Beer's not a particularly "cheap" product. Indeed, there's a case to be made that it's perhaps the most expensive way that an alcoholic beverage is routinely produced. The ingredients are costly, the labour (particularly for small outfits) is a big element. There's a high power requirement, and (again, particularly for the little guys) the overheads can be high. It's heavy and bulky to transport. It needs to be produced under clean conditions that would tax most small, shed-based businesses. And there's the duty - and the VAT on the duty. VAT is a bit of a bugbear. Since we're turning agricultural (no VAT) malt and hops into industrial beer (20% VAT) we have to collect a lot of VAT, and send it off to the government so that they can pay it to the banks.
All that said, there's a wide price range seen for what, on the face of it, are quite similar products. In some cases, an arguably better product can be had for substantially less than you might pay for something from some trendy brand. *
So, are these high prices a rip-off? Is this gouging? Profiteering? Taking the piss?
No, of course not. Thing is, we have an enormous amount of power as consumers here. And by "here" I don't mean "on the Interwebs". We can choose not to pay the price asked and buy something else, cheaper. That we don't (or at least some of us don't, or at least enough of us so that people can make a business selling this pricey beer), tells us that objectively these beers aren't overpriced. Drinkers (some, enough), are making the judgement that these products offer enough value to make them a good buy at that price.
Those of us who do feel like we're in danger of being ripped-off, gouged, or having the piss taken can avoid that hazard by simply walking away. Un-stung. No worries.
On the other hand, what does it mean to say a beer is being sold too cheap?
If I'm making lovely beer that my customers really like but I don't charge enough to cover my costs, pay the bank and the government (so that they can pay the banks some more), feed the family and replace our tattered clothes periodically, while making enough to invest in my business going forward - I'll go bust. I won't be able to make any more beer and my customers will be deprived of the opportunity to buy it. That's too cheap. I'm stupid. We all lose.
I know some brewers do make "cheap" beer. Often it's not very good. That's one way of doing it. Sometimes the price reflects the cost-saving strategy of not paying suppliers or the Excise by dipping in and out of cunning pre-pack administration arrangements. The rest of us lose out by having to pay more for malt and in taxes to cover the shortfall owed by these bad actors. That's too cheap.
Bottom line: If you think it's too expensive (i.e. doesn't offer the value to justify the price) don't buy it. Don't whine about it. You'll just make yourself unhappy. And if you think it seems "cheap", ask yourself why that might be.
But if it looks like a good buy, if the price is worth it. Buy and enjoy cheerfully. You did a good thing.
*I'm not making a value judgment when I use the word "trendy", it's just an observation that some brands are, while others aren't
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