The other day I bought a bottle of Modern Times City of the Dead Export Stout with Bourbon Barrel aged coffee beans. Modern Times just got distributed to this area, so this was brand spanking new, a holdover from a release party a couple days prior. It was $7 for a 22oz bomber. When I got home I remarked to my wife what an amazing deal that was. Man, have times changed.
Long gone are the days of $6 six-packs. Granted, when I was paying that price I was buying macro beer like Miller Lite, or faux-craft like Blue Moon and Shock Top. Now that I live in Oregon, you can’t get ANYTHING for a dollar a bottle. 16 oz Pabst tallboy will set you back two bucks. I’m OK with that. Good beer is worth paying for. But how much?
The first time I dropped $20 on a 22oz bomber was for Ninkasi’s Ground Control Stout. This was an imperial stout with cocoa and local Oregon hazelnuts made with yeast that had been grown in space! Yeah, I bought it for the geek factor, but it ended up being a really amazing beer. Knowing what I know now about yeast propagation, that beer probably wasn’t as quite a small and limited run as I imagined it to be, but still a pretty rare release.
Grocery store beer is always going to be cheaper than beer in a bar (or it should be). But it still helps to think of things in terms of pints. Average price for a pint in Portland is about $5, give or take. So you’re looking at about $3.75 for a 12oz or $6.88 for a 22oz scaled on a per ounce basis. $22.50 is a hell of a lot for a six pack, so thankfully you get a pretty good deal on the 12 ouncers, which usually run $8-10 depending. The 22’s not so much. They hold pretty well onto the per pint price, running $6-8 depending on what it is. Sometimes you catch a special on something for 3.50-4 bucks and so that’s a good deal. I’ll think to myself when I’m going to buy something if I would pay for it on draft at a bar. For Budweiser, no. For Boneyard, yes.
As time goes on, we find things that we’re willing to pay for and that recalibrates our inner scale of what we think is a good price. $10 for a 16 ounce bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout? I felt that was a worthy price, so I bought some. $25 for a 22ounce of Deschutes Black Butte 29th Anniversary? Yes, in my mind I feel like that’s worth it. Learning what all is involved in barrel aging beer and making of sour beers and blends really helps put a value to the price you’re paying. $14 for a 22oz bottle of New Belgium 2015 La Folie? After finding out what goes into making that beer, to me, that’s a steal! $6 for a 6 ounce draft pour of a blended lambic imported from Belgium? Sign me up.
Everyone has a limit though right? Even though it counteracts my pint argument from above (because it’s still under the $3.75/pint guide) I have to draw the line at Ballast Point. I just cannot bring myself to pay $16-18 for a sixpack. They are priced well above the rest of the market, with no one else at that pricepoint, I don’t understand how they sell a single bottle. Then again, they just sold themselves to Constellation brands for a cool one billion dollars, so what the hell do I know? What also hurts is that I don’t like Ballast Point’s beers. We only get a few of their brands up to Oregon, and the one that is the most popular, Grapefruit Sculpin, in my personal tastes, is disgusting. Way too bitter, lots of pithy grapefruit peel rather than fruit, and from what I’ve heard it’s not even real fruit. To me that’s not worth paying for at any price. If you like it, knock yourself out.
The other side of this coin is a conversation I recently had with a coworker about how “if you got into homebrewing to save money you’re going to be disappointed”. I got into homebrewing for the science and creativity. My favorite part is formulating recipes. Can I buy beer for cheaper than I can make it? Yes of course, but the key factor is the quality of the beer in question. My last batch of CDA cost me around $10 a gallon, or about $1.25 a pint. (This does not account for my time or equipment costs, this is ingredients only) This is a 7% ABV beer with a ton of flavor and lots of hop aroma. This is “craft” beer. What can I buy on the market for that price or cheaper? Miller Lite, Coors Light, PBR etc. 4% ABV beers with no flavor and no hops. So homebrewing might not be cheaper, but it’s a better value. I get more bang out of my buck by making my own.
What’s your limit?