The Craft Beer Life on a Budget

Is craft beer in the UK (definition 2) hopelessly exclusive to those on a budget or are there ways in?

We got think­ing about this in response to two Tweets, the first from Mark Dex­ter…

…and the sec­ond from Tony Nay­lor who writes about food and drink for the Guardian and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions:

Mark (for­mer blog­ger, actor, does­n’t like 330ml bot­tles) went on to argue that those who sug­gest­ed pay­ing it was rea­son­able to ask more for a bet­ter prod­uct were essen­tial­ly say­ing, ‘Screw poor peo­ple. Let them drink piss.’ (His words.)

This is some­thing that nags at us some­what. A few years ago we sug­gest­ed that brew­eries might con­sid­er find­ing a way to offer an entry lev­el beer at a rea­son­able price by, for exam­ple, being prag­mat­ic about hops and shoot­ing for a low­er ABV.

This time, though, we thought about it slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly: even if brew­eries can fix this, why should they? What Mark is real­ly com­plain­ing about is cap­i­tal­ism and social inequal­i­ty – some peo­ple own big hous­es, oth­ers rent lit­tle ‘uns; some have Mercs, oth­ers sec­ond­hand Sko­das, and so on. (See also @craftqueer’s Twit­ter thread on this sub­ject.)

So, work­ing with the sys­tem we’ve got, we asked our­selves: is there any way to get a gen­uine taste of the craft beer lifestyle on a slab-of-lager bud­get?

Some Parameters
  1. We want to sug­gest beers that we actu­al­ly enjoy drink­ing…
  2. …and that are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of major trends in craft beer.
  3. With­out over­think­ing it we want to rule out faux craft beers whose pack­ag­ing promis­es more than the beer deliv­ers, even if they are cheap.
  4. Car­ling Lager is cur­rent­ly £1.65 per litre at Tesco. There’s not much to com­pete with that. But a slab of 18 cans costs £13 so we’re going to see what you can get for that mon­ey.
  5. Bang for buck counts for some­thing so we’ll include infor­ma­tion on price per litre (PPL) and price per unit of alco­hol (PUA).
  6. We’ve used super­mar­kets for the pur­pos­es of this exer­cise for the sake of uni­ver­sal­i­ty. In fact, we’ve stuck to one super­mar­ket (Tesco) because run­ning back and forth between sev­er­al takes time, which as we all know is mon­ey. But…
  7. Local indie stores often have com­pet­i­tive prices on com­pa­ra­ble beers and we sus­pect most will give great per­son­alised advice on how to spend £13 if you ask.
Hoppy, Fruity, Sour and Funky

Cans of punk on a train table with wool.

We have to start with a flow­ery, trop­i­cal, in-your-face IPA and the one that springs to mind is Brew­Dog Punk. At 330ml it’s usu­al­ly about the same price as Thorn­bridge Jaipur (£1.80-£2) but sev­er­al super­mar­kets car­ry 660ml ‘bombers’ and at Tesco they’re £3 each – £4.55 PPL, 81p PUA. Punk is one of the core beers of the past decade’s craft beer moment with a fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry and, in our expe­ri­ence, tastes con­sis­tent­ly great.

Bud­get remain­ing: £10

BrewDog Elvis Juice in cans.

Stick­ing with Brew­Dog, their Elvis Juice is alsowide­ly avail­able in super­mar­kets at £1.80-£2 per 330ml. Tesco sells it at £1.90. It’s a sol­id rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a con­tro­ver­sial evo­lu­tion of the IPA style: rather than just evok­ing grape­fruit through hops, it actu­al­ly con­tains a slug of grape­fruit juice. One bot­tle ought to be enough to get the gist and thus enti­tle you to wade into inter­net argu­ments dis­miss­ing or sup­port­ing the entire trend, depend­ing on your find­ings. It’s strong – 6.5% ABV – so the bang for buck is decent: £5.76 PPL, 88p PUA.

Bud­get remain­ing: £8.

A can of Stone Cali-Belgique.

