Imperial Stouts: A Justification of Cost?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by infuturity83, Feb 1, 2013.

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  1. infuturity83

    infuturity83 Initiate (0) Sep 22, 2009 Massachusetts

    So, I will admit that I'm not the biggest stout fan. I enjoy them once in a while, but not as often as other styles.

    My most consistent problem with them is that, while I'd like to try the more exotic/extreme ones from time to time, I have a hard time justifying the cost. A six pack of Bourbon County= $25??? I think not. A single bottle of Eclipse for $30??? Definitely not.

    So the question is....why DO they cost so much? Yes, I know they require more raw materials and often aging, but surely not enough to justify a tripled or even quadrupled price tag over other styles....

    Is this just a case of the brewers saying "people will pay it so why the hell not" ? Or is there some other reason I'm missing? It just bothers me because it seems to me to be us as customers getting screwed out of money if we want to try something new and unique. Hell, even sours don't cost that much (with exceptions, of course).

    chuckstout likes this.
  2. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    I'll answer with a question. What, to you, is a reasonable price for two servings of a beer rated in the top 0.2% of all beers in the world?
    Dtrain4, bifrost17, SageO and 3 others like this.
  3. coreyfmcdonald

    coreyfmcdonald Savant (953) Nov 13, 2008 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    You're talking tremendously more ingredients, fermentation time, and potentially aging of most typical beers a brewery brews. You're also talking a lower batch size which is generally more costly to do. Every aspect of cost goes up by a large margin. There is also a huge demand for them, so brewers are able to charge more.
    Brad007, bifrost17 and KYGunner like this.
  4. infuturity83

    infuturity83 Initiate (0) Sep 22, 2009 Massachusetts

    Its not a question of one particular brand/bottle costing that much...that wasn't the question.
    It's a question of the fact that practically EVERY imperial stout that comes in a fancy bottle with a wax seal on it costs at least 20 bucks a bottle. You certainly aren't going to tell me that they are ALL rated in the top 0.2%, now are you?

    I have no real issue with spending that kind of money on a special beer, and have done it in the past. My issue is with the widespread nature of these prices in today's market.
    chuckstout likes this.
  5. musicman7070

    musicman7070 Disciple (357) Aug 26, 2012 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    The style is a complex one which (is supposed to) have a lot flavors and depth, which to me would have more ingredients and then be costlier to make? I could be totally wrong, but that's just my thoughts. Some prices are pretty outrageous, though. And for the record, Bourbon County comes in 4-packs, which actually makes it even worse! lol
    2beerdogs and SawDog505 like this.
  6. infuturity83

    infuturity83 Initiate (0) Sep 22, 2009 Massachusetts

    Oops....meant to say that, not 6 packs
  7. kmello69

    kmello69 Defender (618) Nov 27, 2011 Texas
    Beer Trader

    This one is rated 93 on BA (100 by the bros), is really good, and cost me $3.99 a 22 oz bottle. Winning!

  8. LMT

    LMT Initiate (0) Oct 15, 2009 Virginia

    When I drink one BCBS, it feels like I've had about 3 Sierra Nevada or Bell's Kalamazoo stouts. I like all of them, but one imperial stout makes me feel like I've had a couple of beers and I definately don't drink more than one imperial stout at a time.

    So I justify it to my wallet that way.
  9. deadbody

    deadbody Aspirant (296) May 10, 2010 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    The aging is actually a more significant factor than you are giving credit for. If it takes up space in the tanks 3x as long as an IPA the actual real cost to the business is significantly higher because in the time the RIS sat in the tanks they could have turned it 3 times into IPA profit.

    Plus expensive ingredients, etc...
    jbck109 likes this.
  10. Drucifer

    Drucifer Devotee (453) Apr 16, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Bourbon county has a lot more ingrediants, requires a bourbon barrel, and ages for over a year from brew day to hitting the shelves. However, the biggest factor in price is simple supply and demand. When demand is way more than supply, prices increase significantly.
    Duff27 likes this.
  11. infuturity83

    infuturity83 Initiate (0) Sep 22, 2009 Massachusetts

    Brooklyn's Black Chocolate stout comes to mind as well...9-10 bucks a 4 pack and I would put it up there with a good number of other challengers.

    And if the issue is simply one of raw materials, then why does the same principle not apply to Barleywines, Quads, and Tripels to such a degree as it does to stouts. They require an enormous amount of raw material as well.

    'Tis a fair point you make, deadbody.
  12. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    That's simply not true. There are dozens and dozens of impy's for less than $10 per 22oz.
  13. tectactoe

    tectactoe Initiate (0) Mar 20, 2012 Michigan

    Stone IRS, $4.99 for 22 oz. @ $0.23 / oz.

