15 Feb 2013

Valuable value


The other day, when I learnt about a new beer from a very famous British brewery, I started thinking, once again, about the concepts of value and price/quality. 2D2dspuma beat me to the punch, and in great manner, but I still wanted to talk about it but from a slightly different perspective.

The beer in question has been aged 4 years in whisky casks. Though 4 years wouldn't have raised any eyebrows in the past, nowadays it is something very much out of the ordinary (with the probable exception of some Lambics), and this alone is enough to make this beer quite interesting, at least on paper. Shame about the price, though; roughly, the equivalent of 750CZK for a 330ml bottle. Pfff!

As I've already said several times, I've got no issue with brewers pricing their product in any way they see fit. It's their business decision and nobody is under any obligation to buy that product. That's why I also believe that it is unfair to criticise a beer for its price if you haven't drunk it yet. But, it is still possible to evaluate, in a fair and reasonable way, the price/quality relationship this beer offers without the need of buying anything.

In these times, when the disposable income of many of us is not what it used to be, we become (or should become) more careful with the money we spend on luxury goods. We understand that every money that we spend on one is money we will not have for something else. And this is exactly the principle I want to use. What else can I buy for the price of this particular beer?

Give or take a coin, today in Prague I could buy the following beers, for example:
  • 4 750ml bottles of stuff from De Ranke, Dupont, Chouffe or other similar Belgians
  • 6 500ml bottles of Fuller's Vintage Ale
  • 13 500ml bottles of Schlenkerla Urbock or Eiche, o an assortment of German bocks
  • 13 500ml bottles of Gypsy Porter
  • 2-3 cases of 20 500ml bottles of almost any Czech regional beer, plus a few loose bottles on top
  • a combination of all the above
All of that, and more, for the same it would cost me to buy one 330ml bottle, if it was available here, at that price. In other words, I wouldn't be only buying unquestionable quality, but also quantity and, on top that, certainty.

I have enough reason to believe that this very special beer is very good, but I can't be certain of that until I drink it. The beers I mention above win because I know all of them, I've liked them and I will like them again. There's no competition possible.

Each person measures the value of purchased goods in a different way. To some, the very opportunity of experiencing a beer that has been aged 4 years in whisky casks is more than enough to justify the price. Fair enough. Not me, though.

However good this can turn out to be, it will be only one experience and 750CZK on that single bottle of beer, that single sensory experience is not the most sensible thing to do, not when I could spend that money (or a lot less, actually) on multiple experiences that can be enjoyed for a longer time, knowing full well that I will end up happy and satisfied with each.

Just like 2D2dspuma were saying at the end of their post, there isn't a more realistic formula to assess value.

Na Zdraví!

PS: The beer I talk about is BrewDog's Tokio Rising Sun. It's not my intention to critisise the beer, the brewery or their pricing policies. It was used just as an example, and it can applied to any expensive beer available today.

15 comments:

  1. lot of money for a beer especially when you can buy a bottle of 10 year old single malt whisky for the same price,I know what I would rather buy.
    Living in Sotland I have had the oppertunity to taste whisky cask aged beer ,last time was at the Auchentoshan whisky festival where they produced a whisked aged beer for that festival ,I really can't say I was impressed and certainly would not fork out again for a whisky aged beer.

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    1. I've had a few whisky aged beers that I really enjoyed and would gladly drink again, and a few that I didn't enjoy so much. For the most part, the ones that I enjoyed where those where the whisky wasn't playing leading guitar, but was just another instrument in the orchestra.

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  2. Doesn't the same principle apply to any type of luxury goods? Wine, perfumes, watches, cars, what have you. There's luxury beer now, too. People buy it because it's fashionable or so that they can show off on their blogs. Or maybe even because they're genuinely interested in the taste, but then again, even if it tastes good, it doesn't taste ten times better. That's the point of your post I suppose and I can't see how anyone could argue with that.

    As far as I'm concerned, BrewDog can shove this beer (for more than one reason) but I'm sure there are a lot of hipsters who are getting very excited about it as we speak. Why not, good job on the brewery's marketing people's part, I guess.

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  3. I think a beer that has been aged for 4 years in a Whisky barrel then the whisky is going to be playing lead guitar and most of the other instruments in the orchestra, but I ain't paying 750Kc to find out.
    I might go to one of BrewDogs tasting sessions in Edinburgh if they are sampling it.

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  4. Just checked the Brewdog website,they are selling it for £24.99 a bottle in the UK and have two versions,A Highland and a Lowland but don't say which distilleries,or maybe they are not allowed to actually mention the distilleries.
    there is just no way I would pay that sort of money for a bottle of beer.

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  5. I am quite comfortable criticizing price policy especially when it is so evidently separated from the price inputs going into a beer. Sometimes exclusive means only that price causes exclusion. This is a very common observation from top wine writers but one that oddly unnerves the broader beer discussion. I sure it tastes swell, by the way, as BrewDog when they were young out of the blue sent me samples of their early whisky experiments. But there is no way the costs that went into the cask are reflected in the revenue they are seeking from it.

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    1. I don't worry too much because there will always be producers who will understand the long benefits of offering good beer at good prices. What bothers me the most, though, is the almost religious fervor that this sort of beer awakens on some people, which is what brewers listen to and, naturally, try to exploit.

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    2. Why exploit? Take advantage of, sure, but exploit? Why wouldn't brewers offer something if people want to buy it? They run businesses, they want to make profit. Supply and demand and all that. It's not like barrel aged beer poses any threat to any other beer style, or does it? I'd say it's only drunk by a relatively small group of beer geeks. I know a lot of people who appreciate good beer sold at reasonable prices and most of them aren't even aware of the existence of barrel aged beer. :p
      The whole barrel aged affair is a bit pretentious, sure. But I don't think it should "bother" you. ;)

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    3. By exploit I meant "To employ to the greatest possible advantage", and I don't see anything wrong in that...

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    4. Fair enough, I guess I got the wrong impression when you said the religious fervor that aged beer awakens in people "bothers" you. :)
      It might be a fad, but if a few breweries make some money off it before it goes, it can only be a good thing.

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  6. when you consider it is stuff they had "forgotten" about then they have obviously written off or absorbed the costs into their buisness, the £24.99 cost per bottle is there as a gimmick and a very succeful gimmick at that as it has us all talking about Brewdog once again.
    There will always be someone that will pay the £24.99 for the bottle, it just won't be me.

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    1. At first I didn't want to mention the brand, but then I realised everyone would figure it out anyway...

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  7. I will Not be Buying it. Brewdog, not One of My Favourite Company,s. Its Beers, cost a lot. Does Not Mean, They are Special.

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  8. Ah BrewDog, it has been so long since I bothered with their knock offs of American beer that I had forgotten they existed. Why anyone drinks their stuff when there is Sierra Nevada available baffles me.

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  9. People have a choice don't they. I think it's wrong to charge exploitative prices for items that people need, such as basic school shoes, or flour. However beer is another item. Beer is something that people buy with disposable income.

    If someone wants to buy a bottle of beer instead of seeing a movie, for example, that's their choice. I wouldn't spend that kind of money just because it's aged. I might do it occasionally if I really liked the flavor. However, I wouldn't do it often and I would view the pricing as highway robbery.

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