Anoth­er impor­tant trend, on the wane now, per­haps, has been using Bel­gian sai­son as the basis for Franken­stein-like style exper­i­ments. These aren’t quite so super­mar­ket friend­ly but there is one great exam­ple avail­able via Tesco at £2 per 330ml can (£6 PPL, 87p PUA): Stone Cali-Bel­gique, at 6.9% ABV. It’s billed as a Cal­i­forn­ian IPA made with Bel­gian yeast – nei­ther one thing nor the oth­er – and we love it. What’s the catch? The stuff in Tesco is actu­al­ly brewed in Berlin, which may or may not mat­ter to you.

Bud­get remain­ing: £6

Thornbridge Tart -- professional bottle photo.

Anoth­er con­tro­ver­sial trend is for sour beers. Would­n’t it be good if there was an acces­si­ble but con­vinc­ing take on this avail­able in super­mar­kets? Well, there is: the 6% ABV Thorn­bridge Tart, cur­rent­ly avail­able at even our Tesco here in Pen­zance, at £2 for 330ml (£6.07 PPL, £1.01 PUA). It’s an oth­er­wise clean beer and the sour­ness, as the name sug­gests, is rel­a­tive­ly gen­tle – it won’t turn your teeth inside our or any­thing.

Bud­get remain­ing: £4

Guinness Antwerpen Stout in the bottle.

There has to be a strong, rich stout in here but, unfor­tu­nate­ly, that’s an area where the super­mar­kets fall down. To get an idea of the style – and because we real­ly do think it’s a great beer – we’re going to bend one of our own rules and sug­gest a crafti­fied beer from Guin­ness, Antwer­pen Stout at 8% ABV. Tesco sell it for £2.10 per 330ml – £6.37 PPL, 80p PUA. Hon­est­ly, pedi­gree aside, it’s the equal of a lot of the beers you see going for £5 per half pint in craft beer bars.

Bud­get remain­ing: £1.90

Fourpure Session IPA.

Final­ly, anoth­er trend of recent years has been ses­sion IPA, which has seen Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can-inspired brew­ers tam­ing their big IPAs until they end up in about the same place as British brew­ers amp­ing up their gold­en ales. As well as being trendy, these beers are also high­ly com­mer­cial: you can drink a few with­out get­ting slaugh­tered, and they seem rel­a­tive­ly approach­able to drinkers reared on Eng­lish bit­ter. Accord­ing­ly, Tesco stocks a few at around the same price:

  • Four­pure Ses­sion IPA – 4.3% ABV, £1.80 per 330ml can, £5.46 PPL, £1.28 PUA
  • Oskar Blues Pin­ner – 4.9% ABV, £1.90 per 330ml can, £5.36 PPL, £1.09 PUA
  • Stone Got To IPA – 4.7% ABV, £1.90 per 330ml can, £5.80 PPL, £1.18 PUA

All these beers are decent takes on the style – rather thin and abra­sive for our tastes, in gen­er­al – so it’s up to you whether you want to buy local-ish and save 10p with Four­pure (Lon­don), stay authen­ti­cal­ly Amer­i­can with Oskar Blues, or try some­thing in between  with Stone, actu­al­ly brewed in Berlin.

Bud­get remain­ing: 0

So, there you go – six dif­fer­ent styles, 2.3 litres of often pret­ty strong beer in total, for £13.

What’s miss­ing? Well, there’s noth­ing real­ly crazi­ly cre­ative there but, as Dave S has point­ed out, that’s actu­al­ly the cher­ry on top of craft beer rather than the core of its being.

And sweet, cloudy New Eng­land IPA has yet to make it to Tesco yet either as far as we can see. (But give it six months and it prob­a­bly will, prob­a­bly via Brew­Dog.)

EXTRAS: Establishing a Mood

For an addi­tion­al one-off pay­ment of about £4 you could add a cou­ple of help­ful acces­sories.

First, a guide­book. We don’t read or get excit­ed about begin­ners’ guides our­selves these days but there’s no deny­ing their val­ue in the ear­ly stages of an obses­sion. The lat­est ones are glossy, beau­ti­ful hard­backs at more than a ten­ner a go but you can pick up used copies of slight­ly old­er books, with 90 per cent of the same info, for a quid or two in many char­i­ty shops, or £2.80, deliv­ered, from Ama­zon. The author does­n’t get any roy­al­ties that way but if you’re real­ly on a tight bud­get they prob­a­bly won’t begrudge it.

Fancy glassware.
These were 50p each.

