A New Beeronomics? First You Get the Money, Then You Get the Beer, Then You Have Less Money

piggy_bank-beer_moneyMy wife loves to shop. Shoes, dresses, pants … she loves upgrading and enhancing her wardrobe.

(Women, AMIRITE!?!?1?)

We both have plenty of clothing and will gladly replace items when necessary, but her side of the closet takes up much more space than mine and it’s always growing. For this, I tease her.

“Don’t you think you’re wasting money?” I’ll ask … all the time.

“Aren’t you?” she recently replied, as I sipped on a beer.

You know what? She’s kind of got a point. Whereas she’ll buy shoes or dresses or pants, at least she reuses these items, effectively depreciating the cost/value of her clothing over time.

Me? I buy a beer, drink it up and it’s gone.

So I began to wonder: is part of the enamor of being a beer nerd an attempt to capture fleeting (and sometimes costly) experiences? In the world of this expensive hobby, what makes it worth it? The beer, sure, and people, too. But what about the money?

The reality of the situation is that while I’ve spent more money on beer than I’d want to count, it’s only going to get worse. (or better, depending on your point of view)

At my local bottle shop, I’ve noticed prices edging up slowly in the last six months. A six-pack of local, North Carolina beer has increased between 50 cents to $1.50 during that timespan. I used to be able to spend $8 on NC beer. Now the starting point is typically $9 or $9.50.

There are TONS of factors involved in this thanks to brewery growth, expanding staff or even our three-tiered system. But, as Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz recently spelled out, craft beer lovers can expect to pay more from now on. (skip to 2:17 for these comments)

Maria Bartiromo: Are prices moving up as a result of this popularity?

Julia Herz: Prices will ebb and flow, certainly, and continue to inch up. We’re dealing with not a commodity, there’s agricultural products involved. So with that, you’ve got a challenge on the pricing side, for sure.

MB: Agricultural prices have gone up. So that is passed onto the consumer.

JH: Yeah, it is. And taxes. I mean, you know, small brewers pay a disproportional amount of taxes compared to comparable industries, too. About 40 percent of the cost of beer, by the way, is taxes. Because you have federal excise taxes on beer. It’s a whole different ball game for these small brewers to compete and thrive and they’re still thriving – double digits. Fifteen percent by volume growth in 2012 alone. Year after year double digits despite the challenges that they’re up against.

As with any product, prices can change. Thankfully, in spite of rising bottle shop prices, I haven’t noticed large shifts in prices at bars on draft beer.

I was also happy to find this week the latest column by Chad Lothian (aka @Chaddah) at If My Coaster Could Talk:

I drink craft beer because I appreciate the quality, the diversity in style and flavor. … This blog post is intended to give you some ideas on how to save some money or help stretch your money so that you can experience more beers for the same amount.

His post, Craft Beer on a Budget, offers several ways to manage your money and your hobby, including brewery visits, bottle shop tastings, half pours and more. It’s good, common sense that may not be obvious to all.

But the real question is: will my behavior change? I don’t know.

Among the many things I hope to do in coming months is get a better sense of my finances. Not because my wife and I are having a tough time, but because I’ve drifted by with simply checking account balances and keeping tallies in my head. I’ll be interested to find out what my monthly beer budget is and how it should change.

Or, I can just ask The Missus to stop buying all those shoes and dresses and pants. More beer for me.

What do you think? Have you noticed changes in beer prices near you?

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

12 thoughts on “A New Beeronomics? First You Get the Money, Then You Get the Beer, Then You Have Less Money

  1. Maryland beer is the same: used to be ~$8.00 for some Flying Dog or Heavy Seas, and even at my “cheap” stores, it’s northward of 9, sometimes 10 now. Anything even remotely exotic just goes higher. I saw a 6 of canned Dale’s Pale Ale fetching $12.99 on Monday. 22oz singles are sometimes $10 all by themselves.

    I lump beer in with my “food” expenses, It’s weak justification, but justification all the same. As long as I’m spend my own money, and not “our” money on it, the wife doesn’t seem to mind. It definitely adds up though.

    I find that if you’re good at it, homebrew is a great solution to budgetary woes. Once you’re past the start up costs of kettles and buckets, you can make ~50 beers for like $30. My brain is incapable of doing math, but that’s a pretty solid return, I think.

