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The Cost of Craft

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CURATED ARTICLE VIA 4 PINES BREWERY: People often ask us why craft beer is more expensive than other mass produced, standard beers in the market place. A fair question for which we hope we can provide a fair and logical answer as to the true cost of what goes into our beer… First we start by purchasing premium ingredients that go into making the final beer. We only use four ingredients – hops, water, malt and yeast and these four ingredients are sourced from the best possible suppliers we can find, we are happy to pay more for these ingredients as we feel it is reflected in the flavour and quality of our beer. We don’t replace these ingredients with cheaper alternatives such as maize, rice or processed sugar (instead of malt) to produce sugars for the yeast in our beer. It’s not just the ingredients we use but how we use them that is also important, our beers ferment and mature for longer and use more hops for longer resting periods to impart essential, subtle characters that make the final beer as close to perfect as we can. This requires very time consuming processes, undertaken by people (not machines). Our brewers brew the beer using traditional techniques that require sweat and skill, essentially we craft by hand. Everything else we do around 4 Pines is also bespoke and done with love, we recycle, upcycle and repurpose what we can to give it new life because we care about the 4 Pines experience, but most importantly we create and innovate because we care about the beer and the people who drink it. There are then a bunch of other reasons that make what we produce more expensive, these are aligned with being a small producer and don’t make us any different from any other small, independently owned, Australian brewer, they are however worth a mention as they give some context around competing in a market against giant, corporate, multinationals. As a small producer with small batch runs, we don’t benefit from the economy of scale or larger purchasing power that big manufacturers have. We therefore pay more for ingredients, more for bottles, more for labels, more for cartons, more for freight, more for storage, more for practically every aspect of getting barley and hops from farmers all the way through until that beer is in your hand. Once the beer leaves our brewery, retailers (whether it be pubs or bottle shops) actually set their own pricing structure, we have a set wholesale price however they are at liberty to charge what they like and you will find the price of a schooner of 4 Pines can sit anywhere from the $6 – $10 mark across the country, you’ll also find cases fluctuate from $60 to $80. This fluctuation is representative of the type of venue, the type of customers they attract and the range of products they have on offer. It is not uncommon to see a 40% price premium set by retailers for locally owned, handcrafted beer vs mainstream beer, this reflects a generally higher wholesale cost and the ability to charge more for a premium, hand crafted product. What this gives you is a $7 schooner vs a $5 schooner of cheaper lager at a pub making us competitive in the relative scheme of things, this is of course exacerbated as soon as you apply this price premium on a larger scale (say a $50 case of mass-produced beer vs a $70 case of 4 Pines). Sure it would be great if we could be competitive with the large, internationally owned multi-corporates, unfortunately we wouldn’t be the company we are, with the characters that exist in our midst. We put together the following (not some big ad agency), there are no actors, just 4 Pines brewers, chefs and other staff. It was shot in a day where we headed up to the Basin and had a bbq and some beers and camped out overnight; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcZFY3QRyG4 We really believe what we’re doing can make social change (where people drink quality beer, not quantity) and we hope that if we can convince even one person that what we’re doing is worthwhile and there is value in paying more for locally made, locally owned, quality products, we’ll be happy.  

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