Beer and Pavement

The Bourgeois

Posted in Beer, Intersections by SM on August 14, 2012


Beer – craft or otherwise – has always had a reputation for being had on the cheap. This mentality is what keeps so many from even trying a craft beer. Even for craft beer enthusiasts, complaining about beer prices is like complaining about the weather.

I won’t lie. I’ve spent my fair share on beer, but even I won’t (normally) buy a $45 bottle like our friend Jim of Beer and Whiskey Brothers fame. Well, I’d probably chip in to try some, but $45 is a lot to spend on one 750 mL bottle of beer. There’s something about that mental hurdle (that I clear regularly) that one should never pay more for beer than they do wine.

The Beer Bourgeois doesn’t care about price. All they want are the best and rarest beers. That’s cool. It would be cooler if everyone could afford these special beers, but I don’t really mind that there are $45 bottles of beer out there, waiting to empty my wallet. I’ve been know to partake in the bourgeois shenanigans. I understand the allure and payoff involved in drinking expensive beer.

It’s an interesting issue when you factor in the cheap beer syndrome that typically prevails in diehard and casual beer drinkers alike. The diehard beer enthusiast complains because he has to have that beer or that these beers drive up the prices on more regular brews. The casual beer drinker doesn’t give a shit either way.

Something similar happens with records. While this sometimes happens with special packaging or pressings, it more often occurs when bands re-release their seminal work form decades past. Albums that could hardly sell more than a few thousand copies can now ask top-dollar for re-issues pressed on 180-gram vinyl and sporting new packaging.

There’s no better example of this than the flurry of reissues from 90s indie heroes Archers of Loaf. Two particular re-issues just came out a week or two ago in the form of All the Nation’s Airports and White Trash Heroes. The vinyl is non-black and heavy. The artwork has been completely re-imagined. The liner notes offer a bit more while the digital download still has more to offer. It’s everything for which an indie child of the 90s could ask and all for almost 20 bucks a pop, considerably more than what those records used to go for.

Let me be clear. I am not complaining. I am glad that these albums are receiving the proper re-issue treatment. I am elated to own all of Loaf’s full-length albums on vinyl. (Although, I already owned Vee Vee and a picture disc of All Nations prior to their reunion and re-issue-palooza, not to mention numerous singles and EPs.) This is a good development in that I get some nice records and these deserving artists finally get the recognition they deserve.

I’m also fairly willing to spend money on high-end beers. I mean, these are the best beers in the world and yet they’re still a fraction of their wine-y equivalent. I won’t buy cases of expensive beer, but I’ll buy a bottle or a glass on tap just so that I can try it.

So, this may actually make me part of the bourgeois with limits. I am firmly middle-class, but I have to budget my money. I guess more of us (reading this post) are in that situation than not.

So, are you a bourgois beer nerd/geek/enthusiast/whatever? Are you record-buying and concert-going behaviors of the bourgeois? I came to conclusions I did not fully expect. Where do you stand? Does it even matter? Am I just reaching for blogging topics at this point?

Either way, Jim liked the beer I mentioned above and the Archers of Loaf re-issues are totally worth the money, if you’re into that kind of thing and can afford it.

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Holly said, on August 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Well, I guess I am part of the beer bourgeoisie in that I think Perennial’s stuff is totally worth the price…

  2. beerbecue said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I had no qualms about the coin I shelled out for The Bruery’s Fruet. I enjoyed it more than I have wines many times its $30+ price tag. That being said, the commenter on Jim’s post has a good point. Usually the marginal benefit of the high-priced beers is not worth it if you know the “hype-buster beers” (the great beers that are reasonably priced and not hard to get your hands on).

    • Zac said, on August 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      I missed that comment. It’s true, though. That’s why I really enjoy Stone and Deschutes (among others) who put out high quality at an affordable price.

  3. Steve said, on August 15, 2012 at 3:48 am

    While I’m happy to spend more than most people I know on good beer, I do have my limits. I think in my head I have a certain lower price threshold, that probably guarantees the beer is going to be at the very least interesting, and so will spend that rather than get cheap(er) beer that will be ultimately disappointing. In terms of a higher price threshold, I think I try to make the call as to whether an expensive beer that is twice the price as the standard-good-craft-beer will be twice as good, or twice as eye-opening (so, say for a Mikkeller beer, I’ll go for it as I know it will be worth it). Which is probably a false way of approaching price, I don’t know.
    Also, beer prices in pubs are rising so rapidly, that a really good craft beer bought in a shop and drunk at home is comparable in price to buying a bad beer in a bar or pub. While it is a little anti-social, the former option is always more appealing, and within that context makes all but the most expensive craft beer seem good value for money.
    Now, if I just learnt how to brew the stuff then I’d save a lot of money and be able to drink great beer all the time. However, perhaps buying a couple of more expensive beers rather than drinking tonnes is better for my health anyway.

