Thursday 5 February 2015


Beer as a luxury item? That’s right, the drink you love, the drink you linger along with and look to to provide a guide on how to pass through life, a good friend, a pal, a paid companion (for when you hand over some money to the bar-man you are paying for the companionship of a glass of beer) — a luxury item?

For a moment let’s ponder on the meaning of luxury. Sometimes luxury is a catnap, time off from an arduous life, a snatched moment with a loved one, or it can be the possession of something that might make you feel good and gives you a platform from which you can observe the rest of the world and hope that they see how good things are for you, a miserable, pale-faced attempt at elitism oh-do-look-at-me-up-here-on-the-catwalk. 

But back to beer as a luxury item? If you believe this website luxury is about expensive beer, expensive processes, expensive ingredients and possibly taking the punter for a long ride around the houses and back again. It’s about the money, about the honey that glides down the throat and sweetens the soul of the beer-inclined one who harbours a need to stand on the platform and stir up and stare at the rest of the world.


Chocolate can be luxury, as well as smoked salmon (not the one bought in the Co-op though), but fruit pastilles and coley cannot be luxury, unless perhaps the coley has been smoked in a smokehouse on the edge of the earth in which case the smoking process and the place in which it took place is the luxury item but what we eat is still the fish that my grandmother always reckoned was fit only for cats. Fruit pastilles equally have no chance at being anything other than fruit pastilles, unless perhaps they are served in a tube of pure gold, but then the tube is luxury (how vulgar a tube of gold seems though) but the pastilles aren’t. Rare beef is a luxury as is lamb coming from a flock located on an island with unusual seaweed, but on the other hand this breast of chicken that that I have just bought from the supermarket in order to be breaded and go into a sauce is not a luxury. It is a commonplace piece of food that can be made and served any time during the week. It’s all very complicated this idea of luxury and I haven’t even started on suitcases. 

So perhaps luxury if we think about beer is scarcity as well as isolation and showing off good fortune; the scarcity of a grain or a hop or its price which means that the scarcity devotes itself to the brewing process and in the process turns the beer into a luxury. Or does it?

I don’t think beer is a luxury item, unless of course in the case of the fruit pastilles you have the bottle in which it is served made out of a valuable luxury item (such as a dead animal I suppose) and then it becomes a luxury item but there is still the beer, whether it is delicious or not. So the whole point of a luxury beer is something that would make you feel better about yourself or even higher on the evolutionary stakes than the person who says that Beavertown or Hook Norton or De La Senne or Carling is the drink for them. So as you caress a bottle of beer that cost you more than a case of something you would normally drink then are you doing luxury? Or is the one-off, rarely brewed, showed-off-on-Twitter bottle of Double IPA or the one made with ingredients sourced from Holland & Barrett that is an act of luxury? Or is luxury best left to those who fancy standing on a platform and spying on the rest of us? Answers on a fur-lined papyrus postcard please and btw I rather enjoy coley when making Thai fish-cakes (for myself that is, not next door’s cat). 

I’m just pondering on things at the moment, trying to work out ideas in the public sphere, reading and writing my way through a variety of things, bit like a mental workout, with beer in hand.


  1. Anything can be a luxury of you want it to be so or, more often actually, if marketers decide it can be so. Beer is no exception.

  2. Hi Max, on that level you might as well say that everyone can write, teach, brew or play the oboe, they can but they can’t really write, teach, brew or play the oboe. I’m beginning to realise I hate the concept of luxury, I much prefer pleasure.

    1. You're comparing activities that require skill, knowledge and/or qualifications to a consumer product.

      If you give me an oboe, I'd probably won't be able to even get a note out of that thing. And no matter what I believe or delusions I have, it'll be clear very soon that I can't play the oboe.

      However, if I have a beer made, and sell it as a luxury brew, with the according marketing, it is likely that some people will take it as such. That is exactly what happens with clothes, where a 3 quid, good quality, cotton shirt made in Viet-Nam is shipped to Europe, where it is embroidered with the name/logo of a famous desinger and sold for 100 quid in a luxury shop.

      I don't like luxury, either (though I must admit to have enjoyed the few times I slept for free at a luxury hotel or ate at a luxury restaurant), but it doesn't make it any less real, and certainly won't prevent people from selling and buying beer as luxury items, which I frankly don't care, there's plenty of great beer that is reasonably priced.

  3. Replies
    1. It's all about perception at the end of the day, and clever marketing. Anything can be sold as luxury, if you know how to, and that's how you get things like the Gourmet hamburger.

  4. The U.K. and U.S.A eBay sites have banned alcohol sales but the Italian site still sees eye-watering prices for Thomas Hardy's Ales and other vintage ales. They are luxury purchases.