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The SOB Beer Blog

Our rants about beer and beer culture.

Why Is My Beer So Darn Expensive? -- PART 1

06.21.2012 09:56 AM

Imagine watching a stock market ticker – only, instead of seeing Facebook stock plummet and Merck stock soar – you’re watching BEER… nothing but BEER. On a giant digital screen, in real time, you can watch how the beer you’re drinking begins to drop in price with every pint you buy. It’s mind-boggling, really, but you can do just that at The Big Board burger pub on H Street NE in Washington, DC!

So, for instance, if you see that New Belgium Ranger IPA drops down 50 cents to $6.50 a pint, you might be inclined to order that next. Yet, if you’re not quick enough – the kegs will run dry before you can even say, “Bartender, I’ll have another!”

Regional Disparities… What Gives?

hipster beer

Residents in the nation’s capital feel the pain of rising beer prices like many other big cities in America. If you go down to Asheville, North Carolina, you can get craft brew at a paltry $4-a-pint. In the college bars of Madison, Wisconsin, you may still be able to find that elusive $1 pitcher – if you don’t mind domestic, of course. 

However, there are still beer-drinker-havens like San Francisco that defy all expectation. You’d imagine – in a place where the average rent is $2,305 and the average home price is over $800,000 – that the beer would follow suit. Yet, Haight Street bars offer Flemish red ales for $5, which would cost $9 in DC. Even rare imports can be purchased at $4-$5 a pint at places like Monk’s Kettle and Toronado.

One would think that locally-sourced brews would be granted unto its citizens at bargain bin prices. Yet, DC drinkers are disappointed to find that DC Brau Public Ale is still $6-$7 a pint, whether you’re drinking at Tonic, The Big Hunt, Meridian Pint, or ChurchKey.

Ingredients

Craft brewers will always cry as to the high quality of their ingredients. You can buy a beer filled with cheap rice or corn… or you can buy a beer made with barley and fine grains. As Flying Dog Brewing Company CEO Jim Caruso puts it, “You can buy a very cheap hamburger -- one that’s full of flour, oatmeal, and soy protein -- but it’s not a hamburger. If you want a steak burger, you pay for a steak burger. They are two entirely different products.” Yet, that still doesn’t explain why Flying Dog Raging Bitch costs $7 at Meridian Pint in DC -- and $5 a hop, skip and a jump away at Magerk’s Pub in Baltimore.

Then, of course, there are the dreaded shortages. Every beer drinker remembers the pain we felt several years ago when widespread grain shortages hit our pocket books. The prices still haven’t come down – and they likely never will, now that consumers are used to paying so much for their precious suds. Flying Dog’s Jim Caruso worries, “This global grain crisis is going to affect every single craft brewer because there is going to be a shortage and the price is going to go up significantly… We are all on pins and needles.”

sob keg

Stay tuned to learn how Breweries determine the price of your beer...

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