBA runs a huge wholesale system nationally where it rates all beers by abv. A brewer gets paid just for the strength – not for the contents. This is archaic and restrictive. It does nothing to motivate brewers to make beers with greater flavour. If there is zero reward – and in fact a loss made – for adding more hops to beer then obviously brewers will not add those hops to the beer if they have to supply through this system. This also follows through into the pub. Many blackboards simplistically charge a little more for higher abv products. In reality these products contain not only a higher duty level [and even more so above 7.5% as higher strength beer duty then applies which adds 50% more duty on to the product] but also contain more malt to get to the higher abv level. Not only that but a brewer has a finite capacity for a brew. If he can produce say 40 barrels of 4% beer he loses a massive economy of scale when he brews a 8% beer as he can only then brew 20 of those in the same time in the same vessels. All of his fixed costs/labour on each barrel are then doubled. this all before we even mention hops.
The difference in the price of hops is marked. You can get some British hops for about a third/quarter of the price that you can buy the same quantity of amazingly flavoured “in demand” New World hops.
I get told “I can’t buy that beer no matter how good it is. My customers won’t pay any more for a pint at 4%. They don’t care if it has those hops in.” That may be true of some customers in that pub but I would doubt that is factually correct in the current climate. Every good pub has customers who appreciate quality and can taste the difference between mediocre and great beer. All that needs to happen is the publican needs to be armed with the reason as to why the customer is paying more. e.g. It contains Citra hops. Real cocoa is used in the process. etc.etc. Of course if the punters decline to pay the price once they have sampled then the brewer has failed to achieve his objective and has to go back to the drawing board.
It’s time for abv-based pricing to get thrown out of the window. Pubs should price a pint based upon their own cost price…Thinking about it I wouldn’t want my beer sold at the same price as some brewery beer I could name. I work damn hard to create a product that stands out and this is devalued if it doesn’t have a price differential attached.
So, as a consumer, if you are reading this, beer isn’t so simple these days. It costs more if the brewer
– uses higher quality malt
– uses more expensive hops
– brews smaller batch sizes
– brews stronger beers
– ferments slower for flavour rather than rushing the process.
– uses non traditional artisan ingredients in the making of the beer rather than essences e.g. real cocoa, honey etc
Lets not have craft devalued! Lets price beer according to what it cost to make.
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