The $39.90 six-pack explained

An open letter to newcomers to the craft beer world.

Wait… but why?

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Indeed, it’s almost $40. 

Just pay $6 more on RedMart or Shopee and you can get yourself 24 cans of Carlsberg instead. Why in the world then should I bother with your overpriced beer, you’d asked yourself. 

Newcomers to our world would naturally be shocked by the price disparity. After all, craft beer is a low-profile, and hence misunderstood, beverage. 

As you have guessed, craft beer is pricier because they are of a different quality compared to ordinary beer. Your skepticism probably revolves around whether it deserves a price premium of almost 100%. They all end with “beer’, so how different could they possibly be, right? They are even packaged the same way! (We have our reasons for using cans instead of glass bottles. More on that later. )

Just take a step back and look around: there’s Coffee Bean vs 3-in-1 coffee sachet, Llao Llao vs low fat yogurt and Island Creamery vs Potong sticks. 

It’s not just marketing, slogans or hype that sets craft beer apart from the mass-market sort.

Taste the rainbow

We can start with contrasting the descriptions. Here is one for our latest release, the Set B Belgium Witbier: 

Bready mouthfeel, citrus flavours, zesty on the tongue

And our Alt-O Düsseldorf Altbier:

Darker in color, coffee-like bitterness, nutty caramel flavours

The reason why craft beer can taste like something as distant from it like coffee is because we also use specialty hops and malts. 

It is no exaggeration to say there may be a hundred and one ways to combine these specialty ingredients. So no two craft beer flavours are made similar. Just look up any other craft beer company and you’ll find that their brews are unique in their own ways too. 

At the very least, we can guarantee that you’ll be getting alot more than just bitterness and fizz. 

Small size, rapid transformation

For those familiar with economics, one could say our high prices are due to our inability to reap economies of scale.

Simply put, economies of scale refers to the additional cost savings that a company reaps as it raises production volume.

In our context, more beer = lower unit cost = lower prices.

One may say that it is our fault that we are not brewing at a large enough scale. Or that it’s our fault that we have not done enough marketing for you guys to want, or even know, our products. 

Good analysis. But hold up. 

The key element of craft beer is the freedom for experimentation. The freedom to try new ingredients. The freedom to change the brewing duration. And so forth. Only by brewing in small amounts would we have room for trial-and-error. Otherwise, each experiment would create a huge amount of waste (if it tastes bad) or large inventory holdings (if it tastes great), which in turn leads to problems of cost and storage. It’s hard to release new flavours regularly if we need to get ourselves a new storeroom every time we do so. 

The spirit of craft beer is consistent invention. 

Cutting-edge tastology 

Unlike most other types of beverages, craft beer companies are unique in our ability to constantly renew our offerings according to the latest taste preferences (i.e. your preferences, not the whims of god-knows-who that lived a century ago). 

In case you have missed Binjai Brew’s origin story, our original flavours (Alt-O, Sol-Mate and Error 404) were formulated and tweak according to the feedback of friends. Friends who are Singaporeans, just like you and me. In fact, their encouragement was part of the reason why we turned craft brewing from a hobby into a business.

Same same, but different

At times, appearances make fair proxies for quality. Walk into a 7–Eleven and you’ll find that Starbucks coffee comes in glass containers, while others are kept in metal cans (or even 500ml plastic bottles). 

Whether Starbucks is considered “premium” coffee is sometimes debatable. But for the sake of brevity, let’s assume as such. 

But sparkling wine and champagne both come in glass bottles, don’t they?

You may think it’s unfair to compare sparkling wine v. champagne with beer v. craft beer. Champagne has for centuries been “the drink of celebration” worthy of royals. Sparkling wine, on the other hand, is what your high school teacher rewards your class with for good behavior. 

No offence to sparkling wine. In fact, I really like Moscato. 

Likewise, it would be equally unfair to compare canned craft beer with their lookalike cousins. Although both contains alcohol, the “craft” brings more punch in terms of ingredients compared to their mass-produced cousins. As a matter of fact, craft beer generally has a higher ABV (Alcohol By Volume).

Anyway, we also have our own reasons for deciding to switch to canning our beers, one of the most important being to protect it from UV radiation. We wrote a separate article here that explains this in more detail, in case you’re curious. 

Socialisation, not appreciation

Unlike wine, however, craft beer (and perhaps beer as a whole) is hardly known for needing taste appreciation at all. Even our local universities are more likely to have clubs for wine appreciation, rather than for beer. 

Perhaps due to advertisements and media portrayal, we are more likely to associate beer with men sharing a couch while watching soccer at home.

Wine, on the other hand, is what James Bond would drink like the refined gentleman he always is. There’s even a champagne advert that’s based off him. 

Not that watching soccer is a bad thing. I am just saying that beer is portrayed as something to facilitate social life, rather than being appreciated for what it is.

The name’s Bond. James Bond. (Image: afoodieworld.com)

Every beer is perfect in its time

Craft beer cannot match the price of commercial beer. At least not anytime soon. 

That said, we are not die-hard advocates telling you that old-time favourites such as Tiger, Corona and Heineken should be wiped off the face of the earth. That is like demanding all hawker centres be demolished and saying all 3 of our meals should be done in restaurants. 

Just as there are moments to go on a budget, there are also times when you deserve an occasional treat to pamper yourself. 

Craft beer just turns out to be one of the latter. 

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