Boak and Bailey recently made a post about the relationship of price and quality for beer. I made an observation in the comments that, thirty years ago, there was broadly speaking an inverse relationship between the two in the British beer market. Things were very different from today, with 90% of beer sold in the on-trade, a high proportion of that in brewers’ tied houses, and only a tiny handful of early micro-breweries.
There were exceptions, but as a rough generalisation the better beer was made by the smaller independent breweries, not the national combines. For various reasons, such as not needing to answer to the stock market, lack of
vandalism investment in their pubs, and a lingering perception that they were selling a crude, unsophisticated product, their beers in their own tied houses tended to be noticeably cheaper than those of the “Big Six”.
So, for example, Boddington’s and Holt’s around here offered notably good value, Nottingham, where Home and Shipstone had a substantial presence, was an oasis of low-priced beer, and the Black Country, which was Banks’s home ground and also had Batham’s, Holden’s and Simpkiss, was markedly cheaper than neighbouring Birmingham where Ansells and M & B ruled the roost. Donnington pubs in the Cotswolds were remarkably cheap compared with anything around them (as to some extent they still are today), and I remember being gobsmacked by the low price of the home-brewed beer on my first visit to the legendary All Nations in Madeley, Shropshire.
Things have changed dramatically since then, of course, but even today it’s still far from axiomatic that, in pubs, paying more for a pint will result in better beer. Price differentials exist between different pubs, and different beer categories in pubs, but, at least within the cask sector, there’s little evidence of specific beers being able to command a price premium over others of the same strength and category on the same bar. This is perhaps more true for lagers where Beck’s Vier sells for more than Carling and Peroni for more than Stella.