BeerWise Dads: Why is Craft Beer so Expensive?

We are going to explore why craft beer is so expensive in this installment of BeerWise Dads. Before you can understand why craft beer is expensive you have to understand why big-brand beer is so cheap.

Big-brand brewers like Budweiser and Heineken have worked hard to become household names. In their beginnings they too were small brewers just trying to carve out a piece of the market.   Now they are the market.  The Kings.

Photo credit: Chris_J / / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Chris_J / / CC BY-NC-ND


Why are big-brand beers so Cheap?

Mass Production

Producing huge volumes of easy-drinkinglow-fail beer vastly decreases production costs allowing these companies to offer customers low-price beer that is still extremely profitable.

Photo credit: Ian Sane / / CC BY

Photo credit: Ian Sane / / CC BY

Big-budget Marketing

Considering the millions of advertising dollars spent by big brand brewers you’d think their beer prices would be astronomical.  These marketing dollars are very wisely spent.  Big Brand Beers are mass produced but they are also mass consumed.  High volume sales keep shelf prices low.

Superbowl ads and major event sponsorships remove the focus from the product and places it on the brand.  Kids sport Budweiser caps long before they ever consume their first bottle of beer. What will that first beer be?  A brand they recognize.

Beer Baseball Caps for Kids

Big brand ads rarely depict consumers enjoying their beer. Rather, the beer is an accessory.  It’s just something you drink when you’re watching the game, camping with friends, or sitting on your deck.  If the ad isn’t promoting leisure it’s promoting debauchery.  Young people guzzling beers while partying which sends the obvious message that drinking our beer is fun.  In short, whatever you do, drink Big Brand beer while you do it.  Most importantly, drink a lot of it.

Easy Drinking Beer

Big-brand beer is intentionally brewed to be bland and slightly sweet.  Why?  It’s easy to drink. You don’t have to acquire a taste for it because it is essentially flavorless.

The beer is always advertised as being ice-cold.  The colder the beverage, the less flavor it has. Since it is so easy to drink, you might as well have another one and another one.

Big-brand brewers market the terms “filtered” and “pasteurized” as elements of quality in a beer. The process of filtering and pasteurizing removes most of the natural color, body, flavor, and carbonation created by the malts and yeasts during brewing.  Brewers then have to re-carbonate the beer like soda pop which gives the beverage the effervescent qualities of soda pop. Beer like soda pop?  Yes.  That’s a good thing because we’re used to soda pop which helps the beer be even more easy-drinking.  Plus, it’s an easy transition for those “budding” beer drinkers.

The purpose of easy-drinking beer is to quench thirst, to feel refreshed after hard work or exposure to heat, and to get drunk.  Easy-drinking beer appeals to the masses.  Most importantly, it appeals to masses who want to have 5 or 6 or 12 in an evening.

Photo credit: Denis Collette...!!! / / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! / / CC BY-NC-ND

Low-Fail Brewing

Over several years and countless batches of beer these companies have mastered the science of creating their beer to the point where almost every drop of beer produced is a salable product.

Less Waste = More Profit

Most big-brands offer a very limited selection of beers.  In fact, most of the beers are just variations of the most successful brew.  These low-fail brewing techniques guarantee consumers consistency which reinforces brand loyalty.


Why is craft beer so expensive?

Many beer drinkers are hesitant to give craft beer a shot because they are too expensive. They wonder, what if I spend this money and I don’t like it?  If you understand why craft beer is so expensive maybe you’ll be more willing to take that chance.  


Craft beer is produced in small batches.  Brewing small batches is more expensive than big batches.  Brewing small batches is how craft beer brewers are able to offer such a diverse selection of beer.


At the heart of the Craft Beer Revolution is variety.  The initial complaint from craft beer enthusiasts was that all big-brand beers looked and tasted almost exactly the same.  This one-size-fits-all brew spawned the phrase: A beer is a beer.  Craft beer brewers are working hard to show you a beer is much more than a beer.

Craft beer brewers take pride in offering consumers a truly diverse selection of beers which means they have to purchase a wide variety of ingredients.  Many of these ingredients are very unique or are developed in-house which increases cost.  It also costs more to offer more variety because these small breweries are having to divide their production efforts and physical space developing and brewing several styles rather than focusing it all on one low-fail easy-drinking brew like a big-brand facility.

Craft Beer in an ACDC Beer Glass


Craft beer features only the best ingredients.  Quality ingredients are expensive.

Craft beer is brewed to be enjoyed.  If they are marketed at all, they are marketed for unique flavor and quality ingredients.  These beers are not being purchased by the dozen to be drank in a single evening.

Unfiltered and Unpasteurized

Unfiltered, unpasteurized beer tastes the way beer is meant to taste.  Offering unfiltered and unpasteurized beers means a shorter shelf-life for the product.  It also means the beer must be handled and distributed properly or it will go rank.  It also increases the risk of a brewing a bad batch.  All of these conditions create risk which increases cost.

Bottles of Craft Beer

You  need to understand craft beer is only expensive when you compare its price to the price of a mass produced big-brand beer.  Remember:

You get what you pay for.  




The Beginning
About James Hudyma

Dad. Husband. Teacher. Canadian. Guitar Picker. Songwriter.

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  1. seattledad says:

    Great article. For a good overview of big vs craft brewers I would recommend the documentary ‘Beer Wars’

  2. Nice piece. Good stuff. While I haven’t drank a Bud since my teens, the book “Bitter Brew” was fascinating – about how Busch was a small craft brewer, grew the business, and then lost it, mostly because the Busch IV was nutsy cuckoo.

  3. lee says:

    I had no idea big brand beer was so different than craft beer and made to be so much like pop. I haven’t found a store near me that has a real craft beer selection, but I”ll keep my eye out! I guess Great Lakes Brewery is the closest thing I have tried so far.

    Also gunna check out Beer Wars 🙂

  4. dave says:

    The average craft beer is fltered.

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