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It's Cheaper Down the Pub

Photo Credit: David Holden (@yesaleblog) Pouring Track Brewing Sonoma at Stalybridge Buffet Bar. 

Doing the rounds the past couple of weeks has been a discussion about where people do their drinking and/or why many choose to drink at home rather than socially.It was discussed on the latest Hopinions show podcast and on blogs by Pete McKerry and Boak and Bailey.

I’m biased as I’m a  staunch defender of pubs and would like to see more people use them. Continuous images on Twitter and Instagram suggest that a lot of people I interact with over social network do not agree. For the main, a lot of the reasons given as to why they choose to stay at home I understand and sympathise with.

What I can’t get my head around is the stance – that makes up a quarter of the responses in this Hopinions poll – that it is cheaper to drink at home.

I do not question the fact that it certainly can be cheaper to drink at home. When a 4-pack of Sainte Etienne in Aldi (which is definitely Stella Artois) costs £2.69 and a single pint of it is £4 in the pub then drinking at home is cheaper. If the response was a generality of the situation then I agree.

However, in terms of drinking good beer, that I would think most people around the discussion enjoy, then I don’t see how it is cheaper to drink at home. Or at least for me in this geographical location it isn’t.

Bottles of good beer aren’t cheap. I very rarely purchase, in my most frequented bottles shops, a beer for under £3. Most of the time I’ll purchase 5 or 6 bottles at a time and this shop is never under £25.

5 or 6 pints in the pub doesn’t cost me £25+.

A pint of cask beer in my favourite pub ranges from £2.60 - £3.60, dependant on strength and purchase price. This is for a 568ml measure of beer as opposed to the standard 330ml size for bottles or cans in the beer shop. In terms of quantity equivalent (ml to ml) 6 beers in the pub will cost approximately £18.60. The bottles will cost me approximately £43 for the same amount of beer.

If we want to break it down a little differently for keg beers of the stronger and (oh let’s just bloody say it) “crafty” variety then let’s. Magic Rock Brewing’s Cannonball is currently on in my local favourite for £5.20 a pint. The cheapest I’ve seen this widely available beer in a 330ml can locally is at £2.95. Millilitre to millilitre again this comes to £5.07 a pint. That’s a 13p difference and is, officially, cheaper. But if this difference for a beer that you’d probably order by the half anyway is enough for you to stay at home then we may as well burn all pubs to the ground now.

Another example? Wild Beer Co’s Wildebeest is also currently available on the bar of my local favourite at £6.80 a pint. The cheapest I’ve come across this beer in 330ml bottle form online is £4.90 (it’s over £6 on some sites.) Again, if we turn that bottle of beer into the pint equivalent as available in the pub, this 11% delicious Imperial Stout weighs in at £8.43 a pint. That’s a significant difference.

Obviously this is only relevant to me in one place geogrpaphically. You may find that this is far from the case in your local area, but I wouldn't expect to see a major difference. I think people just believe psychologically that it’s cheaper drinking at home because a lot of the time the beer was already there. “I’m having a free night at home – with that special bottle I bought months ago for £17.” It’s technically not free or cheap then but psychologically it feels it.

Many of the other reasons given as to why people drink at home, whilst opposite to my own views, are understandable. There seems many are quite happy to hole up with the television and their jim-jams whilst drinking. That’s fine. It’s not for me.

The most understandable for me is the “young family” reason. Obviously those with such responsibilities and busy lives are not going to get the chance to pop into the local. 

I still drink bottles of beers at home as there are obviously many beers I wouldn’t have tried if not. If those who find it cheaper were referencing the wonderful taste of Sainte Etienne lager then fair play to you. Some people like getting leathered in their armchair on the cheap.

I have access to good beer in social environments. I don’t have a young family to raise. I don’t find the company of other humans deplorable. I have great respect for those trying to run drinking establishments. I have all the factors that mean I choose drinking in pubs and bars over at home. I can understand those that don’t, just don’t tell me that it’s so much cheaper


Unknown said…
Can't fault your maths but I wonder whether there's the restraint of containment when people stay at home. Once the beers in the fridge are gone, it's bedtime or the emergency bottle of wine in the cupboard.
When you're out, what might start with a £20 withdrawal from a cashpoint can escalate to further drinks, snacks, meet ups or even an unscheduled meal out where another £60 is withdrawn.
There's less scope for things to develop on the sofa at home.
Mark Johnson said…
Agree with that, though even that emergency bottle of wine cost money at some point. Same as had been said by somebody else about the takeway afterwards that often comes. Or taxis home. The possibility of additional costs is protected in the bubble of home, but ultimately I'm talking about the cost of beer and a night out that hasn't turned into an extreme. I just think people maybe think it's cheaper to drink at home without actually thinking about it. Beer that has been pre-bought does feel free. At one time or another it certainly wasn't.
Unknown said…
True. Takeaways are the devil's business (but they're so gorgeous)
If you drink commodity beers at home then it's probably cheaper, even when compared to Spoons. But the latter, for many, is an out of home refuge so the price gap isn't too significant.
The issue is the pubco sites where, around here, (Cheshire/Staffs borders) an uninspiring cask beer comes in at 3.30/3.60.
Unknown said…
Your personal maths isn't wrong but I think you perhaps need to consider how typical the pricing in your local establishments are? SBB (or e.g. the Grove) are very aggressively priced pubs, but not everyone has the luxury of access to £5.20/pint Cannonball. Most places where I am (central MCR) that beer would be at least £6/pint, probably more. Ditto Wildebeest, I had that on keg in Bristol for £5ish/half and thought that was reasonable for an 11%er. In my experience it's usually the lower-ABV beers that can be had cheaper in the pub, as the fixed costs of packaging them mean they can't be had (outside of Tesco) for less than about £2 a pop. I guess it all boils down to YMMV...
Beermunster said…
You don't have to spend £3 a bottle. Most of the supermarkets run promotions on bottled beer. In my local Morrisons, there is almost always a 4 for £6 offer on, and that isn't limited to it Badger or Marstons, it usually includes most of their bottled beer range.
Mark Johnson said…
OH yes, this post was definitely leaning towards my own accessibiiity of good beer. I sould have included the lack of access for some to even get a reasonable cask pint locally, that I do sympathise with. On the flip side I think people should encourage local free houses to be more experimental but this isn't always possible for people
Mark Johnson said…
Agreed, a lot of this is relatable to sipping (cask) pints in the pub. If I did the maths of a pint of Magic Rock’s High Wire against cans, it would be significantly cheaper in the pub. City centres are definitely going to work out more expensive, though I often find city centre bottle shops are much more expensive too. Again, the whole thing is geographical, but regardless of whether it works out cheaper at home, I still think people think pubs are more expensive than they are when you break it down
Mark Johnson said…
You don’t have to, but I would consider any form of supermarket drinking falls under the Sainte Etienne example given (I’m very much against supermarket’s aggressive pricing on beer, regardless of what beer it may be.)
Bill Night said…
Nice post. The pricing of beer in various formats intrigues and often mystifies me.

Here in the US the six-pack is often the first way we experience beer, so when comparing beer prices I like to use the Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator.

For the UK, it almost seems like you want a Pint Equivalent Calculator: how much is this bottle/can/six-pack in pints?

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