Generalisations about beer culture opinion

Depends, how much did it cost?

Last week, this Tweet got us thinking:

Well, in a way, the answer is yes, but bear with us.

How do you reduce the price of beer when you’ve got a price point to reach? You reduce the cost of production, storage and distribution by

  • producing in greater volumes
  • using fewer and/or cheaper ingredients (e.g. hops)
  • conditioning/lagering for shorter times (see Tandleman on this here)
  • brewing your beer to be acceptable to the widest possible market.

It’s still possible to brew a good beer within those parameters and, in fact, we’ve had the odd pint of Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter which rivals Harvey’s Sussex Best for complexity and zing. On the whole, however, the more corners are cut, the more industrialised the process, the less likely the beer is to excite anyone. Everyone got that likely, right?

While it would be wrong to answer the question “Is this a craft beer?” with “Depends, how much did it cost?”, it wouldn’t be reckless to bet that a pint that costs £1.30 will be a bit boring. It might still be satisfying, it might not be nasty, but it probably won’t be exciting.

Note: we’re not making the case for super-expensive beer; our beer of the year for 2011 costs £2.60 a pint. And the Sam Smith’s beer pictured above is anything but cheap…