Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Solving The Price Gap Dilemma

There is an obvious difference between the price of similar cask and keg beers in many of the hybrid craft pubs and bars. When I say hybrid I mean those that serve a mixture of cask and keg - a formula that I think works well as it happens. It brings crossover and a likelihood that there is more of an incentive to keep the cask well, both to compare with the less variable keg presentation - though there are many presentational and quality problems with keg - but just as much as anything, concerns about reputation.  These kind of pubs, often with high prices, don't want to be known for poor beer quality and though that yardstick isn't a sure one, it gives a reasonable probability of decent cask in most cases.

But I digress from my main point. A couple of weeks ago in Leeds, Tapped had the same beer on cask and keg with the keg being a £1 dearer.  This was not a strong beer I recall, but I have seen much wider differences than that on my travels. While you can argue all day why people might prefer to pay a premium for the same beer in keg, there is a undoubtedly a difference in the purchase cost, not least of which is buying the container (in the case of keykegs and petainers) and applying GP to it, as anything else, though there are other costs. I guess most are passed on to the customer. So equivalent keg will always be dearer than cask?

Last week in London I found one pub that seems to be solving this problem. The Hack and Hop was selling 4% cask beer for £4.50 a pint.   Is levelling upwards the start of something new and unwelcome?

Needless to say I didn't buy any and couldn't get near the bar anyway and went elsewhere. That's London for you. Not price sensitive and thankfully, not typical. 


Matthew Curtis said...

I think it's important to bear in mind that The Hack and Hop is inside the square mile and a couple of extra factors that are unique to this part of the UK apply here. Firstly, it's got one of the highest if not the highest level of rent and service charges in the UK. Secondly, it also has the highest concentration of high earners in the UK so pretty much every freehold pub in the area (see the Old Red Cow as another example) will charge up to an extra pound or so per pint of a typical beer.

You didn't mention what beer was being sold here but I imagine if you saw the same beer in a pub near where I live in North London it would be up to a pound cheaper. As a Londoner of 10 years I would have seen a city pub charging £4.50 as pretty normal, being honest.

Cooking Lager said...

Nowt wrong with sensible prices for normals and sky high prices for eejits. Way of the world.

Tandleman said...

Matt. Point taken, but on a fairly extensive crawl of that are nothing else came close. Not even Harrild and Sons which was likeable in an odd sort of way. Crap service mind.

BryanB said...

I've never accepted the cost-of-container argument. After all, selling a keg means no need to arrange cask recovery, washing, etc. Even not counting the cost of the cask-washer (which keg-only breweries don't pay), there's the cost of staff time to manage and reuse a cask.

Jeffrey Bell said...

It's not normal for a city pub to charge £4.50 for a pint of session cask ale but the £4 barrier has been well and truly broken so it isn't too far beyond the pale.

In answer to young Matt's comment about rent and rates etc, yes that's true, but city pubs expect much higher volumes so they don't need to necessarily charge more than pubs in other less busy areas. If you want fair prices in the City of London just go to the Pelt Trader. Couldn't be more central - it's across the road from the London Stone, innit

Gareth Siddorn said...

I second Jeff's comment about the Pelt Trader. Sensible pricing and the most consistent cask ale quality in the City...which is itself interesting given I believe they use a slightly unusual spear system.

Beermunster said...

Increasing the price of cask to match seems to be the trend. The last couple of times I've been in Port Street they have had a number of cask beers priced at well over £4 a pint, and these weren't 10% yak-milk stouts from Outer Mongolia, just cask ales from fairly well known UK breweries. Keg has always been priced at that level, but from memory, cask never was.

Last time we were in there, there was only 1 beer that was under £4. Pricing is obviously their decision, but we would normally have spent a few hours in there, but instead nipped over to the Crown & Kettle for the evening, where prices were much more reasonable.

Beermunster said...

You have touched on one of my current peeves, which is breweries offering the same beer in both cask and keg.

There is some very good keg beer out there, but the brewers producing it expect their beer to only be served in keg, so have developed their recipe accordingly. If you simply take a cask ale, shove it into a keg, chill it to 5°C, and carbonate it, it does not taste the same, and in my experience is usually pretty rank until it warms up and the gas dissipates.

I know not all breweries are doing this, but many seem to be, and I wish they would stop.

py said...

My favourite circular argument is the one that goes: the cask and keg would be the same price (at ~£4 perhaps), but people won't buy expensive cask ale so we have to cut the price by 50p.

But then to make up for this, we have to then add the 50p on the keg beer to compensate. Hence a £1 difference.

Of course the unspoken inference is that even though people aren't stupid enough to pay £4 for a cask ale, they are stupid enough to pay £4.50 for the same thing in keg. So its basically an admission that they're taking keg drinkers for fools.

There is no justification for expensive keg prices, its shameless profiteering.

BryanB said...

Talking of profiteering, one of my local pub managers said it's partly (and somewhat counter-intuitively) that keg keeps longer, so there is less pressure to sell it quickly. So you can price it higher and wait for the mugs to cough up.

geordiemanc said...

This evening I had a pint of cask Magic Rock Dark Arts in The Bar, Chorlton. It was good, although not a patch on the pint of same I had at their sister pub last week.

Thinking I could probably find a better pint in their range, I scanned the bar for choice of my second pint and spotted Siren Broken Dream - a similar beer and ,on form, a more than worthy equal to Dark Arts.

The difference - the Magic Rock at 6% was £3.95; The Siren, slightly stronger at 6.5% was £5.75!

I did quite fancy the Broken Dream, but £1.80 a pint extra is way too much to ask for me to take a punt.

I've got nothing against craft keg, but it's got to be priced to be a realistic alternative. Over half as much again for a similar beer only succeeded in sending me somewhere else.