Column beer: Is craft beer worth 6 euros for a can?

As a young boy of about 8 years old – now almost 30 years ago – I regularly went with my father to the store of Oevelen just across the border in Essen, Belgium. In our garage there were always 6 crates of beer: Amstel, Leffe blond, Duvel, Westmalle double, Westmalle tripel and Palm. You can tell where the passion for beer was born.

When we arrived at the liquor store, my father would unload the empty crates and an elderly man in a dusty coat counted the packaging. He then wrote the value on a note with a pencil which he then handed to my father. At the time – when my pocket money was (converted) 2 euros a week – I found it amazing that the beer was so expensive. With my weekly allowance, my father could not even buy 2 bottles of beer, how could he spend so much money on beer?

I was thinking about this moment when I was buying beer from a liquor store last week. I was in the mood for some nice IPAs. With the thought of spending a few weeks at home and the sun coming up, we had to make the best (and safest) of this situation.

With that in mind, I walked along the shelves at an appropriate distance, I was advised regarding my purchase and eventually settled on € 34.20. While I was on my way home I realized I had just paid € 34.20 for 6 cans, almost € 6.00 per can. Although I will undoubtedly love the taste of these beers, I couldn’t help comparing them with the classics like Duvel that my father and I still have in the garage. For a Duvel I usually pay around € 1.40 and yet I – and a lot of other people – are willing to pay 3 to 4 times this amount for a different type of beer. So apparently there is a market.

But why are people willing to do so? Is it an image / marketing thing? Is this the cool beer you enjoy looking at and which you want to be seen with? Is this brewer hip and happening at the moment? Is it a taste thing? Once you’ve tasted champagne, you don’t want to go back to a cava? Do people just have money to spend in times of economic growth and do they just not care, or is there a whole other reason?

Old school vs. new school

Personally I think you can compare it a bit with the wine market. A large number of suppliers ensure an ever growing diversity of products in all kinds of price and quality classes. In a bar you get a cheapish wine, a more expensive sauvignon blanc during dinner and a champagne with New Year’s Eve. I see the same thing happening with beer. For example, we have a regular beer at home when having a birthday party, a nice Leffe for after mountain biking and an IPA during the evening while watching Top Gear.

What I’m trying to say is that when the quality lives up to the price, I would gladly pay 6 euros a can!