Thursday, October 26, 2023

What Price a Pint?

Yesterday, the following image popped up in my various socials:

Said image was accompanied by the following text:
"Starting today all pints will be $3.50. Share, spread the word, and show us some love so we can keep it going for the full month… or forever, should the response be undeniable; either way, this is the price that pilsners should be. Come and take advantage!"

Three things immediately sprang to mind, firstly that is a damned fine looking pint, secondly, I don't think I have ever paid $3.50 for a pint of beer in my 14 years living in Virginia, and thirdly bravo to Tabol Brewing!

Tabol Brewing are based in Richmond, and given that I very rarely go that way I have yet to actually get to their taproom, where all pints are now $3.50. I have, however, had a few of their beers in cans, on tap at Beer Run, or in the case of my favourite beer of late summer/autumn their collaboration Franconia inspired vollbier with Selvedge Brewing. Everything I have had from them has been superb, and the vollbier, Tabolcloth, is very much a contender for the Fuggled beer of the year.

A while back, I wrote a post about what the price of a pint would be if we followed the pricing restrictions of Reinheitsgebot as well as the ingredients, and unless my maths is entirely atrocious (eminently possible), based on the average daily wages of a manual labourer in Virginia and it's purchasing power compared to 16th century equivalents, Tabol's new price point is pretty close.

I reached out to Travis at Tabol to share the post I mention above, and while he admitted that he could "proffer zero opinions with regard to the maths of the various European currencies" he did tell me his reasoning behind the change:

"my cans are sold, to-go, at $3.50 a piece in their 4 packs and more expensive packaging. I figured I could cut my pint prices in half, and still be making as good or better profit than my to-go sales in cans".

I have long muttered under my breath about the price of a pint at a brewery's taproom, especially when you consider the number of markups removed from the brewery to drinker process when you buy a pint in the taproom. To see a brewery actually take action on behalf of the consumer then is both refreshing and in my opinion absolutely fantastic.

Travis continued:

"I'd like the working man's beverage to be affordable. I just want to know it it's enticing enough to drop the price. Instead of seeking hype and notoriety for a brand, maybe my traditional style lagers should be more traditional in price? If we can make it work".

I am pretty sure this move it going to stir the pot in craft brewing circles in Virginia, especially given the number of breweries where they are changing $7 and upwards for a pint at their taproom. I am sure that Travis and the Tabol team have considered all the economic implications around the change, and to be perfectly honest I desperately want them to succeed, even though I am unlikely to get to Richmond any time soon and take advantage of $3.50 pints of superb lagers.

I also love the fact that Tabol don't shy away from the fact that beer is the everyman drink rather than a niche product for the upper middle classes. I realise every brewery is different, and for many where their primary outlet is a brewpub, dropping prices so dramatically might not be possible given the added overheads of being a restaurant. But where a brewery's taproom is exactly that, a place to drink a brewery's beer, in situ, as fresh as fresh could possibly be, without the additional logistical steps that drive up the price, then cheaper than draft or packaged retail should be the norm. If this move drives down the cost of a beer, that is a good thing in my world. After all, isn't that one of the supposed benefits of increased competition? 

We have shit loads of breweries now, so why are prices not coming down in line with the alleged economic orthodoxy that increased competition is good for consumers?

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