Then, there’s glass­ware. You don’t need a super fan­cy, super del­i­cate, spe­cial­ly designed ves­sel that resem­bles a sex toy, but psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly it’s quite good to have your own Spe­cial Glass. It sets the mood, basi­cal­ly. The great news is that the best, coolest, most fun glass­es are found in char­i­ty shops. Some of our favourites cost 50p.

Or Don’t Bother

Anoth­er thing we grap­pled with – we’re always grap­pling, us – was the essen­tial­ly patro­n­is­ing nature of this exer­cise. But it’s bet­ter than head-in-the-sand ignor­ing the issue, we sup­pose, and at least it’s a some­what pos­i­tive response.

Ulti­mate­ly, though, craft beer is only a hob­by. No-one ever died from drink­ing slight­ly sub-opti­mal beer, and it all gets you tip­sy in the end. Until such time as brew­ing is nation­alised being fussy is always going to be a lux­u­ry, even if you stick to the ruth­less­ly dis­count­ed hard-ball end of the mar­ket.

For our part we rarely buy real­ly expen­sive beer – not because we could­n’t afford to if we real­ly want­ed but because we’ve yet to be con­vinced that there are many £15 beers that are four times as enjoy­able as a pint of Prop­er Job in the Yacht Inn, or sev­en times as much fun as a any of the beers list­ed above.

As ever, your thoughts are wel­come – com­ment below. And if any retail­ers want to steal this idea and offer curat­ed Bud­get Craft Beer Expe­ri­ence box­es, go for it.

46 thoughts on “The Craft Beer Life on a Budget”

  1. No-one ever died from drink­ing slight­ly sub-opti­mal beer
    While this is tech­ni­cal­ly true, I have in the past been accused of lik­ing Irish red ale and Ger­man lagers in a tone that implies my reac­tion ought to be that of a salt­ed slug. There are def­i­nite­ly peo­ple out there who only want the lat­est-and-great­est (deter­mined by beer drinkers oth­er than them­selves, I guess) and would rather die of thirst than drink any­thing else. And I think their num­bers are grow­ing.

  2. Its also worth not­ing that the super­mar­ket will be sell­ing car­ling at a loss.

    1. The super­mar­ket will be sell­ing car­ling at a loss”, that’s a seri­ous accu­sa­tion. I don’t dis­miss it entire­ly but have you evi­dence to back it up?

      1. It’s cer­tain­ly hap­pened in the past – the super­mar­kets admit­ted to the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion a few years ago that alco­hol was one of the main things they sold below cost. And speak­ing to super­mar­ket sup­pli­ers, the expec­ta­tion seems to be that you sell >90% of your vol­ume in pro­mo­tions at no or min­i­mal prof­it, in order to be on the shelves and make a prof­it on the remain­ing <10%.

        I’ve also heard of small brew­eries sell­ing stock to go into 3‑for-£5 offers at essen­tial­ly no prof­it, just to get vol­ume going through the brew­ery. 3‑for-£5 is a real­ly tough pri­ce­point for the typ­i­cal micro.

    2. I’d be very sur­prised if they are. It does­n’t make busi­ness or eco­nom­ic sense to sell some­thing at a loss that makes up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of peo­ple’s expen­di­ture. Loss-lead­ers are gen­er­al­ly things that are rel­a­tive­ly triv­ial, but will bring peo­ple in to buy oth­er stuff. Slabs of Car­ling don’t fit into that cat­e­go­ry.

      1. It seems at least plau­si­ble. In BBQ sea­son, stack slabs of lager high near the entrance, adver­tise hard, and sell ’em at a small loss. That gets peo­ple through the door, then you can make a prof­its on oth­er BBQ goods – meat (espe­cial­ly when pack­aged with a bit of mari­nade etc.), char­coal, sal­ad, sauces, crisps.

  3. It’s always worth keep­ing an eye out for near the use by date bar­gains espe­cial­ly at M & S. I picked up 3 bot­tles of their Black IPA brewed by Puri­ty for only 80p each last year. They were also knock­ing out cans of Founders All Day IPA recent­ly for a quid.

    1. My local Qual­i­ty Save was sell­ing Cit­ra 330ml bot­tles for 79p ear­li­er this week, and Oakham Macaw 500ml for £1. Dis­coun­ters can be a good source of decent beer for those of us on a bud­get.

