Beer Quality vs Value: Your Consumers Know More Than You Give Them Credit For

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Here I’ll throw this one out there for you and it might come as a surprise to you……

Carlton Draught is a high quality beer….and so is XXXX Gold.

This is not the correct spelling for Rodenbach.

There.  I said it…and it feels liberating to finally share my thoughts with you.  They’ve been buried deep within my brain for many years now as I’ve sipped away at countless IPAs and sours.

Beer geeks of the world – relax!  I haven’t regressed to mainstream beer nor will I go back to drinking West Coast Cooler (yep – that’s what I actually drank before I drank beer – we all have regrets in life).

I love drinking a wide variety of beers – and not just craft beer – all beer.  I’m also an experienced beer judge so I get to evaluate lots of beers without the hype of a brand or a label and I don’t really get into whether a beer is the latest style that everyone is raving about.

My enjoyment of beer comes from its quality and how well it’s made.  An awesome beer is a well made beer.  If it’s a particular style I happen to like, even better.

Over the years, I’ve come to look at beer with respect to two key aspects.  They are: Value and Quality.  Let’s break it down and take a look at these two things.

What is Beer Value?

Beer Value is your personal perception and opinion of what you’re drinking whether it’s the beer, brand or style.  Really like IIPAs?  Then that’s high-value for you.  Don’t like smoked beers?  Then that beer is low value to you.

How about them Pirate Life Pale tinnies? IMHO, it’s such a great brand and a great, flavoursome go-to beer.  To me, that’s high value.  But on the flip side, a tinnie of Carlton Draught isn’t really a style that excites me so that’s low value.

In short – beer value is the “hype factor”.

An Australian buying Pliny The Elder on eBay be like.

What is Beer Quality?

Beer quality is how well a beer is made.  How consistent it is over time from batch to batch.  How the brewer has put every effort into making sure that it’s well brewed, well fermented and well packaged to ensure that it has a long shelf life that, by the time you drink it, is in the best condition possible and is a good experience for the consumer.

So yes, in this respect, Carlton Draught is a high quality beer.  Ever had a bad Carlton Draught that was a gusher, was infected or oxidised?  Me neither.  That’s because Carlton Draught is made in a very large and very expensive brewery with very talented, well-paid people who monitor every aspect of the beer’s production with very expensive equipment.

Ever had a craft beer that was a gusher, was infected or oxidised.  Happens all the time.  That’s low quality.

Separating Beer Value from Quality

When I tell beer geeks that Carlton Draught is a high quality beer, the response is usually met with, “Carlton Draught is shit quality beer!” or something of that matter to which I retort, “I’m sure you used to drink mainstream lager before your craft beer journey.  During that time, did you ever have an infected Carlton Draught?”

The answer is usually silence – sometimes it’s a “but….but….CARLTON DRAUGHT IS A SHIT BEER!!!” only for the conversation to turn almost immediately about hyped-up brand X’s beer being infected at Y venue last week but I’ll still keep drinking them cos they’re such awesome guys/gals.

Spot the inconsistency there?  This shit happens all the time and it’s fucking frustrating.

Carlton Draught is a high quality beer but for me, it’s low value and that’s OK because that’s my opinion. It’s a high quality/low value beer.

Let’s flip it around. What would a high value/low quality beer look like?

I recall about 6 or 7 years ago a brand new brewery coming up with an innovative beer style for the time (I won’t say the style because I don’t want to give the brewery away) but everyone was RAVING about it and it was very difficult to get because it was sold out everywhere.  But when you bought it, one bottle was OK, the next bottle was flat and the next a gusher – and they all came from the same tank!  That’s a high value/low quality beer.  This brewery is making amazing high quality and high value beers now.

“It’s a boy!” — That Fuckwit.

As brewers and brewing companies, we need to create a  product that’s both high value and high quality.  Beer quality is something we can all strive for and we can always improve on but from a brewer’s perspective, beer value depends upon the consumers they’re trying to target which in turn, drives the recipe development process.

Want to know where you can see a list of Australia’s high value/high quality beers?  Look no further than the GABS Hottest 100 List of any year.  They are all well made with a quality focus and simultaneously highly value because there’s plenty of folk voting for them.  Whatever the conjecture about what beers should be in or out of the list, it shows that punters can sense a quality beer when they try it.

The truth is that brewers, marketing departments, sales reps and brewery owners need to understand that even the consumer who’s never even had a craft beer can spot a low quality beer a mile off.  If you’re hearing the words “it doesn’t taste right” when receiving feedback.  Don’t dismiss that punter.  Ask them what aspect doesn’t taste right.  Engage with your consumers.  They’ll find it very difficult to articulate why but with patience, you’ll get the info out of them.

Listen to their feedback. Value their feedback and don’t get defensive.  Take it back to the brewery and talk about it without judgement and improve your beer.

Because old mate lifetime Carlton Draught drinker is better at spotting a bad Carlton Draught than you are.

Got a topic you think I should write about?  Drop me a line and let me know.

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2 thoughts on “Beer Quality vs Value: Your Consumers Know More Than You Give Them Credit For”

  1. Nice work, Hendo. You and I have had this conversation a number of times – over some high-value/high-quality beers – and I think the message is starting to gain traction. The ‘Halo Effect’ where we really WANT a favourite beer to be as good as the hype but sometimes allow ourselves to become blind to the faults still exists. Keep bangin’ on, brother, and we’ll get a better beer all the time. Eventually.

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