On the tea in China

– Chris

Now this is good beer! Just…don’t order it at Taco Mac without looking at the menu first. Actually, don’t order anything “exotic” without looking at the menu, then asking the server, then asking the manager for price confirmation, because otherwise you may be surprised at what you see on your bill. Thus was my experience last night, but you’d find the specifics pretty boring.

Taco Mac, like many other establishments, is undergoing big price hikes to compensate for increased shipping and transportation costs from their suppliers. Some of those hikes are already on the menu, and some are definitely not. Either way, the extra cost is becoming especially apparent (as they are passed on to you, the patron/passport member) when ordering imported beer.

I don’t mean a Heineken or Scottish & Newcastle product–those possess the economies of scale and bargaining power that allow for minimal increases to the consumer–I’m talking about the more esoteric offerings from abroad, ones that find US distribution with “boutique” firms here, such as Merchant Du Vin, the importer of Samuel Smith and Lindeman’s beers. A Sam Smith beer now costs $7.50 for a 12oz bottle at Taco Mac, and a Lindeman’s Lambic is over $12. The Chimay I’ve got in my hand above? That’ll be $13.50, exclusive of tax and tip. That’s over a dollar an ounce!

Now, I very much enjoy all of these products, and yes it does cost more to ship things now, and I understand that Taco Mac and others are in business to make a profit. As such, a hefty markup over the pricing you see on store shelves is expected, but we’re looking at an almost 300% upcharge on beers like Sam Smith. Maybe we’ll see an increase in package stores to match what we’re seeing in restaurants, bringing that upcharge back down to a relatively “reasonable” 100-150%, but, um, I really don’t want to see that! This makes me think I’ll never complete the Passport club, out of budget constraints if not principal itself.

So, how do you, the aspiring beer cicerone, fight the power? That could be a tough call, but I’ve got an idea: support your local or regional microbrews first and foremost. They’re much cheaper than exotic imports, at least in restaurants, and offer an astoundingly diverse range of styles and flavors. And…we’re gonna be one of them, so we want you to give us a shot when we’re on Taco Mac’s menu. Until then, to really stick it to the Man, have I ever mentioned that we have free beer available, all the time?

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