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Feb 2, 2009 04:47 AM


Went to Whole Paycheck to pickup a six of Bell's Hopslam.(first place locally to get it in )...among other items.
Was preoccupied when checking out and didn't pay attention to , at least the six's, price.......Went back several days later , because I really enjoyed this limited release, and had a case of sticker shock......$16.99 per six at WF's and $17.99 at another specialty beer mart........
I would have definately purchased a six to experience/try this well made ale, and I am an admitted Hop Head.......however was curious as to the pricing of beers such as the Bell's Hopslam, Stone Ruination.........many of the Rogues (few of which I've tried)........
How much has to do with the copious amounts of Hops, limited releases, exclusivity....mystique (real or contrived).....or is it a combination of all of the above, and is there a ceiling somewhere where you say I just can't imagine dropping X amount of coin on a six?
Thanks for any feedback/thoughts.
Also when picking up a six of the new (for me) SN Torpedo and a six of Stone IPA, I had a vendor approach me to sing the praises of a Brewery called Founders.........any opinions and recs for well hopped brews would be appreciated.

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  1. The prices have indeed gone up recently. A couple days ago I was in WF and was going to pick out a bottle of Ayinger beer which I really enjoy and had purchased many times before for $1.99. Last time in I noticed it went up to $2.49, but now it was going for $3.49! However I will say this for WF; They usually have a pretty decent selection of single bottles, often of the brand new beers, so it's possible to try one out to see if you like it instead of having to plonk down your hard earned money for a whole six pack of something you've never tried before. There are stores here in Vegas with much better beer selections than WF, but except for a small number of beers, they don't sell single bottles. Usually if I am "forced" to buy a sixer before I ever try a certain beer, I make sure it's from a brewer who's beers I've enjoyed before.

    As for why the prices went up, I've heard the same as you, that hop prices have gone up too. However I'm not much of a HopHead, so maybe the price increase hasn't affected me as much as some others, lol.

    Let's see, a ceiling on what I'd pay for a six pack...If it was a beer I really liked a lot I'd probably go as high as $15, but wouldn't buy it for that price on a regular basis. It would be more of a special occasion beer. However, I was looking at my list of favorite beers and of the top 10 or 11, only one is really even sold in six packs here. Most of my favorites are Belgian beers, and are only sold in 750ml bombers or single smaller bottles. The only one sold in sixers here which is on my top list is the German beer, Weihenstephaner Hefe and that goes for a reasonable $8.99. I'd probably pay up to $10.99 on a regular basis for a six pack of beer which I enjoy but might not be in my top dozen or so brews.

    That SN Torpedo is not bad, but I prefer their ESB, of which the '09 edition also just came out. It's just a lot more balanced and has a much smoother mouthfeel than the Torpedo in my opinion.

    As for the Founders beers, the one people rave about is their Breakfast Stout. I haven't tried it yet, as it's not available here, but from what I understand it's got a strong coffee flavor which is not one of my favorite attributes in a beer. It's probably an excellent brew, just not one I'd be all that interested in. You might like it however, although it's not hoppy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Whisper

      Thanks.....To their credit, WF always has a very large selection of singles.....I did want this beer badly, I enjoyed it thoroughly (possibly moreso not knowing the price at the time).
      It sounds like I much prefer the bitterness of hops as I like the Torpedo far more than the ESB from SN......I do feel that the pronounced maltiness in the ESB does make for a more balanced flavor.....I just prefer the stronger hop bite in the Torpedo......which, at the same price point as their Pale Ale etc ,, will now become my go to SN offering.
      Will be getting a hold of some Founders in a day or keeping with my tastes have heard good things about their Centenial Ale as well as what I think is a limited release called Dry Hopped.

      1. re: Saddleoflamb

        In case you are unawares, the cost of both malt and hops has soared in the past year, so much of these price increases are reflecting higher costs.