    • Zac said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

      I think you have the balance figured out, something with which the bourgeois class struggles. Also, you live in a very different beer culture. There’s more a premium placed on the pub in the UK. Not so much here.

  4. ithinkaboutbeer said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I’ve always had a little higher threshold for more expensive beer being a fan of Belgian beers. That being said, I rarely spend over $15 on a bottle. Those have to come recommended by someone I trust.

    • Zac said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Yeah, it’s rare for me to go beyond that threshold as well, but I rarely refrain from buying one-offs/special releases/rare beers that approach the $20-30 range. Maybe I have a problem.

  5. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Very nice post! I think I am somewhat a recovering member of the Bourgeois. I, at one time, wanted to purchase the biggest and best beers and albums. Packaging was very meaningful to me at one point in time; however, I have really found myself just enjoying the music more. I used to buy the nice packaging, but I found I didn’t have a place to display and enjoy it. When it comes to beer, I’ve found that I certainly have a limit when it comes to the price of a bottle. I’m pretty sure my ceiling is $25. I’ve looked at a lot of bottles that are above that, and I can’t bring myself to buy them. I have found that trying to get them on tap here and there are just as good, and while you don’t get as much (or the packaging), you get to enjoy the product.

    • Zac said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:24 am

      I generally agree. In regards to music packaging, if a re-issue doesn’t add anything to the experience of the music, I don’t bother, especially if I already own it on vinyl.

      As far as beer goes, I find that once I’ve had an expensive beer, buying it again becomes less necessary. Aside from special occasions, there’s just no good reason to continually fork over $20+ for beer when there are plenty of affordable, go-to options. So, as we explore more beer, the need to buy the expensive stuff becomes less imperative. I’ve had almost all the Stillwater I can get my hands on and I’ve loved everyone. However, I feel less inclined to buy his beers mostly due to the long-term effects on my wallet.

  6. Steve said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Kind-of-related question(s): those super expensive beers – are they expensive because the ingredients/process is more expensive for those beers? Or do brewers produce a smaller batch so they need to charge more to make it worth their while? Or brewers know a certain price tag will attract a certain buyer? Do stores add a lot to the price? Or a combination of the above?
    I can see the logic of a super-deluxe heavyweight vinyl edition costing more than a standard CD, say, but the pricing of beer I find a little more confusing…
    A post covering the above would be awesome, but any comments would be great too.

    • Zac said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:45 am

      The short answer is ‘yes, all of the above.’ The long answer is way more complex and would require further research. I could be wrong, but I think it’s more expensive to brew a smaller batch. Of course, this may also have to do with using special ingredients that would make a large batch impossible.

      • Bill said, on August 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

        In many instances, the special small brews tie up tanks that can’t then be used for other things. The expense of the ingredients go up, sure, but that’s marginal compared to the cost of not being able to produce certain beers because tanks that normally condition beer for a week or three are now conditioning a beer for a couple of months. In essence, if the special beers actually decrease the amount of beer they can make, the price they charge for them needs to make up the difference.

        But, sure, also, brewers look at what other folks are doing and set prices accordingly. And remember that distributors mark up prices based on a percentage of the brewer’s bottle price, and the store then does the same on top of that price. Distributors don’t mark things up, say $1 regardless of the brewer’s price — they mark things up, say 30%, and a 30% markup on a $3 bottle is higher than a 30% markup on a $1.50 bottle. Stores then mark up the distributor price the same way.

      • Zac said, on August 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

        Thanks, Bill. that gets at some of the detail I was avoiding. Interesting, though, about the time it takes to brew specialty beer. I’ve been aging a Belgian Quad for months, causing me to have to buy more carboys for other batches. Even at the homebrew level, these beers can cost more. I mean, time is money. Amiright?

      • Steve said, on August 16, 2012 at 3:50 am

        Thanks for the replies, guys. I feel a lot less ignorant now!

Leave a Reply to Steve Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: