Imperial Stouts: A Justification of Cost?

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

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  1. leeds376

    leeds376 Initiate (161) Sep 27, 2005 Pennsylvania

    This wouldn't even be a question if you were a homebrewer.
  2. Gregfalone

    Gregfalone Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    Brewing costs are a major factor. The way I see it, if I really want to try a particular beer, ill buy it. There is no beer that will affect my abilities to pay my bills. The only beer I haven't brought myself to pay extreme prices for is Utopias. $240 for a bottle is just insane. I'm sure at some point I will buy it anyway though, because HEY- YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.
    Beer is one of my many passions, so I will not deprive myself unless I fall victim to poverty.

    If at some point I become poor, expensive beer will be among the first things to go.
    teal likes this.
  3. sloany

    sloany Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2013 Minnesota

    I look at a good RIS like buying a bottle of good wine. Some sticker shock, but it pays off in the long end. It's an investment. That being said, it's tough to want to cellar something you want to have right now.
  4. Stevedore

    Stevedore Poo-Bah (4,171) Nov 16, 2012 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    I just paid $10 for BCBS on tap on the way home after dinner. It was worth every penny.

    Even the SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) really liked it and she is not a beer drinker by any stretch whatsoever. She likened it to a glass of port after dinner. And good port is going to be more expensive than this.
  5. BradStokley

    BradStokley Disciple (354) Jan 19, 2013 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    Simple economics my friend. The demand alone for some of these beers drives the cost up. Same goes for other style high demand beers too ie Hopslam.
  6. MrDanno96

    MrDanno96 Initiate (0) Aug 26, 2009 Ohio

    Hi abv imperial stouts
    1. require twice as much, if not more, ingredients than most "normal" beers;
    2. require greater attention from the brewer during the fermentation process because maintaining high yeast quality at such high abv levels is difficult;
    3. typically need to go through significantly longer primary and secondary fermentation periods than most other beers; and
    4. then after all that, if you barrel age them, that's even more time, and those barrels take up a lot of space that the brewery cannot use for making other beers; also, if I am not mistaken, when breweries barrel age they will often blend different barrels together to get the exact flavor the are looking for and to maintain consistency, which takes more time.
    This all adds up to a higher price tag.

    And of course, low supply + high demand = price increase. That's just elementary economics. I know we don't like to think of craft breweries as money generating businesses, but the brewers need to make money too :slight_smile:
  7. taxman

    taxman Initiate (0) Feb 22, 2012 Illinois

    The price is justified as long as we, the consumer, are willing to pay the prices that they, the brewers, charge. If we stop paying for it and it sits on the shelves, they will either lower the price or stop producing it. But, as long as everything that they produce gets sold as quickly as they produce it, you can expect the price to continue to rise.
    dennis3951 likes this.
  8. MrDanno96

    MrDanno96 Initiate (0) Aug 26, 2009 Ohio

    Also, for the most part I think it is just BA stouts that get outrageously priced. I can't think of too many (I know there are a few) non-BA stouts that cost more than $15/bomber, at least not where I live. Grab some Old Raspy, Storm King, Stone IRS, FBS, or Founers Imperial Stout. None of those will break the bank and they're all world class.
  9. 2beerdogs

    2beerdogs Poo-Bah (2,033) Jan 31, 2005 California
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    ^^^And just going to a barrel broker, WOW. There's an added cost.

    You don't really think Pappy Van Winkle throws their barrels out on the lawn in front of their distillery with a big "FREE TO A GOOD HOME" sign. Do you?
  10. Jaycase

    Jaycase Meyvn (1,164) Jan 13, 2007 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    I'm not doubting the former scenario as it's simple economics, but I'm curious to examples of breweries lowering the price on a poor imperial stout seller. Anyone have any recent examples? Interested to see the size of the price drop and whether it helped sales significantly (i.e., is the beer still around).
  11. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,269) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    Kentucky Barrels sells used bourbon barrels for $165 each, so indeed they are not free. Maybe there are agreements made to lower the cost. If you think about it, it is free advertising or the distillery.

    Not sure whether barrels would be capital cost or operating expense. We use steel and plastic drums and they are charged to operating expenses, so that comes right off the bottom line.
  12. jman005

    jman005 Aspirant (258) Jan 21, 2013 Kentucky

    Yes it is worth it.
    creal92 likes this.
  13. Blanco

    Blanco Devotee (458) Oct 11, 2008 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    That's spread amongst many beers though. If a bourbon barrel is 53 gallons, that means that the cost of the barrel is basically $.02432/oz which means for a 12 oz beer the cost of the barrel is $.29 or $.54 for a 22 oz. Might be a little more if for some reason you don't end up getting exactly 53 gallons of beer.
  14. mellowmark

    mellowmark Aspirant (263) Mar 31, 2010 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    9.99 from what I've seen in Minnesota for Stone RIS. I would say so.
  15. 2beerdogs

    2beerdogs Poo-Bah (2,033) Jan 31, 2005 California
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    OUCH!!! That is high!
  16. Hawksfan79

    Hawksfan79 Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2013 Washington

    Like many have already stated there are plenty of good to great Imperial Stouts that don't cost a lot.
    For my money there is nothing better than the Yeti series. Depending on where you live they each run from $8 to $10 a bottle.