    Not all stouts are overpriced.
  14. PJHealy

    PJHealy Initiate (21) Jun 14, 2012 Ohio

    Barrel-aging is certainly more expensive. But I'm not sure non-BA stouts really are higher priced than other beers, if you're comparing across similar formats (bomber vs bomber, or 4-pack vs 4-pack).

    There's nothing particularly costly about stouts per se. A DIPA with the same ABV should cost more because of the hops. Thus, it must be the demand.

    You might be able to rationalize a higher demanded price because it stores well, and there's value to being flexible about when you drink it. But I doubt that's the whole story. Might just be that people like stouts more...
  15. HopsintheSack

    HopsintheSack Devotee (447) Apr 17, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    I'm not sure BCBS belongs in the same price discussion as other stouts. It's somewhere around 50 cents an ounce and is worth every penny. Eclipse is almost 3x that price and if half as good.
    CORKSCREWFISH likes this.
  16. tectactoe

    tectactoe Initiate (0) Mar 20, 2012 Michigan

    Barrel-aging costs more simply because it's something that can't be feigned and something that can't "just happen". This is why scotch prices increase the older they get (12 yr, 18 yr, 25 yr).
  17. jeonseh

    jeonseh Initiate (0) Oct 14, 2007 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    Barrel-Aged ones are normally more expensive. The reason being that companies put upfront capital (e.g., space, barrels, risk, etc.) to age the beers and try to recap it. The other part is that for BA stouts and especially ones in high demand, the demand greatly outweighs supply so they keep increasing prices as a result of that.
  18. stayclean

    stayclean Initiate (0) Mar 17, 2012 Wisconsin

    My justification is "I like it".
    fox227, Lare453, kojevergas and 3 others like this.
  19. xanok

    xanok Disciple (369) Aug 13, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Founders RIS is $10 per 4 pack here in CT. Certainly one of my favorites.
  20. HopNuggets

    HopNuggets Disciple (306) Oct 8, 2009 Connecticut

    $4.99??? $7.99 here in CT. You are getting a steal!!!
    SawDog505 likes this.
  21. MADPolo

    MADPolo Initiate (0) Dec 19, 2012 Alabama

    CCB Marshal Zhukov is $11.99/ 750ml bottle and is #37 in the top 50 Russian Imperial Stouts on BA. That to me seems like a fair damn price and quite a few folks like to get a hold of it.
  22. Andygirl

    Andygirl Initiate (0) Jan 3, 2013 Michigan

    If you are looking for value just go with Founders Imperial Stout or North Coast's Old Raspy.

    When you start talking about barreled and waxed stouts, yes, the price goes way up. First of all, you may be adding expensive flavors like coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. You need to purchase the barrels, ship the barrels, fill them, rent or buy space to put them, ship them again (weighing ?), secure them, wait. Then move them to bottle, bottle, wax, ship again. That adds to the cost in labor, materials, and shipping. I really don't think it's the same price to bring to market as a stock stout.
  23. aandresen

    aandresen Aspirant (205) Sep 21, 2009 Arizona
    Beer Trader

    Just an example but does follow the DIPA costs more than IRS. Hopslam costs $20 for a 6er and Expedition costs $16 for a 6er. Beyond that it depends on the brewery, distribution, etc. "Expensive" bottles like BCBS which are say $25 for 4 is about what a normal craft bar charges for a pint ($6 per) so that is how I justify it.
  24. tjensen3618

    tjensen3618 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2008 California

    Old Rasputin is $6.99 for a 4-pack at Total Wine and I can use a $1 off coupon, bringing the total price to around $2.30 for a bomber equivalent.
    highdesertdrinker and russpowell like this.
  25. Handle

    Handle Initiate (145) Mar 16, 2009 North Carolina

    There really are so many great values out there when it comes to imperial stouts. I can understand wanting to try the whales, as I went through that period myself. What I found (and this applies to most styles, for me) was that I could get beers that were just as good for a fraction of the cost at my local bottle shop.

    By all means, search out those beers if you want to try them, but just don't forget to appreciate those "every day" imperial stouts, many of which have already been mentioned in this thread!
    bozodogbreath likes this.
  26. Sarlacc83

    Sarlacc83 Crusader (752) Mar 2, 2008 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Barrel aging, ingredient costs, blah, blah, blah.

    The explanation is simple: It's what people will pay. And if you tack PvW onto the bottle, you can chuck another $5 (or $30, *cough* Rare *cough*) onto the price.
  27. RPH2327

    RPH2327 Disciple (319) Dec 5, 2010 Pennsylvania

    There are MANY great stouts available for reasonable prices. Some are mentioned above; I'll throw in one more: SN Narwhal. Got a case recently for $54.

