I posted about Bud Light Platinum yesterday, a boozed up version of Bud Light, that raises the alcohol by volume in the beer by almost 50%, from 4.2% to 6%. As the name “Platinum” infers, this is intended to be a premium version of a pedestrian beer – Bud Light turned up to 11. But does this boost in ABV make it more premium? Surprisingly, to my mind the answer is “yes.”
Without thinking it through, my gut tells me that beers with a higher alcohol content are worth a premium because you are getting “more” in the bottle. More what? More flavor, more gravity, more of that nice tingling sensation in your toes. And more is worth more.
Here’s a simplified look at how I break it down “value” when I’m shopping for bombers in the craft beer aisle:
Premium Craft: These beers range from $12 to $16 a bottle, and are usually have an ABV of 9% or above. They are worth a premium in my mind because they are excellent beers that required a ton of premium ingredients to brew them; extra malts, interesting adjuncts, lots of hops, whatever. These are also typically beers from breweries with a track record of excellent, artisinal beers, like the Bruery, Allagash, Dogfish Head, Jolly Pumpkin, etc. Quality of ingredients combined with the highest expression of the brewer’s art make these puppies worth the price (or at least most of them).
Value Craft: These are beers that are also well made, but won’t set you back an arm and a leg. To fit in the “worth it” category in my caveman brain, they must pack an ABV of around 7% or above and cost less than $10. Think of Stone or Victory or Laughing Dog or maybe Great Divide. Bonus points here for a boozy treat that’s under $8.00, like Troeg’s Mad Elf, which is a delicious beer that packs an ABV of 11% in a 22oz. bomber that costs $7.99. That a steal in my mind!
Session Craft: Here we have an interesting variety of beers with an ABV of 6.5% or below that usually cost less than $7.00 a bomber or $10 a six pack. These are your every day or “stretch beers,” like Dale’s Pale Ale or Avery Joe’s or Victory Lager. These brews usually are lighter and crisper than the “Value Craft” offerings above and cost less because (to my mind) they have less booze in them. That’s right, the way I see it, these have less “bang” and therefore command less bucks.
Craft Imports: This is where the math gets muddy, as you must pay a premium for beers that were put into heavy glass bottles across the ocean and shipped to you local beer store. The ABV on these can vary, but most are usually 6% or above. These beers are from all over the map, so it’s fitting that their prices are as well, with the costs ranging widely. To be honest, I typically eschew imports, as American beers cost less and are just as special in their own ways. I explored imports more fully when I first got into craft beer, but these days I tend to buy mostly American.
Rarities and Hype Beers: All bets are off here, as logic flies out of the window and the competitive desire to get a taste of something “special” overwhelms your ability to compute the true value of a beer. Put it in your basket and think about it later. Better yet, get three!!
So that’s how I see the beer aisle, with ABV being a big part of the value equation of a beer. I’ll get excited about a beer that packs a wallop but is kind to my wallet, and I’ll hesitate pulling the trigger on a beer that costs a pretty penny, but has an ABV in the 5% to 6% range. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I could spend more than $10 on a beer with a low ABV.
So in my mind, a beers “value” breaks down as follows:
You take how appealing that particular style of beer is to you at that moment, add in how much “stuff” (measured by ABV) it’s packing, and then consider who made it. You add all of this up and then look at the price tag to determine if it’s worth purchasing. At least that’s how I do it. Novelty and hype can affect this equation, but generally this is how my mind works when considering purchasing a beer, especially one I haven’t tasted before.
Does ABV play into your “value” equation when you’re shopping for beer?