Community pub owner criticises craft beer for ‘pricing out’ poorer consumers

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Connoisseurs' choice: craft beers often command a higher price due to more expensive ingredients
Connoisseurs' choice: craft beers often command a higher price due to more expensive ingredients

Related tags Craft beer Beer Brewery Public house

The high cost of craft beer is “pricing out” drinkers on lower incomes, according to the owner of Brighton community pub the Bevy.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​, licensee Iain Chambers bemoaned the rise of the £5 pint, and suggested that smaller, artisan brewers were “uninterested in appealing to the masses”.

“We're a community-owned pub on a low-income housing estate,” he said. “A lot of our customers have limited disposable income. We always try to be accessible – price wise – keeping it as low as possible across the board without discounting.

“But we are also a Brighton Living Wage employer so we pay all our bar staff £8.75 an hour, which can be as much as £3 more than they will earn in a pub in town.”

Striking a balance

“The balance between fair wages, good food and decent prices for everyone is very hard to achieve,” he continued. “It is almost impossible for us to run at anything other than break even if you want to keep prices down for people who have low incomes.

“If the £5 pint becomes the standard for craft beer, then that will be it for craft beer as far as our community is concerned because they don't have the money for it.”

Chambers acknowledged the higher cost of ingredients that go into producing craft beer, but maintained that breweries needed to do more if they wanted to appeal to a broader audience.

“Obviously, you don't make good beer with crappy ingredients, just the same as you don't make a good meal with crappy ingredients, but if that [£5 a pint] is what you are going to charge then you are going to be pricing people out. It is just a dead end,” he said.

“We should be asking whether more co-operation can take place between brewers to make sure that they are buying ingredients as cheap as they can be and that they can then price their beer to appeal to a wider range of people.

“Working in an area where people don't have much money, you do feel as though it is a bit of a sideshow they are having over there, and they seem uninterested by and large by appealing to the masses and getting them involved in it.”

Local brewery partnership

The Bevy has partnered with a local brewery called Holler Boys to produce a beer for the pub, and Chambers hailed this as an example of how greater cooperation across the industry could be mutually beneficial to brewers and pubs alike.

“I think that is a good model, and I think pubs should try and team up with small local breweries and see what they can do for each other,” he said. “Steve Keegan (Holler Boys founder) has even jumped behind our bar at an event when we've been busy and, equally, we will go into bat for Steve and recommend his beers wherever we can.”

On the subject of what role his pub played in the local community, Chambers added: “As the only pub on our estate serving 18,000 people, we have to be a pub for everybody. We can't be a sports pub, or a niche pub, we have to just be a place where people can come and meet. The great thing about a pub is that it is an open door that everyone can walk through.”

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