        I suspect, also, that some brewers that have achieved a premium position in the market, such as Bell's and Founders are now exercising pricing power, much like the premium producers in the wine industry have done for decades. While I don't like paying more for beer, if the craft brewing industry is to prosper, this is a necessary development.

    2. D...trickle down....cost of freight, shipping, etc...I know here in CT I used to buy DFH 60 min @ $8.49/ it's $10 and some places $11...just within one month!

      1. You also have to take into account that Bell's Hopslam is a 10% abv beer - takes alot of malt and hops (malt has increase twofold within the last year or so and hops are about 5 times the cost they used to be ) to make a beer that big and hoppy. Not to mention increases in bottle and packaging costs. But I agree, some craft prices are not justified - ie. Rogue beers in ceramic bottles.

        Just gotta keep buying those that you enjoy and are reasonable. Thank god for Sierra Nevada seasonal offerings in 12 packs. Even the new Torpedo IPA is a great deal at $8.99 for six pack . I will be enjoying my first one tonight along with some '09 Bigfoot.

        Founders does make some quality beers - the Centennial IPA is solid as is their porter. I also love Red's Rye and liked the Black Rye before it was discontinued.

        1. Try this.
          You're invited out for drinks/dinner/concert, whatever. You go to whatever place you're going, thinking, I just hope they have something good to drink.
          You ask, "Do you have anything real hoppy?".
          They say, " Hey, we got HOPSLAM for 4 dollars a bottle!!"
          You would feel like you just won the lottery.
          You're getting cheaper than that, and you can pick where you drink it. At least to some extent.
          Every since I went to see Joan Jett, and had to pay 5.00 for a bud or budlight, I seem to have an easier time justifying what I spend on good beer.

          1. Opinions regarding a beer's taste should be taken with a grain of salt since everyone's tastebuds are different. However, I recently tried ARROGANT BASTARD for the first time and it is one of the most well brewed and clean tasting highly hopped beers I've had in a long time...I highly recommend it. These days there are a lot of high-hop beers and most of them seem to be brewers simply covering up a clear lack of skill with harsh and puckering bitterness, and no sense of balance (oops..I guess that's an opinion on taste). On any case, companies like Stone and Sierra Nevada seem to really get it right.

            On the subject of prices, beer afficianados in their fifties and up will fondly remember the great, benchmark India Pale Ale that Ballantine in Newark, NJ made... 7.5% ABV, 70+IBUs of hop bitterness, and aged in wood for one full year before bottling. It was an expensive brew to make by virtue of the ingredients and long aging time...and in 1970 a six pack sold for around $3.75. I just used an inflation rate calculator to see what that beer would cost in today's would be $18.50 today!!! (and worth every penny, by the way). So, premium priced (and very high quality) specialty beer is not a new thing by any means.

            6 Replies
            1. re: The Professor

              Funny you should bring up the fact that beer hasn't kept up with inflation in the past 30 years or so. (A big exception, tho', seems to be "on premise" prices.) I've been saying that for a few years now, so I put together some prices, based on a '64 edition of the old NJ State Price List and the Bureau of Labor Statistics "inflation calculator".

              Altho', my records don't show BIPA going for that much ($3.75 in '70). In 1964 it was $1.42- tho' that was in deposit bottles only, so there was a bit of "discount" there.

              A 1953 ad, from an Ohio store, has BIPA listed at $5.75 a case (70% more than XXX Ale and the national brands and double the price of the local Schoenling's) - the equivalent in today's dollars- $45.75 - of more than I'm paying for Troeg's Nugget Nectar.

              My own incomplete notes have it costing $2.60 as a Falstaff product in the late 1970's and then taking a big jump to $4.75 circa 1984 (even as Falstaff dumbed the beer down). It only shows what a bargain Ballantine India Pale Ale was.