    But you said you are "not the biggest stout fan." So I guess it's simply a question of value - if you don't think they're worth the price, don't buy 'em! More KBS and BCBS for the rest of us!
  28. ShogoKawada

    ShogoKawada Meyvn (1,247) May 31, 2009 Pennsylvania

    you pay it, they make more, they raise price, you pay it, they make more, they raise price, rinse repeat etc etc
  29. Nectar

    Nectar Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2013 New Jersey

    Start a brewery and produce a world class BA Imp. Stout for $10 a sixer.

    Good luck
    Lare453, gueuzehead and Andygirl like this.
  30. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (701) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    This isn't the right place for you to complain about prostitutes, bro.
  31. Steeeve

    Steeeve Initiate (0) Nov 16, 2010 Pennsylvania

    Are you talking about imperial stouts in general? Because you only reference two high-alcohol stouts that are bourbon barrel aged. If they're not aged at all, imperial stouts don't cost any more than other styles of an equivalent ingredient value.
    Craigory likes this.
  32. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    Hype ain't free.
    sloany, shahn, Jaycase and 2 others like this.
  33. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,105) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Have you seen how much room a barrell aging process takes up? Not only are you paying for all the extra grain, sometimes 4x more than an average brew, but you're also paying for the real estate those barrels take up.
  34. Dirty25

    Dirty25 Initiate (0) Jan 22, 2012 Germany

    Boulevard dark trouth and victory storm king are really reasonable. The Barrel aged ones cost a crap ton as all the barrels, aging, and storage cost money. Sours are another beer that are really pricey. But some sours are aged for 3yrs. That is a ton of money to sit on for a long time.
  35. BetterBeerPlz

    BetterBeerPlz Aspirant (227) Sep 8, 2007 Arkansas

    I agree. I find it hard to pay a super-premium price for a beer when there are a ton of great beers out there at more reasonable prices. I did splurge on some Bourbon County Stout this Christmas.
  36. 77black_ships

    77black_ships Devotee (440) Dec 4, 2012 Belgium

    According to the brewer from Emelisse the price difference in making an Imperial Stout & a lighter beer for instance a pilsner with the finest ingredients possible etc. is negligible. This is of course without barrel aging etc.
    He also lamented the fact he couldn’t sell a first grade pilsner easily because people were motivated to pay top tier prices for his stouts but not for instance pilsners.
  37. BrewStew58

    BrewStew58 Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2011 New York

    They charge those prices because they know I'll pay it. BCBS is $25 a 4-pack and many of us feel "lucky" if we get to buy a couple 4-packs or for some people, a couple cases.

    Edit: I do know that a lot of money goes into making these top notch beers, but breweries are businesses and they are in it to not only produce beer that gets us excited, but also in it to make money.
    fmccormi likes this.
  38. lic217

    lic217 Champion (864) Aug 10, 2010 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Definitely some cheap options out there. The most I have ever spent on any beer is 12.99 for a 22 oz. It was the dogfather by the laughing dog brewery. It was an imperial aged in bourbon barrel. It was awesome. Granted i would buy it agtain as a rare treat and that is the only beer I have for the night (since it is like drinking a six pack of beer). It was a 2 hour sipping experience. If I am tight on money I wont drink any other beers for a few days. Quality over Quantity
  39. xanok

    xanok Disciple (369) Aug 13, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Even at $7.99, I consider this beer a steal.
    Craigory and russpowell like this.
  40. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Zealot (579) Nov 6, 2007 California

    For many big stouts that are not barrel-aged, the increased cost of production is not very big. The ingredients that go into a beer are a small part of the total price that you pay at the store. A really, really big stout will take some significant ingredient increases though, especially if it needs more attention in the cellar.

    Barrel aging is a wholly different game though. This requires a significant capital outlay for the brewer. I work for a brewery that sells one of the more expensive (but definitely not one of the most expensive) barrel-aged stouts and I can tell you that we use new bourbon barrels for every fill that we have trucked to us from Kentucky. This already adds significant cost on top of a regular RIS. Then you need at least a couple brewers to dedicate an entire day to prepping and filling barrels. Then we have a dedicated, temperature-controlled warehouse that sees many barrels for a year or more. Then we have to take barrels out for sampling for flavor development and testing for contamination. Then we have to empty them into a tank and tie that tank up for another couple weeks of lagering. Then, finally, the beer can get packaged like it would have been ready for on the day we originally put it into barrels. That's a lot of additional time and resources to go through.

    Oh, and the beer sells out, so enough people seem to value our efforts comparable to the price we charge.
    Brunite, Denoas, drtth and 1 other person like this.
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