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A simple solution

As in many other countries, Spain is experiencing a micro-brewing boom. The number of small producers has grown incredibly in the last few years. The phenomenon has caught the attention of the media and there are many people who believe that "craft beer" is trendy.

Unfortunately, as it usually happens in situations like this, many people have decided to get on the wagon, some because they see in it the possibility to fulfill a dream, while others only want to take advantage of this trend to hopefully make some quick money, without bothering too much about the long term. All this has resulted in a bubble.

Last Wednesday Txema denounced an on-line shop for selling a certain brand of beer at outrageous inflated prices. Regardless of how those beers got to these people (they didn't buy them directly from the brewery), the truth is that if someone makes an impulse buy on the internet and ends up paying a lot more than necessary, they have it well deserved. You don't need to be in the know to be able to compare prices and find comments and reviews on a product. This is similar to what it happens in Prague, where some bars put signs on the pavement announcing that they sell Pilsner Urquell at 60CZK, or more. The people who go there do it because they feel it is a fair price and if they couldn't be arsed with walking a few more metres or gathering some information before their trip, the blame is only theirs.

All this was triggered by a post in Lupuloadicto a few days before that generated a storm of comments, many of them complaining about the prices of the domestic alternative beers. In response to them, a brewer, Vacceum, explained in some detail the reason behind the price they at which they sell their beers to bars.

Vacceum adds that he recommends their clients a price of 2EU for the public, though, regardless of that, some prefer to sell them at 3EU. At least one of the commenters trashed restaurant owners for having the nerve of wanting to earn more than the brewers.

This is bollocks for two reasons. Firstly because pub owners have all the right in the world to charge as much as they see fit for their services. And secondly, because this person fails to take into account that much of the difference between the price a beer is bought from the brewer and the price it is sold to the client goes to cover a series of costs that I won't bother to mention, but that are more, and higher, that most people seem to think and, on top of all that, to be able to earn a living from a job that is far from easy (and a 50% margin before tax, etc. might look like a lot, but once converted to actual money, isn't that much).

That said, and after following this debate with attention, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps those beers aren't that expensive to begin with. The price of a 0.33l bottle at a beer bar is, I reckon, around 3-4EU, while the average price of a glass (0.25l) of mass produced domestic beer is, if I remember correctly, around 1.5-2EU. I don't think I need to tell you that producing one litre of macro beer costs a lot less than producing one litre of micro beer (even taking into account all costs, overhead, etc.) and if we compare two beers like, for example, Mahou Clásica and Agulons Pura Ale, the difference in quality is huge! The price, then, isn't that insane or abusive. The question is why it is so expensive for Agullons or Vacceum to brew one litre of beer and what should or could be done to sort this out, but that is up to the brewers to figure out and not us, the consumers.

I'm not trying to deny that there are, in Spain, here, in Germany and in any other country, beers (and pubs) that are way too expensive or that are far from good value for money. But the solution to that problem is very simple, don't buy them. Of course, sometimes that is easier said than done, I believe all of us, at some point or another, have paid good money for something that turned out to be disappointing, but that is one way to learn. Fortunately, those of us who write blogs have the chance to warn the rest of the population about this (something that, unfortunately, many choose not to do). In other words, the most effective way to complain is voting with your wallet.

But you know what's the funniest thing about all this? I'm sure that many of the people who complain about the high prices of alternative beers are the same who went running, full of excitement and joy to pick their packs of Westvleteren XII for which the paid the reasonable price of 50EU. I don't know about you, but I believe that whoever had no problem paying that much money for 2l of beer and a couple of glasses has waived their right to complain about the price of any beer, micro or macro, domestic or imported.

Na Zdraví!

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