No matter how much beer seems to be growing, it still seems to remain wine’s ugly cousin. Many, many, many presumptions keep beer’s status well below what it ought to be. I’ve often seen complaints from people about the cost of a four or six pack, yet those same people don’t have an issue paying $15-20 for a bottle for wine. Why is that?
A minor epiphany occurred to me while I was at the chiropractor yesterday. I picked-up a Food & Wine magazine. Please note the name of the magazine and its conspicuous non-use of beer. At any rate, I read this article about some people who have, through online arrangements, made it a point to come together and try wines. Often the people will pay a few hundred dollars just for the privilege of getting into the drastically limited available positions. Not only this, they will pay for food (as these are mostly held at great restaurants), more wine, and the expense of the very nice bottle/bottles they bring. In fact, not to bring a nice wine is to almost guarantee that you will never be welcome back.
Still more shocking is the fact that some people will literally take a day (or two) trip to taste wine. Flying all over the country, and sometimes the world, is not unusual. Can you imagine this happening with beer?
Like many of you, part of the reason I love beer is because there is a, generally speaking, a lack of pretension in the beer world. I’ve been seeing some recently, mainly from people who claim higher abilities and fame than the actually have, but generally, we are a very down to earth bunch…a fact for which I’m very thankful.
However, my epiphany smacks against some of the above thoughts. Here it is. Wine’s nostalgia over and above beer is almost purely based on perception. Of course, the history of gastronomy, as well as some other factors, have really raised the status of wine. But the long and short of what I want to say is this: elite gatherings, expensive bottles, rare bottles and attitudes from those factors makes people commonly willing to pay $15-20 (or far more) for a bottle of wine. My opinion is that the higher end and rarer stuff makes the wider public more willing to pay the prices for decent wine. In other words, my “epiphany” follows along the same lines. I think beer needs some elitism to flourish in the same way that wine does.
I personally don’t have the money and perhaps the stomach or patience for something like this, but I do have bottles that will make this possible in 20 years. I get the impression that within the next several years we will start seeing some online communities (I’m sure there are a few already) that will make the scene. My thoughts are simple. When people are seeing vintage or rare beers in the same context in which they see wines, the beer landscape has the ability to be seen very differently. Think about it, isn’t this happening already? People are paying $800 for vintage Hair of the Dog stuff.
Maybe people will view buying Budweiser in the same way that they view buying Boon’s farm. I think I can speak for the general public when I say that they will rarely go below $10 for a wine with their dinner. My hope is the that same will happen with beer bottles and six packs. I don’t see beer raising quite as high as wine prices, but I do see the necessity of raising the appeal. And that, like it or not, may happen through elite drinkers, chefs, and the gastronomic snobs…mine is a theory in progress, so please feel free to disagree. Just don’t misconstrue what I’m actually saying.