Are $10 ‘craft beer’ six-packs actually a good thing?

Over the past few months, Dan Murphys have been offering $10 six-packs of ‘craft beer’ to those who sign-up for their free loyalty card, which is around half the price that these beers would normally be available for.

With the price of beer so high in Australia, being able to find a quality beer at a reasonable price is gold for punters (in support of this point, the most popular article on this blog over the past few years has been on the best value beers in Australia).

At first glance, this seems like a massive win for the regular beer drinker. Access to reasonable quality beer in six-pack formats at an unheard of prices, what’s not to like? Well there are a few considerations beyond the hip pocket to give drinkers pause.

How are there craft beers available this cheap?

Firstly, with the costs and taxes for producing good quality genuine craft beer in Australia, is $10 for a sixer, a realistic and sustainable price point? VB doesn’t sell this cheap by the case, how on Earth can they sell these craft beers at this price?

It seems to me that the producers in conjunction with Dan Murphys, are taking a short-term hit on their beers to lure in drinkers and increase their market share over the long-term (eg. Yenda used this promotion as part of a push to be a top 5 craft beer.)

The problem with this is that it isn’t a sustainable tactic and that it distorts the perceptions of buyers on how much quality beer should cost. And this kind of investment is usually only achievable by the big beverage corporations not the local little guys who can’t afford to lose out on their beers in the short term. So it is a way of trying to undercut and push out the little guys.

Are these cheap craft beers really craft?

Which brings us to the next consideration, are the beers really craft? Or does it just look craft? Here are the owners of craft beers that have been selling for $10 a six-pack:

  • Yenda – Owned by Coca Cola Amatil
  • James Squire – Owned by Lion (another big beverages corporation
  • Cricketers Arms – Owned by Asahi (yet another big beverages corporation)
  • Gage Roads – Part-owned by Woolworths
  • Samuel Adams – Distributed in Australia by Coca Cola Amatil

Hmm so all of these so-called craft beers are actually owned by big corporations, even though this isn’t clearly disclosed to drinkers.

Are these cheap craft beers any good?

Maybe you don’t care about whether you’re supporting independent local brewers, it’s more about the taste. In that case, are these beers that have been available for $10 a six-pack actually any good or just cheap?

It’s really a mixed bag. Yenda Pale Ale is probably the worst pale ale I’ve ever tasted. There’s a distinct lack of hops aroma and I detected some off-flavours. Cricketers Arms are another I feel would be in the same boat. These are beers created purely to make money off a growing craft beer market but are cheap knock-offs that don’t match the quality.

On the other hand, James Squire’s Hop Thief is a real surprise and quite enjoyable with some punchy fruity flavours. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a classic malty lager that goes down well enough, while Gage Roads’ Pale Ale is a solid pale ale.

Should you buy cheap craft beer?

When I was younger I wouldn’t blink at spending $10 on a single bottle of great craft beer but times have since changed and so I understand why some people resist the premium prices for craft beer. At the end of the day, quality beer is a want not a need (yes that’s hard for me to say). 

Everyone has a different amount that they’re prepared to spend on beer, so I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t buy $10 six-packs of cheap craft beer, as there’s no doubt it can be really good value. However, I think it’s worth understanding what it is you’re getting when you buy a $10 six-pack and what you’re not getting.

In the end, the tactics from these big beverage companies to sell cheap craft beer may backfire, as they devalue their own products and reduce margins and also expose more drinkers to gateway craft-ish beers that will lead them towards the more flavoursome world of genuine high quality craft beer.

For me, I’ll continue to buy $10 six-packs where the beer is decent quality, because I see this as a way of stocking up on regular go-to beers, so that I can afford to splurge a little more on the beers that I really want but can’t afford to drink all the time right now – high quality craft beers from local guys that I want to support and put my money behind.

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2 thoughts on “Are $10 ‘craft beer’ six-packs actually a good thing?

  1. The sad reality is here in Australia, because of ludicrous tariffs and taxes on beer we’re forced to pay through the nose for ales of any decernable quality. A colleague of mine told me in America you can buy premium craft beer by the case what we pay for a 6 pack
    here, say roughly about $30 –
    $40 Even in New Zealand a high end C.B that also has a following here too, sells for about $20 a 6pack in N Z, and a single bottle sell in Australia ranges from $7- $9 a hit! The way I see it, I reckon there’s a sea of craft beer out there available that is essentially a ‘much of a muchness’ however there are a few examples which in MHO are simply sublime, and worth shelling out the extra mulla for.

  2. Yeah it’s a little sad to compare costs with US and NZ. That’s why I can’t fault people for buying half-decent beer at these prices. But those who can save their dollars up for like you say, the really good stuff every now and then, that’s great.

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