When beer was a commodity – back in the day before craft – the only thing that mattered what tribe you belong to (Lion or DB) and the price of the stuff.

For many price still matters and one of the criticisms that’s often thrown at craft is the cost of good beer. Before I justify happily paying $34 for a bottle of beer, let’s have a closer look at the other end of the spectrum.

One of the huge drivers for the growth in what were New Zealand’s three biggest craft breweries – Tuatara, Moa and Panhead – has been price.

Tuatara led the way in what’s known as high-value six-packs, where the price in supermarkets for 6x330ml bottles was about $21.99 – which was where Panhead pitched their range. The volume growth and brand power behind both these breweries is one of the reasons they were so attractive as acquisitions for DB and Lion respectively.

Mutiny On The Bounty is fully worth its $34 price tag. Just look at the packaging for starters.

Moa have targeted 12-packs for their price drive – going up against Mac’s and Monteith’s in that space, and hoping to take some share away from the green bottle lagers as well.

Until now, Moa were the only big craft brewery doing super-low prices on super-premium single 500ml bottles. You could always find excellent Moa beers at less than $8 a bottle, a mark very few were willing to match because the margin is so low. A typical price for a 500ml bottle would start around $10 and go as high $12 or $13 depending on ABV.

But a relatively new player threatens to disrupt the pecking order even further. Kaiser Brothers, a brewery set up by Christchurch winery Giesen, sent me a sample of their American Pale Ale. It was OK; I thought its malt-driven profile was more like an English pale ale or extra  special bitter – but I was struck by the $6.99 price tag for a 500ml bottle. For some that cost-benefit analysis will appeal.

The question I pondered was whether I would rather have five bottles of Kaiser Brothers APA or one bottle of Garage Project’s Mutiny On The Bounty. Yep, for around $35 you can have 2.5 litres of a pretty tame pale ale or 650ml of sensual delight.

I’m writing this on St Patrick’s Day, where the tradition, as you know is Guinness, but a far better celebratory beer is Garage Project’s new world take on a foreign extra stout.

Styled as a “South Pacific” stout it’s made with breadfruit, roasted plantain, coconut sugar, toasted coconut and Tahitian vanilla and weighs in at hearty 11 per cent. But – wickedness warning  – you could quickly run ashore on this one as it’s joyfully easy to drink.

And I can’t say enough about the packaging, which has gift-to-a-friend written all over it.

A limited range was released late last year but there are still some around. If you had a spare $34 I can tell you the cost-benefit analysis I did suggests it’s money well spent.

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