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THE INFLATED PRICE OF CASK AND BARBECUE BEERS





Is your pint actually expensive? 


During the recent seasonally warm bank holiday I was in a supermarket doing the big shop in preparation for two days of barbecues. For a quick purchase I placed a 12 pack of Brewdog Punk IPA into my trolley already loaded with mincemeat and four different varieties of buns, thinking that it would suffice for fridge-reaching beers. 12x330ml cans cost £13 - possibly on offer but I wasn't sure.  I hesitated, deciding whether the cost was too much, then looked around me where 12x Heineken or 12x Corona bottles of the same size came to £11 and £12 respectively. This seemed a no brainer. "Is that good value?" my partner asked, eyeing up the box now sitting atop the burger sauce. 

That question occupied my thoughts for the rest of the day. 

It is coming up to the tenth anniversary of the end of my student years. A love of good beer still defined me in those years, but price and availability dictated that I joined in the cheapest possible drinking the majority of the time. In my final years in a house of 4, we used to take it in turns to fill the Living Room beer fridge with a 24 pack of Carling - but only when it was on offer at £10, reduced from the far too pricey £13. If no offer existed or we couldn’t be bothered venturing out, the local corner shop had 8 cans of Red Stripe for £5. So we survived pre-night out drinking with 42p or 63p cans. 440ml by the way. Possibly even 500ml though I can't be sure. 

Pints of "good beer" at the time ranged from around £2.30 in my home local to nearer £3.00 in Leeds city centre. We drank a lot of OBB at the Sam Smith's owned The Angel at £1.56 a pint though that is always an unfair comparison. 

So how do the prices compare ten years later? That is what I started to consider in the supermarket last weekend, being one of the first times I've bought a crate of beer since those student days.

The days of 24 packs are gone replaced with the odd size 18 or 20. The "3 packs of 24 for £20" are now "2 packs of 18 for £20." Rounded up that brings a can at 28p each (when on offer) ten years ago to 56p each (when on offer.) 

In the cornershop, the multi coloured, hand written, star-shaped stickers proclaiming "8 cans for £5" have been replaced by printed offers around the yokes from the brewery themselves stating "Six cans for  £5.99." Indeed any four pack for £4 seems to be a shop bargain. 63p a can to £1. A jump of nearly 58%. 

Whilst down the pub the other day, I noticed the local brewery with a permanent tap residence ticked over the  £3-a-pint mark for the first time one of the beers that would have been £2.30 ten years ago. It signalled the moment for many of the price whingers to look to the chalkboard and grumble constantly nothing is under bloody £3 anymore. Psychologically this was a big moment. 

But that pint price has only risen 30%. 

There would still be the possibility to sell some of the old BBBs here too and sell them at a 15-20% increase since it was last on ten years ago. It may be worth mentioning that many of those were, and still are, also available in supermarkets in some form. 

By this point in my musings we've made it to the frozen food aisle and I'm still wondering how people have the nerve to stand at a bar and moan about £3-a-pint beers every time they drink them. 

Though it also brought to light some of the other beer falsehoods about supermarket prices and minimum alcohol prices. 

You see they have been rising in the shops and supermarkets for years and at a greater inflation than the pint down the pub. 

A pint.of cask beer is not rising at the same rate as that pack of supermarket Budweiser. 

And still the cost of a pint is the one bemoaned. 

Still the reason for pub closures is put at the feet of supermarket beer prices.

All this is without mentioning that the pints from a decade ago were not the expensive ingredient filled beer from small start-up breweries that we are seeing today. 

So if you can get a pint of 5.9% hop filled beer from a small brewery for £3.40 today then inflation has worked in your favour. Savour it. 

I've always been against minimum pricing and remain so, but if it has an impact on shops enough to make people realise how unreasonable they have been about the price of pub beer then that will be a minor silver lining. 

So, as I was asked in Tesco - "Is that [12 pack of Brewdog] good value?" Well, that's close to seven pints for the price of four pints of cask so depends how you look at it. Compared to those 18 and a half pints for the price of four that I used to have in my university days, it is awful, awful value. To the pub! 


Oh, and as a final point, my train ticket to Leeds for university cost 96% less ten years ago than it does today. Beer in the pub is not the rip off. It’s the expenditure that you have to pay out in order to work and live that they get you on. Take down the establishment! 



I havealready written about pub prices compared to bottles of beer from specialistshops here and that is a different conversation about different buying techniques. It doesn't contradict this but looks at a different perspective. So for a look into to cask VS craft then read that. 


This is not a national study but my general musings so any responses of “Well in my local shop you can get...” will be read and instantly ignored.

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