Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Brew Lounge 'Topic of the Week': Beer Neutrality

**BUMP** (This probably got lost in our flurry of Heavyweight updates earlier in the week) I already hear you asking: "What is Beer Neutrality?" You may have heard recently of the 'Net Neutrality' subject debate. It was somewhere between reading people's opinions on Net Neutrality and buying the special edition 60th Anniversary St. Bernardus Abt 12 last week that got me to writing about Beer Neutrality. Ok, scratch that...because anyone who knows me or has had the ill-fortune of listening to me over the past year or so talk about my desire for good, even great, beer to remain accessible to the masses know that I have been pondering this for quite some time. Maybe I'm not the first. Actually, there are thoughts from others much more advanced than me in the world of beer who have trod on this subject before. But, it's been so heavy on my mind recently that you are now going to have to deal with it here in this edition of 'Topic of the Week'! :) Seriously, though, this should not take too long to explain my point-of-view. At the risk of oversimplifying, the proponents for Net Neutrality argue that the playing field in the Web's network should remain terms of access to publish on the Web, freedom to publish content, freedom of and equality of transport for information, etc. In other words, the amount of money that you pay should not dictate what you are allowed to publish and how it is distributed and made available to the marketplace. Conversely, money should not dictate how information is filtered for public consumption. Along these same lines, barrier-free access to information should not be determined by financial power. This subject is a little beyond me, and I probably even got a few of the particulars stated incorrectly here. So, let's move on... My real argument, though, is for beer. And, better beer accessible to all. When I purchased the case of St. Bernardus Abt 12 (special edition) last week, from my perspective I felt that I was getting what is generally considered beer from one of the top X breweries in the world (you fill in the 'X'). On a per ounce basis, this was costing me roughly 44 cents per ounce. So, the way I look at it, I have access to a premiere Belgian brewery's special edition beer at what turns out to be around $5/12 oz bottle or $11/25oz bottle at retail prices. While the BMC crowd may scoff at these prices, I like to show this number off to the wine world and ask if they can get some of the best wine in the world for these prices. (Or maybe I don't...let's keep it our secret ;-) Now granted, we're still not talking the elite of the elite in the beer world here. We're not talking Westvleteren, whose passionate followers may be willing to pay just about anything for it. I have not tasted it before, so it is hard for me to say. Though, back to the real point, it is affordable and can, within limits, be accessed by people with the desire. Can you say that in the wine world? Is great wine accessible? Not really...especially when you consider that a 25 ounce bottle of what may be considered "the best" will set you back hundreds, in some cases even thousands, of dollars. I'm not going to get too crazy here on this subject, because I realize that when I start throwing around the words greatest and best, the debate can take on a whole new angle. Let me also throw out a disclaimer. I am not arguing for price controls or cheaper prices. I wholeheartedly wish for brewers and their staffs to do as financially well as possible and make for themselves the best, most profitable livelihoods. What I don't want to see is speculators, futures traders, investment bankers and the like invading the world of craft/better beer and artificially driving prices beyond what the quality of the beer should command. I love beer and all of its interesting characteristics and its versatility in food pairing. I especially love that no beer, regardless of quality or reputation, is ever really out of reach for a majority of the people that share the same passion. Let's keep it that way. Let's keep beer, great beer, neutral! What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Great point,'s going to be hard to speculate in beer, except in the rarest 1%. There's just too much of it. Sure, regional shortages, but most beers shouldn't be traveling too far anyway. Besides, beer's probably too cheap anyway. Why do I say that? One major real reason is because I see promising young American brewers forced to leave the field they love because they want to earn a decent living and provide for a family...all so we can keep the cost of a six-pack under eight bucks. Short-sighted and unfair. Craft brewers need more money: very, VERY few of them are getting wealthy. More money for craft brewers means more beer down the line for us. Selfish? I call it capitalism in action.

Anonymous said...

Fair point - I really like the fact that I can go to the local bottle shop and pick up a 6-pack of a quality American made brew for under $10. What I would really like to see is some of these craft breweries teaming up a little more to get some wider distribution. I live in NYC so I have decent accessability to a wide range of beers but I'm sure there are tons (1000's???) of breweries which I have never heard of due to locality.

Adam said...

Yeah...I'm not really in tune with why wine can be so pricey, but, I'd love for beer to stay relatively cheap. As it is now some of the most unpretentious officianados are beer officianados. I think that has to do with the fact that most beer is for everyone right now. Not just the elite.

So here's to beer lovers keeping their feet on the ground and some money in their pockets.