Tuesday 15 March 2011

The Rebuyability of Expensive Bottled Beers

I’ve spent a lot of money on beer in the last few years As I want to try lots of different beers I’m happy to pay a premium for something that I know has got some story to it, is rare or unusual. Because of this I regularly spend up to or beyond £10 on a bottle (though £10 is my flinch point where I think again if I actually want to spend that much on one beer). Ultimately, if it’s a beer that I want to try then I’ll buy it, but what I’m interested in is how re-buyable these expensive bottles are?

I want to try new beers and I like trying new beers but I also have favourites which are always in the cupboard or fridge ready to go. Most of these favourites are every day beers but there are a few special ones which I can’t resist – some Mikkeller beers, Struise, some big American stouts. If the beer costs me less than £2 a bottle then I don’t think twice and I buy it but if that favourite beer costs a lot more then I feel should justify the expense...

The price variable with bottles is large. Each different beer has its own value (it has to be a pretty special 5% beer for me to pay £4 for it, unless it’s in a big bottle) but of the expensive ones, which will I return to? If an online shop gets a pallet of interesting beers in then I’ll likely buy some of the ones I want to try, regardless of cost, but if the same shipment comes in a few months later then do I buy the same ones again even – the ones I really enjoyed – at £12 a bottle? Or do I buy eight bottles at £4 each? Or do I just buy a completely different selection?

It needs to be pretty damn good for me to buy a second bottle of beer which costs over £10 – the first time is ok, the second I think again, whatever it is. For many beers I’ll flinch at £5-6 if I’ve had it before, so I guess that means I’m a fairly fickle first time buyer of beer bottles. That also means I buy lots of beers once, tick them off as done, and move on. I will buy them again but usually only for a dedicated occasion, maybe a food pairing or to share with friends who I know will like it.

So how rebuyable are expensive bottled beers? What’s your flinch point on the price tag? Buying them once is okay for the curious drinker like me who wants to try new beers from favourite or different breweries, but how much is too much when you go back for more? 


  1. Here in Ontario my flinch point is something like eight dollars or about five pounds. It's not even a question of getting more beer for less money, despite the fact that my beer budget is relatively minimal.

    I find that most of the time the very expensive bottles are the ones that you sort of have to buy to say that you've tried them. Sam Adams Infinium is a good example. Were it not for a sense of obligation to be able to talk about it for my blog, I would certainly have avoided shelling out fifteen bucks. In some cases the flinch isn't because of price, but because there's not a lot more information to be extracted and there's too much other stuff to try.

  2. Hmmmmm that’s a tough one. The most I’ve ever spent on a single bottle of beer was £30 for a bottle of Westvleteren 12...but that was kind of a special case and I would not pay that much again...probably. Like you, I’m regularly buying beers online and I’ve found that in most cases I’m happy to buy beers that cost £6ish again... Trois Monts being one of these. Beers that cost £10-£12+ is a slightly different matter, if I know that its a beer that really does deliver on its asking price, I would probably buy it again for a special occasion instead of wine etc... or if I really feel like treating myself and my mate because when i normally get one of these special beers, I will share them with friends in a attempt to show them how effing great beer can be.

  3. About a fiver for me too. If I like an ultra premium beer I'm more likely to try making some than actually buy the original again.

  4. You pose an interesting question. I think £10 is about the max I would generally want to spend on each beer, although I would tend to buy 2 of each one to try soon and if it is a great beer you have 1 left.

    Interestingly my threshold is higher in a bar or restaurant where I would spend £20 for the right large bottle to share with the misses (particularly with food) without much concern.

    I'm exactly the same with wine in restaurants.

    Poignant timing for this blog? Or Sad coincidence?

  5. About 5 quid for me, but then it depends on both the size of the bottle and the abv. Obviously, the more you're going to get for your money then the more I'm prepared to pay.

  6. I did buy the AB:04 so that was a tenner plus P&P, but generally upto £5 with me too. I hopefully picking up a trois monte tomorrow which last time i left it on the shelf was £5.50 i think but the ticker in me is calling!

  7. I think the most i've spent on a single bottle of beer is £8.00 which i am yet to drink as i have chosen to age it for awhile, apart from that my average buy per bottle will usually come under £4.00 or a little more if they are a little bigger or higher abv as noted in others posts.

  8. For me there are stages, too. I go on beer buying splurges in the US and will drop $200 to $300 at a time but focus on the special releases under 10 bucks a 22 oz bottle and favorite six packs. I will slip in a few more expensive but find too often that I don't need to go big as there is inevitably an alternative. There are 33 cl of gueuze, for example, at $6.99 so why go for Cantillon? There are plenty of great imperial stouts out there for well under $10 so why go for the one that holds itself out as worth nearly $20 bucks?

    My lesson from years of beer buying is the brewers who consistently ask for the most are not worth it given other choices. But sometimes when a brewer has a range of prices, the rare ones and also the budget ones have more to tell me.

  9. My flinch point here in Virginia is about $13.50 - which is generally the most expensive price of a pint in a pub I frequent as well (that's an imperial pint not an American pint).

