Got Beer?

Got Beer? Good Beer Isn’t Cheap

T he cost of just about everything humans use and need keeps going up. Oddly, the majority of humans don’t seem to have very much money to buy these things, and can’t shell out for anything of quality. While we can debate the effectiveness of this economic strategy all night, it won’t help us when we look at the bottom line:
Good beer isn’t cheap. Cheap beer isn’t good.
And yet craft beer has been an oddly thriving sector of the economy nation-wide. There have been ups and downs, but the independent nature of craft beer has been its biggest strength. While the big macro companies are losing money and market shares, craft beer is still going fairly strong.
But sometimes, a hard-working man or woman just can’t afford a $12 six-pack. So how does one shop for craft beer with a frugal eye?
To begin with, if you shop around a little, you can find some October beers in a discount bin by late November, well within their sell-by date. Seasonal beers are usually shuffled into bargain aisles as soon as the weather shifts, and this is New England, so that’s once every ten minutes or so. It’s a nice little life hack, especially if you frequent the same package store and note that a Marzen is sitting on a back shelf in December and no one is touching it. Malty beers tend to age a little bit better, flavor-wise, than very hoppy ones, while hoppy beers are actually better preserved. High ABV beers will, naturally, have a much longer shelf life overall.
Another good strategy is to min-max the sales. One store I know of has a frequent-buyer card for craft beer, and some very inexpensive macro beers of tolerable quality are considered “craft” for this purpose. So after enough six-packs of adequate alcohol, you can spend your freebie on something really special.
It’s also worth watching when a “trendy” beer comes in. Trend beers change with the wind, but if you’re a fan of farmhouse ales and you notice a large supply of them come in, I’ll bet you that bulk order will be dropping in price after a month or so of disappointing sales. Trend beers are either hot or not, so if it’s a style you like, patience can be its own reward. No, sorry, the beer is the reward. I get those things confused.
Case deals are a godsend if you can drop the money up front. Sometimes liquor stores will offer case discounts on craft beer. Even places that allow a mix-a-six for a flat price can be well worth it if you’re picking out some premium stuff from the singles shelf.
If you’re looking for a night out that won’t break the bank or kill your taste buds, it might be worth your time to check out your favorite local suds-slingers for any deals, pint nights, or “kill the keg” specials. Some places will do combo dinner deals that include craft beer, and others will lower their prices a little for a pint night. It might take a bit of trial and error, but in this economy, it could be a worthwhile investment unless you want to stay home every night with Netflix and year-old IPA.
Finally, keep your eyes on social media for your favorite local breweries. Some breweries will sample test batches on the cheap, or free, to get feedback. If you don’t mind being a guinea pig for some weird beers, you can sometimes grab a little taste of something interesting and unique long before it goes to market. There’s at least some bragging rights in that.