Go into any multi-beer pub, such as the Crown in Stockport, and the odds are that all the cask beers on sale will be at the same price for the same approximate strength. The same is largely true of the premium bottled ales on the off-licence shelf. Yet amongst wines and spirits there can easily be price differences of 3 to 1 between the same strength products.
While there can be big differentials between pubs, no cask beer brewers have successfully managed to establish and maintain a price premium over their rivals, even though some products are manifestly better than others. It’s puzzling why this should be so when it so obviously doesn’t apply in pretty much every other consumer market.
Maybe to a large extent it’s because “cask beer” is seen as a generic product, as the manufacturers of keg lagers, cider and Guinness are able to command a price premium of up to 60p a pint over cask beers of comparable strength. Of course why that should be so is a different question. Possibly the fact that standards of cellarmanship vary so much between different pubs also has a part to play.
I was interested to spot while composing this post that Jeff Pickthall had linked to my poll about how much people would consider exorbitant for a pint of 4.0% ABV beer, and makes a similar point about the lack of price premiums in the cask beer market. One commentator describes the poll as “simplistic”, which of course it is in a way, but it is clear from the responses so far that people’s perceptions of acceptability differ dramatically.
As Jeff says, “Ask wine-lovers ‘How much would you consider exorbitant for a bottle of 12% ABV wine?’ and the response would be a puzzled ‘which wine?’”