Fair Price for Beer ?

A recent study has highlighted that the average cost of a pint across Derbyshire is around £3.36, which see’s us, as a county, fair relatively well compared to the national average. But, with the rise and rise of Craft Beer, themselves commanding a premium price, what are you getting for your money and is this price justified?

I, personally am not a fan of the term ‘Craft Beer’, but it seems to be one that many choose to pigeon hole beers that have been served from a Keg and at a chilled temperature, rather than one served from a traditional Cask. But this term enables me to demonstrate what I believe to be differences.

It is my view, that there is demand from consumers to have a traditional cask served pint, priced around £3.00. Pub chains like Wetherspoon seem to support this notion and with their buying power are able to put certain demands on Breweries to provide a Beer that comes at the right price. As a consequence, the brewer has a choice, and I’m saying this broadly, they can either reduce their margin, or cut their costs to deliver a beer that delivers the needs of the price conscious consumer.

Keg or ‘Craft beer’, which if anyone remembers Watney’s Red Barrel, has not always been synonymous with quality ale. The consumer group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) was formed in opposition to the growing mass production of this type of beer and the homogenisation of the British Brewing industry. Nowadays however, with Tap House’s, Micropubs, Ale Houses and Traditional pubs all having a space on their bar for this much maligned ale, it seems attitudes and taste buds are changing.

Not tarred with the same brush and to some degree not having the same consumer pressure, Breweries that brew for the ‘Craft beer’ market are able to be a little maverick and play with ingredients. Buxton Brewery’s collaboration with Swedish brew darlings Omnipollo demonstrates this quite nicely with a beer called ‘Original Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle’ – A big imperial porter brewed with maple syrup, cocoa nibs, cassia cinnamon, vanilla and lactose sugar and at 11.5% clearly not for the faint hearted and clearly not a session beer.

This see’s another change in the beer landscape, with craft beers being served in thirds and 2/3 pint measures, with the idea that the beer is sipped and savoured, not too unlike a glass of wine. This makes the cost relative to that of a pint of cask beer (albeit a smaller measure – but it generally has a higher ABV).

Not all breweries exclusively brew beer for a certain market. Black Iris in Nottingham, who started brewing in the Flower Pot, Derby successful traverse both beer landscapes without compromising on quality. Some other breweries make certain core range beers available in Cask, but seem to keep seasonal beers exclusive to Keg, bottles or cans. I have noticed other established breweries creating a range of beers exclusively for the Craft beer market, rebranding existing beers to appeal a new, younger audience, or just cashing in?

For me, the brewing process is a complex one, the skill in replicating a recipe, delivering consistent tasting beers, developing new seasonal beers, whilst doing it all within a budget is currently undervalued and whilst I don’t necessarily agree with some of the extreme pricing in the ‘Craft beer’ world, I believe its more representative of what a beer is worth, regardless of the dispense mechanism.

It’s very unlikely that the price of beer will change much, the cost of duty in the country is one of the highest in Europe with over 52p for every pint sold going to the Chancellor (that’s one for another day), but I would encourage you all to look out for our local breweries. We are blessed with some great ones, within our region and if the price is more than you would ordinarily pay, consider if you feel it is a fair price and lend your support.

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