    I guess the fact that I homebrew most of my every day drinking beer allows me to justify that little bit extra expense on beer. Having said that, Sam Smith's Welcome Winter Ale was only $1.75 here!

  10. 50p is my flinch point. I sometimes go up to £1. Recently I paid £1.50 on a 2 for £3 offer but that was painful. I won't be doing it again until the scar has healed.

  11. How ironic this discussion is happening today after the news about Beer Ritz.

  12. Yeah Mark, you insensitive bastard.

  13. There are different flinch points, aren't there. There's the initial flinch point that stops a beer being a no-problem impulse buy; for me that's about £2. What you're talking about is more like the next flinch point up, the one that makes you go home & think about whether you really want the beer that much. For me that's at about £4. There's not that much difference between £5 and £10 for me - either way I need to think long & hard before putting the money down (I thought so long about Vuur & Vlam that I missed it altogether). Then there's probably a "that's just ridiculous" top-end flinch point - prices that I'm just not going to pay *ever*; that would probably start at about £50.

    None of this is about repeat purchases, though - I haven't got much experience of spending £5-10 on a bottle of beer *twice*.

  14. Interesting set of answers!

    And it is just a sad coincidence in relation to the bad news about Beer Ritz. Yet in some ways it might be a pertinent look at what people are willing to pay, but there's definitely not a link to Beer Ritz in this post and it was written months ago and set to publish this morning.

  15. I have recently been waiting until I had enough money to go and purchase some of the more expensive bottles from the Beer Ritz. Such a shame.

  16. I think that the newer 'craft beer' markets have a different mind set regarding the cost of beer. We geriatric drinkers here in the U.K. were brought up with the mindset that real ale was good but cheap.
    In the U.S. Belgium and Italy for instance quality beer is viewed on a par with quality wine i.e you get what you pay for.
    Of course draught beer was always king here. Only in the last few years as the Fuller's, Thornbridge, Marble to name a few of the better known leaders have produced quality bottled beers has the market for expensive beer grown.
    A friend of mine turned white when choosing three 75cl bottles in the Marble Arch and then asked for nearly £30. And the American Express card was needed at the Alvine festival last week with a number of beers over €20.

  17. We geriatric drinkers here in the U.K. were brought up with the mindset that real ale was good but cheap.

    This was clearly a Very Bad Thing. Thank goodness enlightened brewers are teaching us the error of our ways!

    (I have a lot of sympathy with brewers who find they've got to charge higher prices than us old farts are used to in order to break even. But I don't have much sympathy with the argument that the good stuff has to cost more than the ordinary stuff - I've seen too many Type I and Type II errors with regard to that one.)

    Changing the subject completely - Mark, what are those weird greeny-yellow smears in the background of your blog template? I was convinced it was my screen until I looked at another blog with a white background.

  18. It depends on several factors, really, one of which is what else is available at the moment. I'm not a ticker or a collector, but I do like trying different beers and sometimes I'd rather spend XEU on four bottles of something that I don't know and maybe I won't even like than the same amount on one bottle of something that I know I love because there's always chance to buy it later.

    What I do like, though, is brewers like DeMolen that pack some of their specials in both 0.33l bottles and 0.75l ones. I like buying the small bottle to see what it's like, and if I liked it, I get the big one and save it for later.

  19. Charging enormous amounts for 'boutique' or artificially rendered 'rare' beers is a marketting gimmick most are already snoring over.

    I suggest a new gimmick based on excellent ale (excellence costs no more within the brew house) being sold in large bottles for next to nothing bar the tax.

    They'd fly off the shelves and everyone would get to truly know these titles rather than ogling them on store shelves daring not to part with their cash.

    Let the wine and whiskey industry tantalise and trick with their limited editions, and let's keep beer friendly.

  20. You need to focus on issues such as duty and tax whilst buying beer. Look at the Danish beers. We think they're expensive here but they're cheaper than they are in Denmark!

    The real question as with consumer goods is do you justify the price. Yes or no?

    I'd gladly compromise a skanked beer or an old ipa or stout not too consistent for a quality lambic any day. I have never had a poor lambic from Belgium.

    I also admire breweries whom charge great prices for beer like The Kernel; Alvinne, Struise, Marble, Thornbridge and such like. Quality beer without being ripped off is a god send. These should be commanded and respected. Beer is a true commodity and just has to be respected.

  21. Mark, I just wrote about 500 words in response to this for them to be lost and gone forever when I clicked preview...


    So now I'll stick to a few on rebuyability;

    Large 750ml bottles £8 - £10
    Small 330ml £3 -£5


  22. Here in the US, my flinch point is about $20 (~£13) for a 750ml bottle and $10 for a 12oz bottle. I have a harder time spending so much for a bottle of something I've already had, so I guess the flinch point is lower for rebuying.

    I think I've only really spent over $20 on a single bottle twice. One of those I would repeat, the other I would not, though I really enjoyed both beers.

    But I'm also relatively new at this, so my appetite for new, interesting, foreign, and/or rare beers is high. So I flinch, but I'll often suck it up and buy the beer anyway. I'd wager that after another year or so, I'll settle into a more comfortable spending pattern. But for now I'm willing to pay a premium to try some new and interesting stuff.