Have you ever been browsing through a bottle shop looking through a section of bombers and other single bottle beers only to encounter a fellow patron who informs you of a revelation? This happened to me last week. Apparently, according to this guy, all beer tastes the same and I’m merely getting ripped off on these big expensive beers. Clearly this came as a shock to me, and I promptly put down my $15 quad and grabbed myself a 15 pack of Miller High-life for $12 and went on to have a rocking evening! Ok maybe that’s not true, I just told the gent that I respectfully disagree with him and went about my bottle browsing.
Still this brief conversation got me thinking, are we paying too much for beer? How much is too much to pay? Am I absolutely crazy for occasionally paying more than $25 for a highly sought after beer? This obviously proposes a question of value. How much is a good beer worth to you? For me personally, I don’t know that I can really set a price on the value of a truly great beer.
For those of us that have significant others that might not get this money pit that we beer fans chase around, I think the experience really could be compared to fine dining. If you think about it you can go to Outback Steak House and get a steak for about $15 right? However, go into a high-end restaurant and it’s not at all uncommon to have to shell out $50 for a steak, and you don’t even get a bloomin onion with it, blimey! I don’t think it’s a far-reaching statement to say that a prime cut of meat prepared properly will make you forget all about that bloomin onion before your done with the first bite. The same can be said for a well crafted beer.
Let’s look on the low-end of the beer pricing spectrum. If I go in a store and pick up a 6 pack of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager it’s probably going to set be back about $10. On average that’s about $3-4 bucks more than a 6 pack of Bud or Miller. What am I getting for that extra 4 bucks? In a word, flavor. Yes there are a lot of other qualities in a Boston Lager that you don’t get from Bud Light, qualities like body and self-respect, but what matters most is flavor. Flavor is the driving force behind why I can justify a very wide range of prices for an excellent beer.
Now let’s take a look at a more pricey beer, KBS for example. KBS is an Imperial Double stout loaded with coffee and chocolate that spends a solid year aging in a bourbon barrel hidden away in a cave. People go nuts for this stuff every year. I was hanging out in a bar this year when it was being tapped on its release day and the gentleman next to me was telling me about his road trip just to come try KBS. He explained that he had driven from Alabama, all the way up to Michigan, just to try KBS. That works out to about a 935 mile drive to fight through the snow just to pay 8 bucks for a 6 ounce pour of a beer. Forget the price of the beer for a minute and think about how much money went into that road trip just in gas. Road trips like that really don’t go into the pricing of a beer but it does go to show the value of a quality product.
Beer’s like KBS however earn their price tag. There’s a lot of investment that goes into making a beer that you intentionally are going to pack into a cave for 12 months before you bottle it. From a business stand point it doesn’t make sense to sell that beer at $2 a bottle, the brewery has too much invested in it. That doesn’t mean that every expensive craft beer is worth its price tag though.
There is no shortage of beers out there that competitively price my interest right out of their product. Sour beers are a great example of this. Fans of sour beer swear by the style and paired with sour beers typically seems to be a relatively high price tag. I have yet to find a sour beer that I enjoyed, they’re not bad, just not my thing. I am however a beer drinker that likes to try things that I have never had regardless if I think I’ll like it or not. The price tag on sour beers often deters me from getting more into this style. For me It’s simply to hard for me to justify spending $15 on a bomber of sour ale that I don’t think I’ll like when I could get a pretty fantastic stout for the same price. So again value makes the purchase worth the price tag.
We really are in a fantastic era for craft beer. No matter what your budget there seems to be a well crafted option out there for you any more that is bound to be more satisfying that the macro giant options taking up two-thirds of most coolers. The point of this article is fairly simple, don’t let a couple bucks push you out of the market for flavor. There’s so many different experiences to be had when trying well crafted beer. I’m not saying you have to start investing half your paycheck into your beer budget but with so many affordable independent craft options I really can’t advocate settling for the status quo. Much like food, wine, and fine liquors, beer really has the ability to be one of the finer things in life. For better or worse the price tag is generally worth the experience.
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