Friday, 15 March 2013

Sod the craft keg

It's the price of craft bottled beers that gets on my tits. Over at Tandleman's there's been a discussion about the price of craft keg beer, but as barring unforeseen circumstances I'm not going to drink any of it I don't really care if it retails for a fortune due to breweries using incredibly expensive single use key kegs.

As I do get a fair few bottled beers though I do care about the price of craft bottled beers, and I don't see how some of them can justify their inflated prices.

An example is Thornbridge's version of Courage Imperial Russian Stout, a beer I was keen to try, until I saw it on sale for over £13 for a small bottle.


Thanks to Tim O'Rourke lots of breweries have made versions of this beer and prices have varied widely, most not excessive, and this is certainly the most outrageous I've seen.

OK, it's a strong beer, there's more ingredients, long maturation and it's in a specialist beer shop. But in another specialist beer shop, which also had some ultra-pricey craft beers, Harvey's Imperial Russian Stout, brewed to a traditional recipe and matured for a year, sells for £3.25.

Both beers are in brown glass bottles so there's no excuse of expensive containers. The only reason I can see for the huge price of some bottled craft beers is people milking the over enthusiasm of some beer geeks for certain brands for all it's worth.

16 comments:

  1. I think you are looking at a product for which you are not the intended market. For most beers you can see with each quid you pay the marginal utility might be higher. A can of London Pride may give you more pleasure than a can of Carling and command a higher price. The higher the price you go, the less extra pleasure you are buying if you count that as taste, smell etc.

    Considering it also tends to go with abv, sometimes I find marginal utility falls as I tend to dislike beers above 8%. An Aventinus is lovely, an Aventinus Eisbock is to my taste rank.

    The extra utility is something intangible. Maybe it is the brand. I think the customer is buying kudos. They are buying the ability to drink something only they are willing to buy and most will not try. £13 is affordable but most will not choose to.

    If it were sold at £1000 a bottle then it is unaffordable and those that buy it are displaying there wealth more than discernment. At £13 a bottle you are buying no more than entry into an exclusive club based on kudos. Like the guy at the gym with the pointlessly expensive squash equipment.

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    1. I have gone off on one about diminishing returns before: http://edsbeer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/diminishing-returns.html

      Interesting idea about kudos. I'll have to loiter near pricey beer until someone buys some so I can see if they look insecure.

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  2. Anything in double figures for 500 ml or less is taking the p - and that goes for the Abstrakts, Bracia etc. The trouble with those breweries is that they've got away with it once & don't see any reason not to try again. Market discipline, that's what they need.

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    1. Well I won't buy them. Though I am starting to wonder about another effect I once read about. Does having ten pound bottles in a shop make people more likely to buy five pound bottles as they don't look as pricey?

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    2. Last Saturday I bought beer in Sainsbury's in the morning and went round the none-more-hip Beermoth in the afternoon. Quite a contrast - very little over £3 in one place, very little under £3 in the other. I didn't see any *really* silly prices in Beermoth, I have to say - a couple of things over a tenner, but they were 750 ml bottles. But it is true that after you've spent a few minutes browsing shelfloads of beers at £6 and £7, a mere £4 starts to look like a snip.

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  3. The outrageously offensive prices Thornbridge charge for their bottled beers are all the more so when you think about how much they must cost to produce.

    Granted, quality raw materials can be more expensive than average ones but many breweries manage to produce exemplary bottled beers above the HSBD line and sell them for much less than that.

    And it's true what cookie says about purchasing kudos - the blogosphere has a spasm of love over everything Kernel brew, but I saw Kernel Export Stout (10%) in a 330ml bottle in Sheffield for £5.50 and sensibly baulked at purchasing it. Even though I know its a very well balanced beer, I still consider that too expensive. However, that still makes it half the price of the Thornbridge above. The simple answer is don't bloody buy it. Thar'll learn em.

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  4. An Anonymous Boozer15 March 2013 at 12:47

    According to ratebeer, the Thornbridge Hall imperial stout is 'Brewed to a Courage recipe from the 1850s'. It also lists that oh so traditional English hop variety Apollo in the ingredients. Oh no wait, that would be Apollo, the not-so-traditional super high alpha hop from America released within the last decade. Knowing from Ron's blog the insane weight of hops needed to bitter these historic beers, using a super high alpha hop is clearly a cost-cutting choice, that evidently has not been passed onto the consumer.

    I really have no idea why anyone would pay the asking price for these Thornbridge beers. I don't think £5 would be too much of a stretch for something like this, but getting close to triple that is a joke. The only reason I can think of is that it is to help support the lifestyle habits of Mrs Thornbridge now that she is no longer funded by the British tax payer.

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  5. No no no, Mr Anonymous Boozer, Thornbridge is a "bunch of friends" "in a shed in the grounds of a stately home" It says so in FHM

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  6. Anonymous Boozer, it's not a Courage recipe from the 1850's, it's a Barclay Perkins recipe. It couldn't possibly be from Courage because nobne of their brewing records from the 1850's have survived.

    And yes, the original had a shitload of Goldings in it. You're going to get a totally different effect from a high-alphs hop.

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    1. It also said it's made from pale, amber and black malt but no mention of brown, which doesn't look right to me.

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    2. An Anonynmous Boozer16 March 2013 at 15:24

      I saw this in a shop yesterday and the blurb on the bottle was the same as the info' on ratebeer. It was a mere snip of the price discussed here at £11.99 a bottle.

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    3. Bargain! Fill your boots!

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  7. Wells and Young Courage IRS goes for the very reasonable equivilent of 3 pounds 20 after being shipped to the arse end of the earth. Not bad I reckon.

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    1. I'm starting to develop a real dislike for Wells and Young's.

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    2. In that case, Kieran, you're getting it fantastically cheaply: I had to pay £8.74 a bottle, including delivery, to get hold of a dozen bottles of the last batch of CIRS, delivered to an address in the UK, because I didn't want to miss out and I really want to lay some down. But yes, £13+ for the Thornbridge version is probably too much. That's £30 for a wine/spirit bottle's worth: I've spent more than £30 on a bottle of whisky, but rarely if ever that much on a bottle of wine.

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