In the past few months a bit of chatter over the slight rise in the cost of beer has risen over the various media venues.  This is to be expected as weakened dollar and fragile global economy has and will continue to drive up the cost of commodities.  Externally influenced factors aside, there has also been a bit of a buzz over higher priced beers whose cost is influenced by factors other than market fluctuations.  There are numerous factors that affect the price of any given beer, and I need not head down a rabbit trail that’s already been paved, but I do want to address this particular cause of disgruntlement, as I saw a great case of “expensive beer shock disorder” tonight.

At my usual bottle shop tonight I examined a 750 ml bottle of Brooklyn Brewery’s latest release of Black Ops, again, for the second week in a row.  There was a certain amount of hype going into the release of this beer, and rightfully so.  The ever respectable Garret Oliver put a considerable amount of TLC into this beer:  11.6%, aged in oak bourbon barrels, and bottle conditioned with champagne yeast.

I first saw Black Ops over a weak ago, but did not purchase it, simply because I am typically not partial to bourbon beers, and I was not keen on dropping $18.00 on a beer I was not guaranteed to fall head over heels for.  This week–however–I caved.  Here is why:

As I stood examining the bottle and reading the label an individual exclaimed incredulously, “That’s a lot of money for a bottle of beer!“  The man was not being rude…he was just quite shocked at the price.  He had been talking wine–not beer–with the store staff.  Nick, the knowledgeable beer geek on staff quickly explained that while there were only 1000 or so cases of black ops produced, his store chain had received only five cases of Black Ops statewide, and here in Toledo, only two cases had made it.  That’s 24 bottles of this one singularly unique beer for one metropolis of 651,000 potential Black Ops consumers.  Besides the finer ingredients and aging, it seems that obscurity (supply and demand) boosted the value of this beer.  After my wife pointed out that I hadn’t bought beer in several weeks, I purchased a bottle that will go into my cellar for a while.  The man behind me was quite interested, and perhaps may dabble in beer.

While Nick satisfied the shopper’s curiosity, as I peeped into his cart and saw several bottles of what appeared to be mid range wine, I considered engaging him in further conservation.  Is $18.00 really a shocking price for a 750 ml bottle of this quality of beer?  The few bottles of wine in his cart easily cost between $15 and $45 per bottle (I strolled down the aisle he had picked them from and eyeballed the price tags), and I doubt they were as obscure as the Black Ops.  I will give him that his wine most has age to weight the value; most likely it was aged three years.  But then again, respectively, my Perseguidor, also aged three years, was just over $20.00 for 750 ml ($10.00/12 ounces).

If Milwaukee’s Best is the moderate standard for determining a costly beer, than perhaps Black Ops is a tad pricey.  But is Boone’s farm the determinate for leveraging the value of a fine wine?  My boss, an experienced wine connoisseur, recently told me that a well rated wine runs a minimum of $75/per bottle; with Boone’s Farm as the standard, that well rated wine or even the $30 bottle in the inquisitive man’s cart is outrageous.  But if we are able to lump beer and wine in the same general family of “alcohol” and use the mid range $30 bottle good wine in his cart as the standard, the Black Ops is actually a bargain. The highly rated wine is $2.96/ounce (mid range about $1.50/ounce) while the highly rated beer is $.71 per ounce.

In perspective, even the pricier craft brews are actually quite inexpensive.

Like many of you, I am not in a position in life to fill my shopping cart each weekend with loads of craft beer.  Yes, it is more expensive than what the majority of American beer drinkers consume, but the trade off is I drink less.  But, compared to other fine beverages, like wine, I am able to drink more and, as per my preferences, I enjoy it more!

So next time you shell out ten or more dollars for that bomber or 750 ml bottle of special release or seasonal beer, I hope you cringe a little bit less as you consider the more costly alternatives in the vast world of alcohol.