I enjoy drinking quality beer. That doesn't mean that I need beer brewed by a silent Belgium monk and costs as much as a pint of saffron. Of course I am an enthusiast, so if I get the opportunity to try something special I don't mind paying a bit more (if anyone has a spare bottle of Westvleteren please let me know). The rest of the time I need to pay the mortgage and I need to know that the beer in my fridge is value for money.
So how do I know that I'm getting value for money? Up until now it has been calculated on-the-fly based on experience, gut-feel and some badly applied maths. I was having a bit of a slow day recently so I decided to devise the beer value formula. I had no idea how this formula would work. All I knew is that it would need to prove that Epic Pale Ale is the best value beer that money can buy in New Zealand
To kick off the process I needed to know cost. I headed to Victoria Park New World armed with pen and pad to get prices of some of my favourite NZ brews and some commercial classics. As I jotted I still had no idea how I could make this work. How could I possibly make a value for money argument for craft beer when you can buy mainstream beer for so little? Heineken on special, two dozen for $40.00, that is crazy cheap!
Like any good analyst I put my newly gathered statistics into a spreadsheet. From there I worked out a standard cost - $per/100ml. The range here was no surprise, from 51 cents for that on-special Heineken to $2.33 for Chi may Grand Reserve. Epic (on special for $13.49 a 4 pack) came in sixth at $1.02.
Now how to apply quality? That could be a bit trickier. Quality of any product is intrinsic, it is a factor of the quality of its base components and the process used to put them together. But quality can only really be judged subjectively. The most effective quality rating systems are based on common scoring criteria and applied by a large group of qualified judges. Ratebeer.com is as good as it gets when it comes to rating consumer products.
I added a new column to show the Ratebeer overall score. Seeing that Epic scored 97/100 and Heineken 7/100 I knew I was onto something. Now for the formula - I simply divided the Ratebeer score by the cost. The result of this division is effectively how much quality is bought with every dollar spent.
Now last step – sort by value - and there it was Epic Pale Ale top of the pack at 95.10 (97/1.02) - no fudging required. What surprised me was that my favourite commercial beer, Macs HopRocker came in at number two. Followed by every other beer, value rated, in pretty much the order that they appear in my fridge. Magic! I spent the next few days adding more beer to the table. They continued to fall into a pretty consistent value for money order.
Some of my favourite brews do not fair that well in my system. Hallertau Statesman is a good beer and frequent visitor to my fridge, but it's not a good fit as an APA and does not score well in that category on Ratebeer. In my spare time I'm a big Pinot Noir fan so the Hallertau Porter Noir really scores some points with me but not that well with the majority of beer raters.
This exercise has been a lot of fun. I think it has proved what we all already knew - that drinking great quality beer is good value for money. But there are a few things that can not be filtered through a formula.
No maths can account for the experiences we have when drinking beer. There is a beer called Haywards 5000 that scores a grand total of 4/100 on Ratebeer. But because I bought it in a back alley in Kerala and enjoyed it with friends and cheap cigars, it will always be one of my favourites.
And most importantly - no maths (or beer blogs for that matter) can tell us what we should enjoy. There are plenty of people who enjoy sugary beverages brewed by gorgeous women in Mangatainoka since 1889. And why not!
After all - there's no such thing as a bad beer.
Note: I have only included bottled beer. If you're thirsty and lucky enough to live somewhere you can buy in bulk that is a great option. In Auckland Galbraiths and Hallertau do great value take-outs. And I understand that Regional Whines and Spirits in Wellington will fill a large drum with any of the world's best beer for about $1.25.
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