      1. You’re quite right, although ‘decent beer’ is a bit of a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion to Craft Beer (def 2, cap­i­tal C cap­i­tal B). What we were after here was some­thing vague­ly like the expe­ri­ence of going to a craft beer bar where (pos­si­bly unfair­ly) pre-2005 brew­eries like Oakham don’t quite fit.

        (Try­ing to avoid the word hip­ster here because it real­ly winds peo­ple up…)

        1. Yes agreed, but as craft brew­eries expand (a neces­si­ty in order to grow and sup­ply Tesco etc) they will almost cer­tain­ly have sur­plus inven­to­ry at some points which they will need to shift pron­to. Tesco will prob­a­bly require a min­i­mum 75% of shelf life left at time of deliv­ery so you can’t have more than 3 months worth of stock if your BBE date is 1 year. The prob­lem for brew­ers (and any oth­er list­ed sup­pli­er) is they don’t know what that quan­ti­ty is as demand from super­mar­kets is vari­able and has to be sup­plied from stock, not pro­duced to order. Most sup­pli­ers tend to over pro­duce to guar­an­tee sup­ply.

        2. *Dis­claimer – I work at a pre-2005 brew­ery*

          I don’t think beers from old­er brew­eries gen­er­al­ly look out place in a ‘craft’ bar. Very often these brew­eries, when mak­ing more mod­ern styles, have the expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge to actu­al­ly take these styles on.

          Too often I try craft beers from new brew­eries which have all the pas­sion in the world but nowhere near enough expe­ri­ence. So often the beers lack bal­ance, or pre­ci­sion – it’s like drink­ing hop­py min­er­al water because there’s no body, or the beer is throat-clutch­ing­ly dry as they’ve gone bonkers with the hops but ignored the resid­ual effects of doing this.

          I LOVE craft beer gen­er­al­ly. I love what’s hap­pen­ing in the indus­try. There’s some great new brew­eries. But I’d argue brew­eries like Oakham have every right to sit proud­ly along­side mod­ern craft in every style.

          1. I’d like to believe you when you say that old­er brew­eries have the expe­ri­ence required to make bet­ter exam­ples of mod­ern styles but there are so many exam­ples of fail­ures. I can prob­a­bly count on one hand the num­ber of USA-style IPAs from tra­di­tion­al (cask/500ml brown bot­tle) UK brew­ers that come any­where close to the “Sier­ra Nevada/Punk IPA” taste – note­ably Williams Bros, Oakham, and Roost­ers (and are they now part of “Craft Beer” since they do 330ml cans?). I do agree though that there are plen­ty of new­er craft brew­eries mak­ing poor but “crafty”/hoppy/Punky beer, and its not as sim­ple as throw­ing tonnes of hops at it, but that strat­e­gy does get clos­er to the craft taste than sim­ply putting the Stars & Stripes on a bot­tle of old brown ale.

            There are too many fraud­sters among the old­er British brew­eries that make the super­mar­ket shelves dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate unless you’re a bit of a geek – this in my mind is one of the biggest bar­ri­ers to get­ting a taste of craft with­out pay­ing craft prices.

        3. Seems a lit­tle unfair on Oakham. I’m cur­rent­ly sat in the Craft Beer Co look­ing at two Oakham pumps

          1. Well, there you go.

            Again, we love Oakham, but still don’t think they’re the same “thing” as Brew­Dog or Mag­ic Rock. Cask led, for starters. As linked at the top of the post, here’s our def­i­n­i­tion 2 of ‘craft beer’:

            In the UK, used to describe a ‘move­ment’ aris­ing from c.1997 onwards which reject­ed not only ‘mass-pro­duced’ beer but also the trap­pings of estab­lished ‘real ale’ cul­ture. Brew­ers aligned with this ‘move­ment’ will prob­a­bly pro­duce kegged beers, and may even dis­miss cask-con­di­tioned beer alto­geth­er. As much about pre­sen­ta­tion, pack­ing and ‘lifestyle’ as the qual­i­ties of the prod­uct.”

          2. @Bailey – you reck­on? In the last year I’ve seen more Cloud­wa­ter in cask than Oakham. Thorn­bridge too. Are they less craft than Oakham?

