| Has anybody taken the time to compare beer prices between their local
| beer distributor and various other retail outlets?
For what it's worth.... I used to brew my own
beer and now I'm very picky about what I buy,
so I'm not sure my info will be useful to people
who might be buying cases of Bud Light and want
to compare the local package store with Costco,
or some such. I also live in MA, where beer and
other alcoholic drinks can only be sold at licensed
I've been buying only Peak Organic Amber and
Fresh Cut for a long time now. I haven't bought
watered down beer since high school. (Back
when Michelob was the new, "fancy" beer. :)
Most popular beer is watered down. Even the
popular beers that may be all malt in some cases,
like Sam Adams or Harpoon, have been weakened
to appeal to mass market. There are lots of beers
in New England like that: Mild beer with outdoorsy
mountain themes, for people who like to appreciate
quality but who don't really like beer.
Given all that, I'd distinguish 3 categories:
1) The mass market products like Bud/Miller/Coors.
Miller doesn't even use hops. They long ago
extracted a chemical from hops to use in place
of the real thing, because real beer skunks in
clear bottles. Bud adds rice. They all reduce malt
content to save money and make the beer less
"beery" tasting. What they all have in common
is a target market that cares mainly about brand
image and cheap price. Their customers want
weak beer, with little flavor, to drink in volume.
2) The mass market "quality" beers (like Blue Moon,
made by Coors) and the down-market "quality"
beers like Sam Adams, Harpoon, Long Trail, etc.
[The mass market pseudo-microbrews are recognizable
because they're available everywhere. Blue Moon
signs in bars are now nearly as ubiquitous as
Bud signs.] Their target market is willing to pay a
bit more for a beer they believe is specially made
in some way.
3) High quality, all-malt beer, which by necessity
has a limited market reach.
Category 1 is available anywhere, like Coke and
Pepsi. Category 2 is available in some stores,
especially in urban areas. Category 3 is available
only in a limited way. Since I drink a category 3 beer
I'm lucky to find it and can't do much research on
cost. Nevertheless, I still find surprising differences:
My local store sells it for $10/six-pack. Another
store in town sells it for $11. I've seen it higher.
The closest store used to sell it for something like
$11.50, but now they don't carry it. I can get it
cheaper in cases, but the cheap store won't stock
cases, and the second cheapest store doesn't offer
any bargain. The biggest stores in my area often
don't stock the beers I like at all.