Thursday, 28 May 2015

The price of lager

I went to a Wetherspoon's in Manchester with one of my mates yesterday.

I had a pint of a 5% cask-conditioned stout brewed by a North West microbrewery. It was priced at £2.30 and cost me £1.80 with a CAMRA voucher; he had a pint of a 5% pale lager brewed by a global brewer at the Royal Brewery in Moss Side, a couple of miles from the pub, which cost £4.10.

The question struck me again: why, even in generally cheap pubs like Wetherspoon's, is lager so expensive compared to other beers?

I can think of a few explanations:

1. it costs a lot more to brew it.

2. it costs a lot more to advertise it.

3. the low-volume microbrewery is so keen for their beers to appear in a chain of pubs that they're willing to sell it at just over cost, and knowing this Wetherspoon's are able to push them down to this price in a way they can't with a global brewer.

4. drinkers see 5% lagers as a premium product and are prepared to pay more for them.

I'd guess it's a bit of all those things, although on the first one, surely if you're a global brewer being able to buy all your raw materials in massive amounts off-sets the cost of running big breweries filled with lots of shiny new kit?

1 comment:

  1. Historically lager was a more expensive product to produce. Either due to imports or if produced domestically the time taken to lager/mature the beer. Modern mainstream lagers are cheaper to produce than ales and you can see in the off trade the price of a can of lout is a fraction of an ale. As to why pubs maintain a price differential is anyones guess. It possibly contributes to the idea that pubs are poor value.

    The ale you like is £3 in a pub, £1.50 in a bottle from the supermarket. mark up for hospitality and the enjoyment you get out of a pub and you might think it fair.

    If you like mainstream lager, then it's £4 in the pub and about 80p a can in the supermarket. The supermarket price is the fair price.

    If you like more authentic lager, you are looking at a wide selection of good stuff in the supermarket at the same price as the bottled ales. If you want to drink them in pubs, you have to be selective where you and pay a premium for it.