15 Apr 2013

The Falacy of Expensive

Though I still believe that the issue with prices is not much more than a fictitious controversy, mainly because nobody is under any obligation to buy a beer they consider too expensive, there are some attitudes by brewers and sellers that bother me. For example, this:
This quote is very similar to the one that closes the "I'm a Craft Beer Drinker" video (that seems to feature more sellers than drinkers), "Life is too short to drink cheap beer". Both are perversions of originals where the word "Cheap"has replaced "Bad". This way, the authors of "I'm a Craft Beer Drinker" (seller?) and the poster above (signed by a brewery) are openly implying that cheap beer is bad and, therefore, only expensive beer is good.

I've got no problem if brewers (and sellers) try to convince me that the price of their products (or services) is fair, that it's related to the quality, even if they justify it with abstract added values, but this is disrespecting the intelligence of the consumer. Instead of at least trying to explain me the reasons why their beers cost what they cost, they employ dishonest rhetoric tricks.

Anyone with a modicum of a well traveled palate will know very well that there are not few beers of moderate to low price that are excellent, or that at least have an excellent price/quality ratio, just as they will know that there are not few beers with high to insane price that are quite poor, or at least have a quite poor quality/price ratio; and this is something also producers and sellers know very well (or at least they should).

On the other hand, of the above mentioned rhetoric atrocities, the one that bothers me the most is the video's because it suggest (intentionally or not) that a beer can not be "craft" it it's not expensive.

It's funny, we often see so called "craft brewers" talking about innovation, envelop pushing, creativity, thinking outside the box, breaking barriers, taking beer to another plane of existence and whatnot. All very nice, yeah, but this bollocks hardly ever, if at all, mentions prices and value and yet, it is almost always received with open arms by an audience that seems to have lust part of their capacity for critical thought.

The other day, my friend Chris Lohring, owner of Notch Brewing, said in this interview"Nothing makes one more creative than to impose a limitation". The man is right! Though Chris was referring to his brewery's specialization, session beers, those limits he speaks about could easily be prices. It's very easy to pose as a creative innovator when you know that there is a market niche that will run to buy almost whatever silliness you can come up, regardless of price. It's a lot more difficult to find a way to make solid, interesting beers that can be sold at lower prices.

There is people who have managed that. This beer, for  example, that is proud to be cheap, or Dougall's in Spain, that has been receiving so much praise for being cheaper (and apparently better) than most. There are many, many more that have this philosophy, but unfortunately, they don't get the attention they deserve.

As always, the cause is on this side of the counter. That loud minority of novelty chasers, who are willing to travel hundreds of kilometres with the promise of being able to taste this or that beer in order to fulfill a detailed intoxication plan, who prefer to spend 10€, or more, on one bottle of a beer they don't know if they'll like instead of spending the same amount on several bottles of beers they already know. As long as the discourse is dominated by them, the gimmick peddlers will multiply, taking space away from those who really honour the noble trade of beer making.

Na Zdraví!

PD: If you are a brewer thinking of posting a detail of your cost to explain your prices, don't bother. The information might be interesting, but it lacks importance. What interests me as a consumer is to get value for my money. If you can't make your beers cheaper, then make them better, if you can't make them better, then fuck off, the market doesn't need you.


  1. This issue can be applied generally to the food industry. It's quite popular in the Czech Republic now to claim that Czechs don't care about quality and will buy anything if it's cheap, and retailers take advantage of the push against this myth by marketing things as being upscale assuming people will be fooled into thinking it's better quality. Retailers would love us to think there's only two categories - cheap crap and expensive premium. Let's never forget the honest middle!

    1. It's never about the prices, it's about the value. Something dirt cheap can also be overpriced. But you are right, we have been made believe that things are either cheap (crap) or expensive (good).

  2. The whole cheap=crap idea is one of many forms of snobbery.

    You know, some cheap stuff is good, some is crap and knowing the difference between price and value the key to pretty much every transaction whether you are buying expensive or buying cheap.

  3. Where is the border between cheap, reasonable, expensive? 200 CZK for barrel aged czech imperial stout, italian IPA, NZ pale ale? Who makes the decision if the beer is crapy or good? Beer geek, ratebeer, sale, medals at WBC?...

    Honza, CzBeer.cz

    1. It's all about value. I've bought many times beers that can be considered expensive and I was satisfied, but not always. And the same can be said about cheap beers.

      Who makes the decision if the beer is crap or good? Each of us. You buy a beer, you like it, you consider it was worth the price, the beer is good. If the opposite happens, the beer is not good. I could think different, but it'll be my opinion.

      That said, I think that the commercial success of a beer indicates that there are enough people who believe the beer is good enough to pay for it. (of course, I'm not speaking volume, but success)