Here's something that puzzles me; how do drinkers interpret value for the purchase of a pint of draught, or a bottle, or can of beer?
A lot of this has to be subjective and I'm sure that it's different for each individual. Recent increases in raw material and energy costs are driving up the cost to brew, package, and distribute beer so I think that cost is starting to become more of an issue for even craft brew drinkers. At Philadelphia Brewing Co we've kept our costs low by retaining our local market focus and self distribution.
So, as a consumer, is a $3.00 pint of Newbold IPA or Rowhouse Red a better value than a $3.00 pint of Kenzinger or Walt Wit? As a drinker I would say no. For me, grabbing a couple pints of Kenzinger at a good price while out at a bar is what I'm looking for. I personally don't often drink bigger beers while I'm out - I usually save that for when I'm home or at least close to home :)
For me a $3.00 pint of Kenzinger is what I'm looking for so that represents the greater value.
I can tell you, and it may be obvious, that Newbold IPA and Rowhouse Red cost more to brew than Kenzinger and Walt Wit just because of the greater amount of malt and hops required for those bigger beers. Maybe value for beer is sorta like price+features for some folks. So maybe getting a pint of IPA for $3.00 which naturally costs more to brew than a Kölsch represents a better value for some people.
I know that some folks lump beers into categories based on their style. Is an imported Belgian Abbey Ale worth more than a domestically brewed Abbey-style Ale? If your view of beer is bound to style categories, do you differentiate between an all-malt craft brew like Kenzinger and a low cost lager that uses corn or rice and a whiff of hop extract in order to keep cost (and flavor) low?
What about packaging? Are we conditioned to expect to pay less for beer in a can than we would pay for beer in a bottle? You can get some damn fine craft brewed beer in cans now. Sly Fox and Oskar Blues both make excellent craft brewed beer in a can using the finest malts and hops.
So, we all make value judgments on our beer purchases. How do you make yours?
Maybe I just need to have another Kenzinger! :)