              1. re: JessKidden

                My impression—anecdotal, not analytical—is that in recent years the big brewers have taken increases at a rate greater then inflation. It seems to me that craft brewers were slow to take increases, perhaps due to lack of confidence? This has clearly changed as craft beer has shown the most solid, sustained growth in the industry. Breweries such as DFH have stretched the price envelope with unique, exotic offerings.

                The big imports haven't been shy to take increases, but now the segment has slowed down considerably, and Corona and Heineken are both seeing soft sales.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  Yeah, I'd buy that. I think that all the brewers somewhat "took advantage" of the fact that the hop shortage, raise in grain prices, fuel & aluminum prices, etc., all made the general news media outlets and used them to "explain" price increases that are really meant to "catch up" to inflation, which competition (other brewers, other alcoholic beverage makers) probably hasn't allowed in recent years. (Notice that few brewers lowered their prices when diesel fuel prices came down or hop prices stabilized.)

                  I recall a few recent interviews with Jim Koch in which he uses a figure based on the percentage of the average US income a six pack of his beer might cost, compared to what an average income earner might have paid 20-30 years ago for a US light lager beer and noted his beer is actually CHEAPER when based on those figures.

                  I mean, does anyone really think that the increase in hop prices would really have much of an effect on the manufacturing costs of the beers of an Anheuser-Busch, which contracts with it's hop growers far in advance (and grows some of their own, as well, IIRC)- especially considering the fact that total "raw materials" costs for such mass market beers are estimated to be a mere 6% or so of the final price to begin with.

                2. re: JessKidden

                  Thanks for clarifying...I had the 3.50 figure in my head, and perhaps I was confusing the timeline a bit. After all, they say if you remember the sixties, you weren't least you took notes! LOL!
                  I do remember it being more than 2 times the cost of Bally XXX and other mainstream beers though.
                  You're absolutely right...the BIPA certainly was a bargain in any case.

                  I really wish that the current custodians of the brand would bring it back...though I suppose it wouldn't matter if they did since it is highly doubtful that they would be willing to use the original formula and methods to make it. I suppose some legends are better left alone.

                  1. re: The Professor

                    "I really wish that the current custodians of the brand would bring it back"

                    Pabst's CEO Kotecki (sp?) did discuss it a few years back (tho' he confused XXX and IPA and had a few other facts wrong)- sadly, they seemed to have picked "Schlitz" instead for a revival.

                    One sad fact, is that, after Heffenreffer, the Ballantine brand is actually the beer brand the current owners of Pabst , S&P (Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust), has owned the longest. All the brands they owned longer than that (like Lucky, Falstaff, Krueger and Narragansett) they no longer brew.

                    I've always said that all they have to do is contract with a well-respected craft brewery to do it. Not without precedent. Miller contract with Full Sail for some of the Henry Weinhard beers, for example. Since Pabst already uses Miller, CIty (or did) and The Lion for their beers, now- what's one more deal? The ideal choice would be Fritz Maytag's Anchor- since he's discussed the Ballantine ales before in interviews (some claim BBA "inspired" Old Foghorn). Altho', DogFish Head has those nice new wooden aging tanks (first ones built in the US since Repeal, or so they claim). They just would have to keep Sam away from the kettle so he doesn't add some "extra" ingredients.

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      Having a micro do it would be interesting, especially if they brought in one of the old brewmasters to consult (a couple of them are still alive; I've corresponded with one from the earlier Falstaff/Cranston days when they were still true to the recipe. I think at least one brewmaster from the Newark days is still around as well).
                      Anchor or even Sierra Nevada would probably do a great job of it...not too sure about DogFish though.
                      Just as important to the success of re-creating the beer(s) would be having a good source for the hop oil that was such an important part of both the XXX and the IPA. In Newark and Cranston, they distilled their own hop oil. Once the brew moved to Ft. Wayne, I think they gave up on that and that began the downward spiral for the brand. Pity. They killed it right at the time they could have positioned in the growing craft brew jungle it as a great, classic specialty brew. Now, so much damage has been done to the Ballantine brands that it would probably be a hard sell anyway.