Last night I asked a friend via text if he was going to an event on Saturday and he replied that he wouldn’t, as he was saving his ‘beer points’ for another occasion. As it was late at night and I was half-asleep, the concept of beer points developed a life of their own inside my head. I decided that every craft beer drinker has an inarticulate version of beer points in their head and started imagine a fictional world where beer points are allocated by a higher authority – most likely a government.

I first decided how beer points would be allocated, much like rations. Not everyone would get the same number of beer points – my imaginary, beer-rationing government was quite paternalistic. People with spouses and young children would receive less, as they had more responsibilities. The fit and young would receive more beer points, as their bodies could better handle the ravages of alcohol. In this rather socialist version, the only factor deciding how many beer points a pint would cost was the ABV, as a caring government would think about the impact of alcohol on our bodies and society.

My mind then moved on to different society, where there was no government, or at the very least, it chose not to involve itself in our lives. We got to decide for ourselves, mainly from past experience, how many beer points we were allowed. I imagined the deciding factors for many people would be the effects on physical health, relationships and their wallet. Again the cost of beer in points would be related to alcohol as this affects physical health and relations, but more emphasis would be placed on enjoyment, as you’d be willing to make sacrifices for great taste.

But then I moved on to an even odder society – I decided to take money out of the system and replace it with pure barter. This put more much emphasis on enjoyment of a beer and the quality of goods and craftsmanship – if you had to grow or make whatever it was you were swapping for beer, then you would have to really value that beer. You would want the brewer to have put as much effort into what he was making as you were putting into your barter – and vice versa. On balance, I quite liked this system – I can grow food and cook well and we all know brewers love to eat. I wondered what my habanero and lime cheesecake would have fetched on the beer barter market.

Then, thankfully, I went to sleep, because this whole thing started to get very weird.

But in the morning, when I was a bit more sensible, it raised some interesting, real world questions. Do most people decide on their beers because of cost? How much to people think alcohol affects their health? Is it possible to put a price on how much you enjoy an amazing beer? And does our government place too much emphasis on alcohol content and not enough on recognising craftmanship?

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