I notice a lot more rumblings and grumblings on t'interweb about the perceived high costs of craft keg beer. Pete Brown did a nice piece on what he feels is the most worrying aspect of craft beer, which is quality at the point of dispense. I agree with most of what he says, but not that it is a problem which has recurred. To me quality may be better than it was - and that's arguable - but problems have never gone away as such. I too am always keen to bang on about the quality thing, particularly when it comes to cask beer, though Pete makes many more far reaching points too, particularly about unfined beer. More power to his elbow on that one. And he does mention prices, although in the context of getting bad beer.
So, price. The moaning on the internet has been about how much craft keg costs at the bar. It is justified by brewers by saying it costs them more through equipment, keykeg costs, ingredient cost and more, though many would argue that ingredients cannot justify the cost differences, especially for the same beer in keg and cask. That in turn means higher prices at the pumps say pub and bar owners. Another point about craft keg (and it is mainly but not exclusively keg) is that high prices and alcohol levels mean you are also likely to drink a lot less of it, which creates its own vicious circle of needing to charge higher prices, not just to cover the higher costs of buying it, but to account for lower turnover and to maintain profit. If nothing else, this will limit the spread of bars than can charge such a lot. There's only so many that the market will stand. So while brewers (and pubs and bars) may have these lovely margins now, they may be heading for a brick wall if the market expands. The customer and the market will decide in the end and my bet is that price will play a bigger part, as or if the spread of craft keg increases. There may be rockier times ahead for this craft beer boom.
One thing is for sure and for now. Beer in certain places is becoming eye wateringly expensive and drinkers are starting to notice and question it. You are bound to get a lot more shirty when you pay top dollar for a duff pint and a lot more likely to kick up about it.
I really recommend Pete Brown's article. The link is above in the first paragraph.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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