    Others I enjoy are:
    Old Rasputin-North Coast
    The Czar- Avery
    The Dogfather-Laughing Dog
    Pikop Andropov's Rushin'-Hales Ales
  17. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,269) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    Yep. Doesn't seem like a lot, I guess. I think I read the yield loss is around a percent or two? So thirty to fifty cents a bottle depending on size, then the time and real estate a RIS ties up, then the supply/demand. Also is there an up charge on the tax rate for a higher ABV beer? I don't know if there is or not...I'm sure someone does.

    Not trying to defend or justify anything. Logically, the fixed costs should be roughly the same. Then a whole bunch of pennies on the variable costs add in here and there that impact the cost of goods sold. Around my work (not beer, but food/beverage) a difference of a penny a CASE causes apoplexy, and a beverage case is three gallons. So that two or three cents an ounce would have our business units poopin' bricks.

    Hell, all I really wanted to contribute was barrels ain't free lol!
  18. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I think most of the points about production costs have been pointed out but a few missed. The ingredients going into a beer that big is substantially larger than other beers. Not only are you making a big beer that requires more ingredients on a linear scale but as ABV goes up efficiency goes down which means you have to use even more ingredients to reach the starting gravity. A 14% beer doesn't just require twice as much grain as a 7% beer, it may require 2.5-3 times as much. They may also use the same amount of hops as an IPA to reach BU:GU balance and unlike an IPA, imperial stouts use a lot of more expensive specialty malts.

    The barrels, if barrel aged, are also a cost that's different from from aging vessels in the brewery. You can't just buy a barrel and use it indefinitely. The liquor character and oak character in the barrel diminishes with use, which means to produce a consistent product you might only use a barrel 1-3 times. Then you have to buy new barrels and find a way to sell off the old ones. They aren't particularly expensive to buy used but they also require more upkeep and are more difficult to clean, so you have more labor costs involved in using them. That can be more expensive than the cost of the barrel alone.

    However, all production costs aside, the brewers know they can inflate prices well above costs and a reasonable profit on those beers because people will pay it. Making the bottles "special" by packaging them in 750ml and 22oz bombers, corking them, waxing, etc. lets them charge more of a premium than selling in 4/6 packs. As others have mentioned, there are reasonably priced imperial stouts on the market. You can also find some robust porters on the market for less cost that are full of delicious flavor. (Not the same as an imperial stout but worth checking out if you can find them.)
  19. Levitation

    Levitation Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2009 California

    o, i agree that barrel-aged beers cost more to produce. what is lost amongst all this chatter is how much more they cost per bottle to make. 2x? 3x? 10x?

    barrels cost ~$100 to $200. for a typical -bal (53 gal, about 200 L) you can get 267 bottles of 750 mL. let's assume a quarter lost to angel's share - you can get 200 bottles. unless your barrels are costing $1000 or more a pop, we are likely talking < $2 per bottle in barrel costs. labor is certainly intensive, as is brewery floorspace, but without hard numbers, i don't see them as creating a minimum $10 cost per bottle of barrel-aged beer.

    what i'm saying, in short, is that the margins for barrel-aged beers are substantially higher than standard lineup beers. substantially. something to which your last sentence alludes, as well. the difference is that the lower margins on flagships are made up for in volume. i don't buy into this "labor of love" bullshit on barrel-aged beers. they're a money-making machine.

    i think a lot of people need to admit the possibility that barrel-aged stouts cost more because of demand, not because of higher costs.
  20. keysburg

    keysburg Initiate (138) Mar 28, 2012 Massachusetts

    Dude, you're from Mass. You're overlooking a number of local stouts that are available for much less:
    Zinneke - Smuttynose
    Ursa Minor - Rising Tide
    Blackwater series from Southern Tier
    Vampire Slayer - Clown Shoes
    Mean Old Tom - Maine Beer Co
    Babayaga - Pretty Things

    Those are just the ones I've had.
  21. Brad007

    Brad007 Poo-Bah (3,422) Mar 28, 2007 Vermont

    Don't like the price? Don't buy it.

    More for me to buy up and age.

    As a connoisseur of craft beer, might I add that unless the price is extremely high (an individual beer more than $30 that isn't small-batch, high ABV), I will try just about anything once. That is my service to beer advocacy.

    If price matters so much, then there will always be $.99 tallboys somewhere for your perusal.
    StuartCarter likes this.
  22. BrewTasting

    BrewTasting Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2010 Nevada
    Beer Trader

    I recently had an Eclipse Elijah Craig 12 yr. I felt it was worth the price simply because I hadn't had anything like it before. (and it is damn delicious) I think it mainly depends on where you live and what you have available. I could get an oil change for that price, but the bottle residue in that beast could get me at least 50 miles :wink:
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