            Maybe it’s just a ques­tion of dis­tri­b­u­tion, I don’t know what Oakham’s split is, but I think of them as most­ly a keg/bottle brew­ery. And I cer­tain­ly think of Cit­ra as one of the defin­ing beers of Noughties “craft” along with Jaipur and Punk. Put it this way, if one uses the “grape­fruit” def­i­n­i­tion of craft to imply lots of New World hops, added late – then call­ing your defin­ing beer Cit­ra is prob­a­bly a big hint of being on the craft side of the line.

            Being pre-2005 does­n’t stop Sier­ra Neva­da from being craft. Maybe Oakham blur the lines a bit, but they’re cer­tain­ly 80% of the way, John the Bap­tist if not Jesus.

          3. I don’t think you can argue some­thing in or out of craft (def 2) – it either is, or it isn’t. Like ‘cool’ and ‘punk’. Quite apart from any­thing else Oakham’s awful graph­ic design prob­a­bly (again, unfair­ly) gets them bumped from the club. But it’s def­i­nite­ly part of def­i­n­i­tion 1.

          4. I agree with Bai­ley, Oakhams main fail­ing is the awful brand­ing. Why brand excel­lent beer (and great venues in Peter­bor­ough) with Hobgoblin/Lord of the Rings/beardy weirdy labels? For crafts­man­ship they are eas­i­ly up there with the best, and impor­tant­ly at more acces­si­ble pric­ing than oth­er Craft Brew­eries when on cask.

          5. In the East Mid­lands, East Anglia, you see an absolute shite ton of Oakham on cask. Cit­ra is the de fac­to guest beer in many three-beer pubs.

          6. The Oakham ques­tion is an inter­est­ing one. Once poured, its beers are vir­tu­al­ly indis­tin­guish­able from a wide range of more recent­ly found­ed fash­ion­able UK or US brew­eries.

            Its a ques­tion of what defines craft beer, is it the beer, or is it the brand­ing? If its the beer that mat­ters, and the brand­ing is just a way for the brew­er to try and con­vey to the pub­lic the style of beer in the cask/keg/bottle, then Oakham stand proud­ly at the cen­tre of the UK craft beer uni­verse. If its the brand­ing that mat­ters, and the beer is just an after­thought, then clear­ly they don’t, but what kind of ass-back­ward def­i­n­i­tion is that?

            Per­son­al­ly I don’t think the brand­ing of their core range is all that bad. Its the sea­son­al spe­cials that fea­ture the naff pump art.

          7. It’s def­i­n­i­tion 1 (about the beer) vs def­i­n­i­tion 2 (about the ‘cul­ture’).

          8. That may be the prob­lem in a nut­shell – all def­i­n­i­tions, by their nature, are arbi­trary and imper­fect.

            Pre-2005” encom­pass­es a huge array of brew­eries, from big behe­moths to inde­pen­dent, for­ward-think­ing, inno­v­a­tive brew­eries. It’s not a group that can be defined, in much the same way that “craft” cov­ers a huge mul­ti­tude.

            I appre­ci­ate labels are nec­es­sary, but they’re also gen­er­al­ly unhelp­ful.

          9. In sit­u­a­tions like this, where we just want to give some prac­ti­cal advice, we just avoid over­think­ing.

            Can you sug­gest a hor­ror film or two I might enjoy?”

            Well, it depends how you define hor­ror. Is the exis­ten­tial anx­i­ety of Bergman, for exam­ple—”

            Yeah, it’s fine, I’ll ask some­one else.”

          10. Yeah I appre­ci­ate that. It’s so con­fus­ing – we tick about 75% of what it is to be ‘craft’ but have absolute­ly no idea how to label our­selves, let alone any­one else.

          11. Going back to the orig­i­nal ques­tion – how to expe­ri­ence “craft beer” on a bud­get, well if its the beer you are inter­est­ed in, drink stuff like Oakham, but if all you want is “def­i­n­i­tion 2” craft beer, and are inter­est­ed in drink­ing a beer than is brand­ed in a cer­tain style regard­less of what it actu­al­ly tastes like, sure­ly there are a whole num­ber of pseu­do-craft beers that pro­vide that brand­ing at a low­er price point?

