It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, I recently had Terrapin Easy Rider on tap...awesome!! Full of hops and flavor yet
only 4.5% ABV. It's a session IPA, which is perfect in hot weather. Since I enjoyed it so much I
went to my local package goods store and was shocked to find that it was selling for $9.99 in a
four pack. Are they kidding, nearly $10 for four cans of a session ale would really lend itself to
6 packs. I don't know if this qualifies as price gouging, but i don't think it's going to sell well at
$2.50 a bottle. At least not to me.
Terrapin claims that all their Seasonal beers come only in 4-packs? Who made that rule up?
Look Bill, Stone makes Levitation, a fairly similar beer, and it arrives here in New York from
California at around $9.99 a six-pack. It is a good beer and I will buy it on occasion. How can
they provide a significantly better price point and Terrapin cannot? Does Stone achieve
economies of scale, being bigger than Terrapin? That might be the case but I still cannot
convince myself to pay $9.99 for a 4-pack of a 4.5% session beer.
I stopped at my local last night on the way home from Philadelphia and had pints of cask
conditioned (yes, cask conditioned) bitter, best bitter, and oatmeal stout, all outstanding brews
for the $2.50/pint. That's their standard pint price Monday through Thursday. So please
explain to me why would I pay $2.50 for a twelve ounce bottle of session beer.
In my way of thinking, price must always be considered when rating beers. As much as I love
beer and enjoy the myriad of tastes that this great beverage can have I am still a consumer not
a beer judge. Beer judges either volunteer or get paid to rate the stuff based purely on how it
meets style or hop character, for example. A consumer just likes to drink the stuff and rates
beers not only on his knowledge of styles and hop character, but also on whether or not she
can afford to drink it. In today's word price has to be part of the equation in deciding which
beer to buy on a regular basis.
Now don't get me wrong, if the beer is special I'll spring for it. As they say, life is to short to
drink cheap beer; way overpriced beer is another story. Well, that's unless you're buying Bill.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Well Gina, I do completely understand your position. I too have definitely spent time in front of the
beer display at the store, thinking about my bank account balance. And yes, more than a fee
times I opted for the more reasonably priced beer that still had a minimum quality. There are a
lot of decent craft breweries out there that understand price is a factor in beer selection. As
consumers we do have the final decision when it comes to what we think is worth our money and
that's fair and just.
But before you go overboard with a blanket condemnation of craft brewers pricing policies there
are some things to keep in mind. First the brewery, in most instances, has to deal with a
distributor, who in turn sells the beer to retail stores. These stores then sell it to the consumer.
With each step, there is an increase in price to the next guy. We can argue about this three
tiered system later but since it's the only game in town you have to realize that none of these
businesses would be able to operate unless they made a profit.
Although the Terrapin Easy Rider that you mentioned is a session beer it takes just as much
water, time in the tanks, workers, ingredients, bottles and caps, machinery-fixing and
tank-cleaning, shipping costs, rent on our building, interest on loans, etc. as any other beer the
company makes. My point is that price can't only be based on alcohol volume.
I agree that some beers are grossly overpriced. My answer to this is let the free market take
hold. If the price is too high people will not buy it. No brewery has a divine right to exist. They
too are in a competitive environment where quality and price both play significant roles.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.