The Session #50: What makes you buy someone’s beer?

The SessionToday is the 50th iteration of The Session, and it fell upon Alan over at A Good Beer Blog to select the topic—particularly apropos because Alan is one of the long-time beer bloggers, one of the proto-beer-bloggers, if you will (he’s been doing this a bit longer than I have), and asks hard questions about beer. Like this month’s topic: What makes you buy someone’s beer?

So, based on all of that, here is where I am going: what makes you buy someone’s beer? Elemental. Multi-faceted. Maybe even interesting.

  • Buying beer. I mean takeaway. From the shelf to you glass. What rules are dumb? Who gives the best service? What does good service mean to you? Please avoid “my favorite bar references” however wonderful. I am not talking about taverns as the third space. Unless you really really need to and contextualize it into the moment of transaction at the bar. If you can crystallize that moment of “yes” when the bartender is, in fact, tender go for it.
  • What doesn’t work? What fad or ad turned you off what had previously been turned on about some beer’s appeal? When does a beer jump the shark? When does a beer store fail or soar? When does a brewery lose your pennies or earn your dimes?
  • Go micro rather than macro. You may want to explore when you got tired of “extreme” or “lite” or “Belgian-style” but think about it in terms of your relationship with one brewery rather than some sort of internet wave of slag… like that ever happens.
  • What is the most you paid for a great beer? More importantly – because this is not about being negative – what is the least? I don’t mean a gift. What compels you you to say this is the quality price ratio (“QPR”) that works best for you? When does a beer scream “you would have paid 27% more for me but you didn’t need to!”?

Just ideas. I hope you see what I am suggesting.

Leave it to Alan. I’m stuck with some ideas about what to write but no actual words are coming yet. For these philosophical-type questions you always want to have some pithy, clever words that help you justify yourself as a writer and wow your readers with your probing insight and turn of a phrase. But sometimes a beer is just a beer and my approach is rather pedestrian: I’m actually thinking of the qualities that make me buy a particular beer, not some of the more tangential aspects sure to spin out from this.

So let me enumerate those:

  1. Track record. A beer I know and like, from a brewery I trust, will get my money.
  2. Allure of the new. I admit it; I look for new beers and buy ones that look interesting to me. Packaging helps, but it’s not absolute: just because your 22-ounce bomber is dipped in wax, doesn’t mean I’ll automatically buy it.
  3. Style. Combine this with #2, when I’m in a restaurant, for instance, and I’ll likely drop some coin on your beer: a Scottish-style ale that I’ve never tried from a brewery I know or am curious about? Good chance.
  4. Price point. A topic near to Alan’s heart; I’m willing to spend some decent money on a beer, but only up to a point, and if it’s over $10, I had better damn well either a) already had the beer before so I know it’s worth it, or b) received good reviews about it from people I respect and trust. However, there are limits; for instance, Fifty Fifty Brewing out of Truckee, California, has managed to get their Eclipse Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout on the shelves here in Bend, and it’s the works: 22-ounce bottle, wax-dipped, hard-to-find cachet. The problem? It costs $27.99 for a single bottle; now, I don’t care how good your imperial stout may be, I will never pay that much for a single bottle (well, I might for Utopias…) and especially for one for which I have no track record (see point #1). But when I can get equally fantastic beers for much, much cheaper, it’s not much of a decision.
  5. Convenience. Hell, sometimes I’m just in a hurry, you know, and I need to pick up some beer to take over to someone’s house. In that case, the brewers that have impressed my with points #1 and #4 are sure to earn my money—and (gasp!) sometimes I’ll even pick up some “cheap” regular beer if the occasion warrants it, and it’s convenient.
  6. Love of beer. Need this even be mentioned?

But mostly, I’m easy: if I get the chance and the price is right, I’ll probably buy it.