No right to whine about the cost of beer

On March 3, 2022, at our neighborhood Publix grocery store in Richmond, Virginia, I noted that the Brooklyn Brewery from New York already had their Brooklyn Summer Lager on display.

Photo by Bill Pike

According to my calendar checks, the first day of Spring was 17 days away on March 20, and the first day of Summer June 21 was 113 days away.

Talk about rushing the season. On March 3, I’m hoping that I might find a spring bock beer. But, not many breweries brew a spring bock anymore.

On July 27, I was in COSTCO. I always check out the beer selection. On this date, I found an India Pale Ale(IPA) brewed by Zero Gravity in Burlington, Vermont— a four pack in sixteen ounce cans is priced at $9.49.

On the shelf directly below the Vermont beer was another IPA brewed by the Bingo Beer Company in Richmond, Virginia. The packaging was the same for the Bingo IPA, but the cost was $12.99.

Photo by Bill Pike

My longstanding question returns.

I want to support the local brewery, but their IPA cost $3.50 more than the IPA brewed in Vermont. The brewery in Vermont is at least 620 miles from Richmond. Considering that distance and the cost of fuel, how can the Vermont brewery sell their beer at $9.49?

With Oktoberfest upon us, I traveled to my local Total Wine and More to check out their selection of Oktoberfest beers. Being the cheapskate that I am, I made two selections.

From Wisconsin’s Leinenkugel Brewery, I purchased a six pack of their Oktoberfest beer, and a 16.9 ounce bottle of Oktoberfest beer from the Ayinger Brewery in Germany.

Photo by Bill Pike

The Leinenkugel cost $9.99 for a six pack, and the Ayinger beer was $3.99.

A few days later, I saw the same six pack of Leinenkugel at a Food Lion selling for $11.49. That’s a $2.50 difference in cost, why?

Additionally, how can a beer brewed in Germany, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean only cost $3.99? Similar sized American beers can cost much more.

Back on September 17, we were returning from a visit with our oldest daughter and her family in North Carolina. We stopped at a Lowes Food.

Here, I wasn’t a cheapskate. I paid $14.99 for a six pack of Oktoberfest beer brewed by Red Oak, a long standing craft brewer in Greensboro.

When I was making my selection, I looked further down the line of beers on the shelving. I saw an Oktoberfest six pack from the famous Shiner Brewery in Spoetzl, Texas. The Shiner Oktoberfest was selling for $8.99. Again, the question is—why does the local beer cost $6.00 more than the beer from Texas?

I’m sure state regulations, cost of beer ingredients, brewery equipment, personnel, and marketing all factor into how a beer is priced. My limited research indicates that retail markups are in the 30-40% range. I’m sure that varies with each retailer depending upon the size of the store, foot traffic, and how deep the pockets of the customer might be.

I’ve been whining about this disparity in pricing for years. I really don’t think that state ABC boards, beer distributors, and craft brewers give a rip about a grumpy old geezer who questions how beer is priced.

At the end of the day, the brewers, distributors, and retailers are more focused on the pennies and carving out a profit.

I acknowledge the need to earn a profit. However, I also believe consumers should be provided a more transparent understanding of how the retail price of beer is determined.

Despite my grumpiness and whining, I think that is a reasonable request, not only for beer, but other consumable food items as well.

But in truth, I have no right to be whining about the price of beer.

Here’s my reason.

Every Friday from 9-2 at Trinity Methodist Church, we ask our members to drop off food to support food pantries at these Methodist churches: Belmont, Sherbourne, and Welborne.

Some Fridays, we are really good at filling up the designated tables for each pantry. Other Fridays, we’re not as strong.

Regardless of our response, the directors at each food pantry report they see no decline in the need for food in their communities. In fact, they report increases in the number of families they serve from week to week.

Rebounding from the pandemic and recent increases in food prices are driving these weekly surges.

In 69 years of living, I’ve never gone hungry.

Take a look in your community, and find how you might make a difference for a family by donating food to a local pantry.

I guarantee that food donation is better for your soul than my whining about the cost of beer.

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