Monday, 7 May 2012

How Much Is It Then (2)

My recent post here about beer prices elicited 56 responses. In the way of blog comments, these did not always include anything about the questions asked, but more about what the contributor wanted to say as an aside. But that's an aside. Most kept to the point.

Inevitably London prices were more expensive than those in the North, though in most cases the eye watering prices are in places places like Cask or Meantime and the like, while those in "ordinary" London pubs were around the £3.60 mark - or perhaps a little more or less here or there. This varied, too, with cask being pretty affordable, even  in these places. UK produced craft keg was always more expensive and of course imported pints are too. London to my mind didn't come across that badly given the high rents and overheads, though again to my mind the quality of what's offered can let it down all too often.

There are some surprises like Marble beers being cheaper in the free trade than in the Marble Arch - well maybe that's not a surprise to me - but I am sure it will be to some. Pints in a Sam Smith's pub in the North can be as little as £1.80 and though Joey Holt's is no longer sold at bargain basement prices, it can still be had in some places for £2.19. Huddersfield is known to be a fantastic place to drink, but what is surprising perhaps is the really keen prices. Maybe it's the competition of just good old Yorkshire canniness. Stockport offered a real bargain with Dark Star Six Hop Ale (6.5%) at £2.60. Availability of price lists varied greatly, which is slightly annoying to the budget concious, though I suppose the old adage of "if there isn't a price list, you probably can't afford it" might be a useful standby to keep in mind.

So no real shocks. Craft keg costs more than cask for the same beer, but why be surprised? Someone has to pay for these throw-away keykegs and it is of course the drinker. London was reasonable given the circumstances, fancy beer bars charge more (Euston Tap an honourable cask exception), the North is much cheaper, tied houses from Family Brewers arguably offer dearer pints than they ought to - Sam's excepted - and that is perhaps a surprise. Huddersfield and Sheffield show that competition, particularly proximate competition, keeps prices keen.  Wetherspoon's are cheaper than most, but prices, particularly in London, are creeping upwards. The £3 JDW cask pint is already there.

This was an interesting little exercise, which above all, to my mind at least, provided me with little I didn't know or couldn't guess already.  However, with a little common sense, a beer in a pub remains (even if it is just an occasional treat and you pick your pub and beer wisely) a relatively affordable pleasure.  In most cases, you can do better than that and have two or three pints without bankrupting yourself.

On the keykeg thing a good pointer from Dave Unpronounceable; "In the case of Jaipur you pay the same for a 30l keg as a 41l (i.e. 9 gal) cask, thus to recover the cost the pub has 3/4 as much beer for the same cost so charges 4/3 as much per pint."

The photo above was taken by me in April 2009.


Bailey said...

The interesting thing from our point of view was, thinking about Penzance, that brewery taps/brewpubs (of which we have three close at hand) are by far the cheapest places to get a good pint. (Wetherspoons in PZ is cheaper but, having give it a few goes, does not keep the beer well.) Fewer middle men and no distribution costs, presumably.

So, let's have more brewery taps!

Tandleman said...

It should be so. The Marble Arch is a brewery tap and not in the least inexpensive for all that.

Curmudgeon said...

People don't vote with their feet with pubs to anything like the same extent as supermarkets, though, as pubs are much less of a uniform commodity. Few people would go to a pub selling cheap beer if they thought the general atmosphere was poor.

So, while good value beer can still be found (and most of your cheap examples were in fact mine), the £3+ pint of indifferently-kept Bombardier will still put a lot of people off pubs per se.

RedNev said...

There is cheaper beer available if you care to shop around, but that is reducing beer to a commodity like soap powder that you can buy anywhere. There's little point in me drinking a good, cheap pint in our local Wetherspoons if my friends are in another pub that has standard prices for the area - a pub that I much prefer for many reasons. I think your optimism is misplaced; I certainly know people who say the price of beer is an increasing problem.

Tim said...

I think its appropriate to pay more for a quality product and to support local industry. If it were more acceptable for the smaller quality producers to charge more, then this would reinvested and there would ultimately be more high quality beer available (until the brewery can achieve economy of scale).

This goes for craft (proper real) keg as well.

Tandleman said...

RedNev. I thought carefully before concluding what I did. For most people, in most places, should you be inclined, a beer in a pub is affordable. Not for all I know, but unless you want a good session, you can still have the odd pint affordably. Well most of us can.

But I will change my wording slightly to make that clearer.

Curmudgeon said...

Your conclusion suggests that you believe relative price may be exaggerated as a reason for declining beer sales in pubs.

Cooking Lager said...

An interesting question to ask is "do you use pubs less than you did ten years ago and if so why?"

I suspect among most people in society the answer would be yes and price.

The contributors to beer blogs are a self selecting group of beer enthusiasts that value beer and pubs far higher than most.

But you would have to be an enthusiast to go out on a cold rainy Wednesday night to pay 3 quid plus for a drink. Most people sit in front of the telly

Tandleman said...

Mudgie: It isn't what I was trying to understand, but I suppose the answer would be "yes".

Cookie: No I don't, but then again, apart from meetings, quizzes etc which are held in pubs, I haven't really done much weekday drinking in pubs. More than most maybe and if I visit less it is because I am old and knackered, not because I am deterred by price. When I worked, I couldn't as I took what I did very seriously and now that I don't work, I am all to aware of the slippery slope.

What I am saying though is that it wouldn't seem that the middle class gentry that read my blog need be that deterred by price. It's what I keep saying; "it's the offer Stupid." Price is part of that.

As for reaching only beer geeks - of course that is right - well the way I'm slipping down the league tables, despite the absolute excellence of what I write - would suggest I'm not even managing that. And most of them write about drinking at home anyway. I reckon most of my colleagues value beer much more than pubs.

In other words, I am probably talking to even less than you'd imagine!

Cooking Lager said...

This is the best beer blog bar none Tand. Better than Pete Browns or even Mudgies odd rants.

And I kind of agree. "The offer" does encapsulate much more than price, taking into account all manner of things.