          12. Sure, you could def­i­nite­ly sub in Oakham beers for a cou­ple of the pale-n-hop­py things on our list.

        4. I don’t think you can argue some­thing in or out of craft (def 2) — it either is, or it isn’t. ”

          I guess that’s our dif­fer­ence – I take a less bina­ry view. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit old­er or I’m more used to deal­ing with fuzzi­ness, I would­n’t view it as “in” or “out”. I’d look at a slid­ing scale, from Bass and say Sharp’s (as the last of the “trad” micros to hit the big­time) to Cloud­wa­ter & Beaver­town. Hence my com­ment that Oakham are 80% there.

          I’m also not sure that def­i­n­i­tion 2 is pure­ly about cul­ture – as I said Oakham cer­tain­ly do kegs (and now cans) and that’s the main vehi­cle I see them in. That’s a beer thing.

          And cul­ture varies – I don’t doubt that the A1 cor­ri­dor sees Oakham as a cask brew­ery, but as I say, I’ve hard­ly seen them in cask around me. It’s a bit like Guin­ness being the work­ing man’s drink in Ire­land but a pre­mi­um prod­uct on this side of the water, or Hen and Wych­wood being revered as great Eng­lish beer in export mar­kets. I guess the only aspect Oakham “fail” def 2 is in reject­ing “the trap­pings of estab­lished ‘real ale’ cul­ture” – in that some of their cus­tomers are cask pubs and they’ve won some CAMRA awards. But then my pint of keg Cit­ra does­n’t know that. I’m less about all the cul­ture stuff any­way – sure I’ve been to Indy­Man and the Bermond­sey beer mile, but I do that for the beer rather than to hang out with razor­dodgers or to put some­thing on Insta­gram.

          Same with the brand­ing – I’m not so anti the Oakham brand­ing as some obvi­ous­ly are, but again I would look at it on a con­tin­u­um – is it clos­er to Beaver­town and Tiny Rebel, or clos­er to Doom Bar and Speck­led Hen? Cre­at­ing a dis­tinc­tive visu­al iden­ti­ty that reject­ed pre­vi­ous norms for beer brand­ing has def­i­nite­ly been part of Oakham’s suc­cess – and I’d sug­gest that they are clos­er to the for­mer than say Bux­ton or Thorn­bridge. One test is to write “corn­flakes” in a brand’s typog­ra­phy and see if you can guess the brand – I think you’d get Oakham and Tiny Rebel, prob­a­bly not the oth­ers. So I’d sug­gest “pre­sen­ta­tion, pack­ing and ‘lifestyle’” are part of the Oakham thing. (Hmm – is Tiny Rebel craft? Mod­ern equiv­a­lent of Oakham I’d sug­gest)

          And of course they are a post-2005 _brewery_, if not a cor­po­rate enti­ty; they moved to Peter­bor­ough in 2006.…

          I’d tend to agree with py though, it’s hard to argue the cul­tur­al thing when you’re buy­ing it along­side your Harpic. Cou­ture fash­ion may be copied by George at ASDA, but that does­n’t mean you’re buy­ing cou­ture, they’re just clothes. Hope­ful­ly the fact that you can now buy sours and saisons in Tesco means that we can ditch the need to define “craft” and go back to “beer I like” and “beer I don’t like”. Always good to ques­tion one’s assump­tions from time to time though, so thanks for that.

    2. Cheap­er still is 4 cans of Adnams ghost ship for £5. (Some­times 8 cans for £8) – which is in the same ball­park as Cit­ra.

  4. A pro-tip from a bud­get con­scious craft beer drink­ing Tesco cus­tomer. Seek out the small­er Tesco Express/metro stores. They have dif­fer­ent offers than the large super mar­kets.

    In a 3 for £5 offer (depen­dent on the store) I’ve seen Thorn­bridge Jaipur & Tart, Brew­dog Punk IPA & Dead Pony, Stone Go to IPA, Four Pure Ses­sion IPA, Oskar Blues, Pin­ner and Yel­la Bel­ly, Voca­tion Life & Death, Heart & Soul and Pride & Joy as well as the trio of Goose Island’s core range, Brook­lyn Lager and East IPA and some Fly­ing Dog.

    Bang for buck Voca­tion’s Life & Death at 6.9% is well worth seek­ing out, a cloudy, murky pow­er­ful IPA head­ing towards a NEIPA.

    A few weeks ago on the same £5 for 3 660m bot­tles of Punk IPA were avail­able but they’ve pulled them off that now.