    1. Homebrew is a great point and something I ended up leaving out of the post for length. (although perhaps it’s a good follow-up post)

      While I tend to splurge on my homebrews to the point where price is sometimes negligible compared to store-bought beer, it’s exceptionally easy to make a good beer at home and save a bunch of money in the process. You could make 40-50 bottles of a decent session IPA for $20-$30 if you shop around enough.

    2. Oliver, didn’t they raise the bottle taxes on us in MD again recently? I thought I heard that on NPR.

      I never really paid attention to how much I was spending on beer. It was more of a “I looked in my bank account and it looked a little better than usual so let’s go blow so money on beer” kind of fiscal management. But, a few things help me from going overboard. Homebrew, bottleshops, and having a girlfriend who likes craft beer and is happy to pick up the tab here and there as long as some of the beers are designated as hers.

      Recently, though, I took a trip to Pittsburgh to spend time with my brother and before I left I wanted to bring a few 6-packs of local stuff back with me. I set two on the counter and readied my $20 bill. The guy said $26 and I was in semi-shock. The only other time I paid near that much for a 6 pack was for Troeg’s Mad Elf and at least that has a really high ABV and seasonality going for it. .

  2. Great post. I recently bought a six of Red Hook ESB which used to be my go-to inexpensive beer at ~$6. I think I paid $8.50. The two places I really see the dollars being impacted are first, mom-and-pop stores, where you can routinely see six pack prices from $9-$11.50 for things like Sam Adams, Victory, DFH, etc (and don’t get me started on 4-packs. Like I’ve said, they’re pure devil-witchery). Second (and this can be significant) craft beer bars that are very aware of how much a certain keg of beer costs them to tap. I can go to my local and get a 24oz mug of Sorachi Ace and another of Raging Bitch and walk out with an $11.50 tab (as a member of their mug club, not including tip), but if I get a 8 oz taster of Allagash Odyssey or Southern Tier Oaked Aged Unearthly, I shouldn’t be surprised to pay about a buck an oz for them, effectively doubling my bill.

    As far as the over all cost of this hobby, *shrug*, all hobbies cost. While it’s true that we don’t get much of a long lasting enjoyment from a single purchase as say a woman with a new pair of shoes, it’s still money that would be spent on something most likely. Everyone has that one thing they’re splurge on (the trick is not to have 7 things you splurge on).

    According to Untappd, I’ve checked in 874 beers over the last two years (and I know that’s not nearly all of them) at, say, $5 a beer call it $4370. Which isn’t much when you consider what some, audiophiles, boaters, home theater enthusiasts, motorcycle/car enthusiasts and on-and-on, are willing to pour into their hobbies.

    1. Jim Cramer yells at us to “INVEST!” that $4,370, I’m sure.

      Of course we are. We’re investing in liver conditioning life experiences.

      I feel that the spending certainly goes up and down. I’ll spend more while out of town on vacation (bars and bottle shops for new beers) and try to stick to homebrew or what I have on-hand while I’m at home. The start of each seasonal beer season usually earns a spike, but part of what has gotten me in recent months is the sheer number of specialty or one-off beers breweries are producing. Especially if it’s a brewery that I like and trust.

      Don’t get me started on the Lips of Faith series…

      1. Ahhhh, specialties. I routinely see 750mL bottles at State Line with $20-$30 price tags on them. Don’t know who’s buying them. I just know who isn’t (that would be me).

  3. I’m afraid we are all on the beer standard , comparing every non-beer purchase to beer [ ” think how many beers I could have got for the price of that ! “]. It’s as good as any other standard , I guess . Got to have your priorities straight , after all .

    1. Beer standard!? That’s something I can get behind. Us homebrewers would be kings!

  4. Very well written post here. With a base price on craft beer higher in Canada and only rising I feel the pinch to with my beer nerding. But craft beer is just so amazing you want to try them all!

    1. Thanks! I think we share the same fear many of us craft enthusiasts do – no matter what happens, we’ll still buy. I’m very curious as to what the tipping point would be when it comes to price. Surely, the number of options helps to keep prices affordable, but as breweries expand and need that revenue, what’s going to happen?

      1. Well so far it’s pretty high as I have picked up bombers of beer one from Brooklyn and one from Oregon for $30 each.

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