Monday, March 26, 2012

Is It Worth It?

Over the weekend the landlord of the Gunmakers in London tweeted about a female CAMRA member (yes, really, a female member of CAMRA - do they get issued with beardy wigs?) requesting her 20p discount for the pint she had just ordered and then being horrified at the price. The pint in question cost £3.90, which at current market rates is €4.67 or $6.14, and no CAMRA discount was forthcoming.

This got me thinking about the price of beer in a pub, because to be perfectly honest, it wouldn't bother me all that much paying £3.90 for a pint of cask ale right in the heart of London. When I was in Paris over the Christmas holiday, I was paying €8 (£6.68/$10.60) a pint at the various Frog and Rosbif pubs we went to. Even here in small town Virginia, Charlottesville is about three-quarters the size of Inverness, I regularly pay $6 (£3.78/€4.51) for a proper pint, as in an Imperial pint or 20oz, in the few places that serve them. The usual price for a 16oz American pint is about $5, which equates to £3.15 or €3.77.

I am deliberately not including the price of drinking the best lager in the world in Europe's most beautiful city, because the economics of beer are completely different in Prague - the most expensive beer is Pilsner Uruqell, while the phenomenal Kout na Šumavě 12° is usually about two-thirds of the price.

So, what am I getting when I pull up a stool at the bar and hand over my 6 dollars, 4 quid, or 4 Euro 50? Obviously I am presented with a pint of beer, hopefully with a nice head sitting atop the beer itself - I am not bothered about losing half an inch of beer in the glass to head, though I can imagine those asking for a 20p discount would quibble about that as well. A portion of the money, which having just changed hands is no longer mine, goes to the pleasure of having my beer handed to me by a member of staff. If I wanted to pay for the pleasure of getting my own beer, I'd install a coin slot on the fridge door. Assuming that the Gunmakers has electric lighting and some form of heating, a portion of the money will go to paying the bills, and of course the tax man wants his cut. Also, let's not forget that the landlord needs to make a living or there won't a pub for me to drink in.

It would be an interesting pie chart to see exactly where this £3.90 actually goes, and I would guess that the profit on a pint of cask ale in central London is fairly small. I also wonder if this is the main reason for the many pubs shutting across the UK these days, there simply isn't a decent living to be made.

The question then is, how much do you pay for your pint when you go to your local, and do you feel as though you are getting value?


  1. I think most goes to IRS as taxes.

    Here in Poland the prices are bith higher than in Czech Rep., it's from EUR1.50 in small towns to EUR2.50 in large cities, for 50cl. Taxes are already eating up to 50% of wholesale price, the difference between cities come mostly from property costs.

    Is the beer worth this price? I think in most cases it is not. So-called "craft beer" is already overpriced as "premium product", which is just plain wrong. Good beer is not a premium product, it's your small pleasure of the evening, it's very basic.

  2. This comes up often in the blogosphere. The thorny issue of price and discounts. Price matters to most consumers whether they admit it or not. Affordability governs how often anyone does any given thing and has a comparison to other things you could do with your money.

    If a pub advertisers a discount, you have to expect punters to ask for it. Pubs are no different from any other retail outfit and ought be clear about their pricing. No harm is done by a customer politely enquiring about discounts. I polite “No” by way of a response is all that is required.

  3. I'd say it's worth it if the beer's up to scratch. For me, a beer in a pub has to be better than something I can get at home. Since I don't have draught beer at home it's not a massively difficult thing to achieve. Something interesting, that's enhanced by the whole pub experience, is worth paying for.

  4. What is the issue here? Does the pub normally offer a 20p discount to CAMRA members? Did the licensee refuse the discount when the member in question complained about the price? If so, that comes across as very poor customer service. And even in London £3.90 is surely towards the top end of normal prices.

  5. Beer prices? Please don't mention the topic. We usually pay around 10 EUR for a pint of lager at a Norwegian pub. For craft beer the price is a bit more for 0.33 litres of beers from brands like Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet.

    We may have a beer revolution among the craft breweries over here, but you will not find a beer price revolution. I would really like to pay British or American price!

  6. Bill Knight of the "It's Pub Night" blog does a regular Portland Beer Price Index. Just Google that phrase and you'll get his quarterly summaries. In my wanderings, prices from home up through the Willamette Valley are between $4.25 and $5.00 for up to and including 16 ounces of liquid, unless you're Rogue or Pelican. At the Local 180 we serve imperials anywhere from $5.00 to $6.00, unless it's something silly like that thing we had out of Boneyard last month.

  7. Oh FFS, what sort of miserable mean get asks for a 20p discount? That will just about get you into a public lavatory these days. And Camra members are deeply fecking hypocritical, complaining about pub closures and then demanding they be served their beer more cheaply than anyone else. And no, Mudgie, £3.90 is standard in a central London pub.

    Martyn Cornell

  8. For those not in the UK, some pubs offer CAMRA members a discount. I'm a member but have never asked for a discount when they're available, I'm happy to pay the going rate (though have twice been offered it as they assume I'm a member given my beard and belly!).

    Sadly there do seem to be a small number of members who seem to expect a discount at any decent pub offering cask ale. I'm glad Jeff has told this one where to go...

  9. If the discount is advertised, then the pub should not quibble about giving it. If the CAMRA member was just asking on spec, then that is a cheek, but I don't get the impression that was the case here.

    We're not all made of money, and I have no compunctions about using the 50p discount vouchers in Spoons even if the undiscounted price is under two quid.

  10. I'm still confused. Does the Gunmakers offer a discount or not? I've never been offered one, but if there was one for CAMRA members, I would certainly take it. And if there isn't a CAMRA dicount, what prompted the lady in question to ask for a 20p discount?

    I'm sorry, Martyn, but £3.90 IS on the high side even for central London. I do a pub crawl round there regularly and the Gunmakers is the most expensive pub. That's not a criticism, just a statement of fact. Jeff in the Gunmakers makes no bones about his pricing policy; he charges what he can and people are happy to pay it. Which I've no problem with. But he's certainly not hard done by charging £3.90 a pint.

  11. I'm with the T Man as so often. I don't see Jeff offering a discount, but anyone asking these days is entitled to a civil answer, even if it is no.

    Jeff runs a good shop. He knows his market, attracts the sort of people he wants and even though it is on the high side (and presumably about to trip over the £4 mark)his customers are happy to pay it. You get a good and safe atmosphere, a nice pub, very well kept beer with a sparkler offered and it is for my infrequent visits, a price worth paying, as I often get shite beer at around the £3.50 - £3.70 mark.

    If Jeff's customers are happy, then good luck to him. Seems they are. It's always busy.

  12. "If the CAMRA member was just asking on spec, then that is a cheek" ?? How so? They may have heard on the grapevine a rumour. What is wrong with a polite inquiry? Why must the response be impolite?

    I can inquire about a discount everywhere I go. It is a free country. I expect the answer in most places is "no", and that expectation may inform me not to bother. I can ask "discount for cash?" is a car showroom or furniture shop. If I ask that in a pub I might get a polite no, a laugh and a "no, mate" I don't expect a rude twitter tirade.

    I gather 20 years ago the rudeness of pub landlords was directed at those that wanted a coffee or ice in their drink. And they were moaning then about the decline of pubs.

    For the record I don't think CAMRA members are special and ought to get discounts. If I ran a pub it isn't the loyalty scheme I would implement. But basic politeness to even the most bizarre request is the difference between good and piss poor customer service.

  13. Cookie: Did Jeff put a flea in the enquirer's ear then?


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