  5. Whilst you’ve sug­gest­ed a new use for my IPA glass for in fla­grante sit­u­a­tions, I would­n’t rec­om­mend such prac­tices as the HSE would have issues with the thin­ness of said sex toy.

  6. Thing is about beer geek­ery – and I speak proud­ly as one myself – is that’s it’s a pret­ty niche hob­by.

    If you look at the cur­rent vol­umes, craft beer remains miles behind across the UK, despite account­ing for almost all new brew­ery open­ings. It’s not mak­ing any major inroads in the nation­al con­science.

    This isn’t a bad thing – like all ‘arte­se­nal’ (urgh) prod­ucts, it’s main­ly for those who are hap­py to use a greater quan­ti­ty of their income explor­ing more obscure items. I like to buy a £4 sour­dough loaf, but that’s not impact­ing on the dom­i­nace of the super­mar­ket sliced whites any­more than posh burg­er joints are affect­ing McDon­alds.

  7. Yes, my local Tesco Metro cur­rent­ly has Punk IPA 330ml and 660ml both at 3 for £5. The big ones are on the bot­tom shelf, so don’t seem to attract as much atten­tion.

  8. Sen­si­ble” pric­ing through brew­ers & retail­ers low­er­ing mar­gins is over­due.

    Multi­buys will be pret­ty nor­mal behav­iour for most pun­ters and price gets fur­ther acces­si­ble e.g I saw 4 for £6 in Asda New­ton Abbot yes­ter­day on a whole fix­ture (that did not exist 6 months ago) of UK craft and some US/Euro brewed imports.

    I’m not a Brew­dog fan­boy but best val­ue was their Dog Box 3 x Punk, 3 x Pony, 3 x 5AM plus 3 x Jack­ham­mer (7.2% !) at £15 = £3.78 per litre for a good spread of beers. I heard that the deci­sion to put Jack­ham­mer in the box was delib­er­ate “over­in­vest­ment” to give pun­ters more, open them up to stronger IPA’s and brand Brew­dog.

    Iron­i­cal­ly over-expan­sion in some stores will even­tu­al­ly see it set­tle back to small­er core ranges sell­ing for £1.50-£2 per can with Indie Spe­cial­ists sell­ing smaller/seasonal spe­cials for £3+

  9. If you want to save some shoe leather, http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/grocery-categories/Ale_And_Bitter_in_Tesco.html can be worth a poke around. Inevitably they can’t keep up with every­thing that hap­pens in indi­vid­ual stores, and some of the cat­e­gori­sa­tion is a bit iffy but it gives you a pret­ty good gen­er­al idea.

    North­ern Monk Eter­nal and New World mul­ti­packs in Mor­risons give you “cool” and good liq­uid – unfined and every­thing! I’ve seen them for £6 in-store, and could have _sworn_ they were 6‑packs, but their web­site says they’re 4‑packs.

    12x440ml cans of Ghost Ship are £10 on a deal in Tesco at the moment. Adnams are being very aggres­sive on price and things like Ease Up aren’t bad liq­uid, so it’s one you’re like­ly to see in deals.

    Any­one fan­cy knock­ing up some code to mash up Mysu­per­mar­ket prices and Untap­pd rat­ings? I sus­pect you would strug­gle to beat the Untap­pd-per-£ of Wei­hen­stephan­er Hefeweiss (3.90) at £1.47 at Wait­rose recent­ly. Wait­rose are less into the “crafty” stuff but do have some real good­ies from the Con­ti­nent which are worth keep­ing an eye out for if they find them­selves on deals.

    Oh, and Booths, obvi­ous­ly.

  10. As I’ve got a shed­load of Nec­tar points, I tend to do my shop­ping in Sains­bury’s and they usu­al­ly have some bar­gains. Last time I got big bot­tles of Williams Bros Jok­er IPA for £1 and they also had a selec­tion of + 5% ABV Dry­gate cans at 79p each.

  11. Oakham Cit­ra was 79p/330ml in B&M Bar­gains at the week­end. Win­ners all round.

  12. My local co op had voca­tion ipa four for six quid and mor­risons will do me North­ern monk new world ipa four pack 650. The 500ml bot­tle ranges in super­mar­kets may be main­ly dull but some hid­den gems (ilk­ley brew­ery beers often in the four for six quid type offers.) ain’t gonna man­age Car­ling cheap but drink less, drink high­er qual­i­ty is hard­ly elit­ist. Jack­ham­mer from split mul­ti packs for 99p is my favorite recent bar­gain.

