The Value of Beer

Work and other things have been leaving me little time to keep on top of the beerblogosphere recently, but I’ve been catching up when I can, and tonight I spent some time reading a fascinating string of comments on a post written by Alan over at A Good Beer Blog entitled “Are Craft Beer Prices Too Low? No, They Are Not Too Low.” Inspired by recent musings by other beer writers that the high-and-getting-higher prices being charged for rare/limited/exclusive beers are a-ok, assuming the purchaser feels that the experience is worth the cost, Alan played the contrarian:

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.

An absolutely insane number of comments have followed in the 24 hours or so since Alan’s original post, with most of them coming from those who inspired the post in the first place – Messrs. Beaumont, Bryson & Hieronymus – plus a smattering of other bloggers, brewers, and ne’er-do-wells who are all much more eloquent than I. Which is why I’m posting my thoughts here, where a lot less people will see them.

Personally, I disagree with much of Alan’s original line of reasoning, at least when it comes to the odd, weird, “extreme”, one-off, limited-bottling beers that are heading into wine-price territory. Such beers are much more labour- and ingredient-intensive than everyday brews, and are generally intended to be a special treat. And they’re most definitely “art”, IMO.

As Stephen notes in one of his comments, the relative quality of the cheese he buys – and in turn, the amount he pays for it – varies depending on what he’s going to use it for. Similarly, while I stick with “normal” craft beer at “normal” craft beer prices for everyday drinking, I have no problem splurging more on a bottle of something a little (or a lot) different for a special occasion, or for a tasting with friends, or if I just feel like treating myself. In those cases, I’m willing to pay a premium for the experience.

And hell, if the rumours are true, we’re going to be paying more for all beer soon enough, so we might as well get used to it…

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