Q. How is the price of beer determined?
A. Entire books have explored this topic, but here’s a short answer:
Drunken monkeys throw darts at a price sheet.
That’s more or less accurate, if you factor in a few other elements:
1. Ingredients. Hop varieties often run $3 to $25 per pound. If demand grows a particular hop rises — New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin, say — prices can shoot even higher. Brewer’s yeast and malted barley are also subject to prices fluctuation, as is true of adjuncts like the civet poop used in Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel.
2. Taxes. Despite its high-tax reputation, California doesn’t wallop beer drinkers as much as some other states. Buy a pint at a California bar and you’ll pay 6 percent sales tax plus about 2.5 cents in state excise tax. Buy a pint in Nashville, say, and you’ll swallow 9.5 percent in sales tax.
3. Demand. Some seasonal releases — Russian River’s Pliny the Younger and Three Floyds Dark Lord both come to mind — are so popular, you can easily spend $10 to $20 for a half pour.
4. Location. If you’re at Petco and unwilling to leave the park for a brew, expect to pay a fortune. Mission’s Shipwrecked Imperial IPA ran $13.75 at the ballpark; inside the brewery’s tasting room, a long foul ball beyond the park, the price is $7.
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