  13. Of course if you’re real­ly strapped, home­brew! I can brew great beer for less than 50p/litre, or craft for less than £1

    1. Yeah, and prob­a­bly spent £300 on the kit + 8 hours each time you make a beer. 🙂

  14. As with prob­a­bly many peo­ple, I go through stages of being crafty and decide to spend mon­ey on poten­tial­ly inter­est­ing beers. How­ev­er before long I invari­ably revert to my nor­mal selec­tion. I guess there’s good rea­son that I like the beers that I do – they’re the best in style when con­sid­er­ing the quality/price/availability matrix

  15. I know this isn’t what you’ve asked about, but I think The Beer Nut has sort of hit the nail on the head – these sorts of argu­ments aren’t usu­al­ly about the prod­uct per se, but about the peo­ple who are asso­ci­at­ed with them. Call­ing a lager “elit­ist” is ridicu­lous – it’s just a beer. As Tony Nay­lor hints, you can’t talk about some­thing as omnipresent as craft beer with­out touch­ing on the (for­give me) soci­o­log­i­cal aspect of it too. It’s like when smart phones (or, for the old­er read­er, mobile phones) first appeared – any­one who had one and was seen to enjoy it was de fac­to a bit of a wanker. Now every­one has them, so there are less wankers (your mileage may vary)

    As to Mark’s orig­i­nal Twit­ter thread, I did­n’t get it. As you point out, there are price and qual­i­ty gra­da­tions of every­thing, but nobody on Twit­ter moans about the price of “good” (expen­sive) cheese or a real­ly nice­ly made matelot jer­sey vs a Pri­mark T‑shirt – they just buy what they can afford. Some peo­ple have plen­ty of mon­ey and are hap­py to buy cheap­er things and keep their mon­ey, some peo­ple like to save up and buy some­thing that is slight­ly beyond their means but feels like a treat.

    To answer the ques­tion, what can you get for £13, my pref­er­ence would always be to go to an indie and buy 2 or 3 “wild­ly expen­sive” beers – drink less and drink bet­ter.

    1. And don’t give me any heat about what bet­ter means in the con­text of “drink less and drink bet­ter”

  16. Asda’s recent for­ay into craft world has seen about thir­ty dif­fer­ent vari­eties appear, at least twen­ty of which are in their 4 for £6 offer. Sad­ly, for me any­way, very lit­tle black beer in the mix.
    Mor­rison’s are doing well, but a small­er selec­tion than Asda.
    Sains­bury’s real­ly need to up their game; not every­thing is an Amer­i­can IPA!

  17. Just a thought, but in the ear­ly days of CAMRA it was often the case that the high­ly regard­ed beers were actu­al­ly cheap­er than the heav­i­ly-pro­mot­ed “nation­al blands”.

  18. Co-op. £5 for 3 cans from a range of canned craft beers.

    The range varies by branch, but I’ve seen Voca­tion there – love­ly.

  19. Crikey, the whole premise of the orig­i­nal tweet is total­ly myopic. Imag­ine:

    [Pic­ture of a big cab­bage next to a lit­tle let­tuce]

    Greens vs Elit­ist Greens.

    Because the tiny one is “Sal­ad” it is more expen­sive despite being low­er in iron con­tent.

    Sal­ad – Gor­don Gekko’s food.”

    Maybe he should’ve start­ed by com­par­ing two prod­ucts that are actu­al­ly the same. Helles isn’t pil­sner and pilsen­er isn’t helles. Apples aren’t oranges, etc.

    The main hin­drance I see to the beer mar­ket in the UK is the obses­sion with broad-brush labels…

    All ‘lager’ is lager all the same, right? And all ‘craft beer’ is craft beer all the same, right? The dis­cus­sion about Oakham, above, shows that these short-sight­ed asser­tions are total bull­shit, espe­cial­ly if they’re your start­ing point as a con­sumer.

    Pret­ty much demon­strates why the last thing we need is an ‘offi­cial’ def­i­n­i­tion for ‘craft’ beer.

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