Monday, 12 September 2011

Beer rip off ~ no surprises there!

A study carried out by the GMB union shows that the price of beer is far higher than can be justified by inflation and taxation alone, and blames the sky-high rents charged by the property/pub companies who own a huge number of pubs.  It estimates that lager drinkers are charged an excess 80p, while the figure for ale drinkers is 65p.  The article is here

It's clear to me that pub companies don't really care whether a pub succeeds or not; if it fails, then they have a valuable piece of property to sell.  When brewers owned most of the pubs, they needed them as an outlet for their products and it wasn't in their interest for their pubs to fail.  Then came the Beer Orders of 20 years ago that by forcing breweries to sell most of their pubs created the present situation which has perhaps the most stupid business model going, one that has no incentive to succeed and which rewards failure.  The Beer Orders were supported by CAMRA at the time, which with hindsight was a magnificent own goal, and another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.  

It's not really news, but it's interesting in a depressing sort of way to have one's opinions confirmed. 

If you wish, you can find out how much beer has gone up above inflation since you bought your first pint by using the historical price converter in the right hand column.  I entered the price of a pint of bitter in the year I went to college (13p in 1972); if beer had increased only by inflation since then, a pint would be £1.30 today!


  1. Easy way not to be stung. Avoid pubs.

    One duff aspect of the article is the 30p a pint supermarket beer statement. Per pint, a regular standard brand is more like 70-80p a pint even on special offer.

  2. I think they quote the cheapest own brand, "value" lager they can find, which does work out at around that price, but I'd agree that is not comparing like with like.

    As for avoiding pubs:
    1. I like cask beer, which you can't get at home, unless you buy it in a pub and take it home, so no cost saving.
    2. I live alone, so drinking at home would be a solitary experience. I like company and seeing my friends.
    3. I sing and play guitar in pubs and folk clubs. Playing to myself at home wouldn't be the same.

    So you can see that what works for you definitely wouldn't work for me.

  3. The "value lager" isn't a fair comparison as it's extremely weak and not a branded product. I would say since the Budget there has been a distinct increase in the non-discounted prices of off-trade drinks. You are often looking at £4 for 4x440ml cans of Carling or similar.

    It would be interesting obviously to do a similar comparison with prices of off-trade alcohol. My subjective impression is that overall it will have moved roughly in line with the RPI, whereas pub prices have gone up more.

  4. Further to Cooking Lager's comment, I've just re-read the article and there isn't any mention of 30p a pint supermarket beer at all.

  5. Since the beer orders the range of cask ales you find in pubs has increased vastly and as someone who lives in what was once an Allied/Courage duopoly I think that's great.

  6. All too often it's a choice of Bombardier, Pedigree, Old Speckled Hen and London Pride, though. More in the individual pub, less across the board.

    Any real expansion of choice has come from selling pubs off into the free trade and from the expansion of Wetherspoons.

  7. Ed, there certainly is more choice nowadays: I went to college near Warrington which was, according to the adverts, Greenall Whitley land, and they were right. While much of our choice is, as Curmudgeon says, from the standard guests you can get anywhere, choice - no matter how broad - has come at a price. The business model that has given us more choice has also given us high prices, which takes us back to the original article.

    It's also an example how a free market, which according to right-wing ideologues will work to the customer's benefit, does the precise opposite.


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