I was interested to read that the difference in the average price of beer between the cheapest part of the country (Herefordshire) and the dearest (London) is now 87p, according to this year's Good Pub Guide. I appreciate that these are averages, but my own experience of price differences this year is £2.30; one pub was in Southport, one in London, and neither was a Wetherspoons.
Periodically I have seen some people writing that beer is still too cheap. I've commented before that it's all very well for certain beer bloggers who want beer drinking to be more exclusive, but why should those of us who aren't wealthy be priced out of beer drinking just to stroke their egos? In their dream beer world, so few could afford a pint that most of the brewery industry would be obliterated. In reality, prices over the last few decades have gone up at approximately double the rate of inflation, and have also significantly outstripped the increase in disposable incomes, so it's hardly too cheap.
Paul Wigham of pub group All Our Bars and Tim Bird of the Cheshire Cat Pub Company have both criticised routine price rises by big brewers, arguing that duty has been cut, grain and barley prices have halved in the last four years, fuel is cheaper than it has been for years, thus bringing down delivery costs, and there's very little inflation. These are valid criticisms, but even so Diageo and Molson Coors have announced they're putting their prices up, although Greene King have said they're not. Price doesn't always equate to value, and in the beer world I can't think of many companies where the gap between the two is greater than in the international brewing conglomerates.
I suspect these increases are not due to costs, but because they are pushing to the limits of what they think the market can bear. With overall sales of alcohol, beer included, in decline and pubs closing every week, such an approach seems distinctly short-sighted in UK terms. But what do they care when the merged AB InBev and Molson Coors will soon have one third of the world's beer production stitched up?