Three days a week I work in a wool shop. And at least once a day, I can guarantee that someone will complain to me about our yarn being too expensive. In reply, I explain about the quality of our yarn, or non-concomitantly shrug my shoulders. I have to answer their rudeness with a polite answer. It is a regular downside to my job.

So when I get home from work to one of my favourite hobbies, I’m a little disappointed to find similar complaints. Browsing through the blogs, I come across a post from an Auckland blogger where I have to wade through a dozen sentences complaining about the overly high price of the beer before he talks about the taste. While he is complimentary of the taste, it does receive far fewer sentences. He’s not alone in his complaints – the beer geek’s lament of the expensive pint is oft heard in pubs and bars. But I have to ask anyone who complains about the price of beer – do you know any rich brewers? Any brewers who work fewer than 50 hours a week? Any craft beer bar owners who are rolling in money? And most of all – is anyone forcing you to buy that beer?

I tried to calm down, reminding myself that everyone is entitled to their opinion and no one was forcing me to read such posts. I gave up on blogs and turned over to Twitter…where one of New Zealand’s best craft breweries had just posted ‘Beervana appears to be extortion this year. Expensive for brewers and punters. Only one person gains here. We need our own locally run fest’. I’m happy to say that Beervana calmly defended itself, pointing out that Beervana 2011 didn’t make a cent of profit and the aim of 2012 was to break even. This was supported by evidence provided by other Tweeters, such as, if inflation is taken into account the price for punters is only $1.50, Beervana will need ten thousand visitors to break even, and the stall price is comparable to trade shows in other industries. And most of all no one is forcing them to participate. Breweries are quite within their rights to balance the costs and benefits of participating and decide whether to take out a stand. But to announce on a public forum that it is too expensive – extortionist even? That’s unprofessional and ultimately counter-product if you do decide to pay the price – because you’re putting punters off attending, reducing the value of the stand.

To put it bluntly: brewers aren’t robbers, pubs aren’t thieves and festival organisers aren’t  extortionists. These are all people who are passionate about beer and want to raise its profile, and yes, make some money along the way – because money allows them to keep doing what they love. You can support them by paying what they ask or you can decide to spend your money elsewhere. It’s your choice and no one’s forcing you either way.

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