Craft beer price bubble bursts as brewery signs long-term contract to sell 6-packs

Some craft beer drinkers might have to start jotting down the price of their beer for the price of a pint.

The Publican, a popular brewpub in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, has signed a long-term contract to buy six-packs of its beer. Perennial will pay between $15 and $18 a six-pack, then add a few pennies for overhead and sales-tax, an industry insider told Crain’s Chicago Business.

The eight-year contract means more shelf space for the bar’s 10 beers, but the end of a stout trend that paired beer with the beloved flavors of winter sweaters.

“Each of our beers would run $15 a six-pack,” said Eve Bilodeau, chef, co-owner and brewmaster of The Publican, whose six-packs started at $10 to $11. “So the end of the day, we’re actually making more money,” with the six-pack price points “way better than just using them as a hobby.”

“What’s kind of cool is that it’s not just technically making more money, it’s providing a premium experience,” she said. Bilodeau said she envisions using the deal to carry a “few more rotating, special beers,” rather than making even more beers.

Instead of filling a 6-pack with any given season’s batch of white beer, Bilodeau said, she could move some of those dollars to the current season’s batch of seasonal white beer, in addition to one more white beer.

She also believes smaller pubs will now have the opportunity to market in better, more creative ways.

“I think it’s always good when you’re expanding,” she said. “When we went to Chicago from New Orleans, there was no one in the market that offered a small-batch seasonal like that,” Bilodeau said. “So we’re lucky we were lucky enough to find someone who was willing to work with us.”

She hopes to replicate the contract elsewhere.

For consumers, the increase in prices isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many beers have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, benefiting from the taste-savvy, craft-beer drinkers who make up the younger generation of drinkers. It seems more difficult than ever for small businesses to make their margins on this market.

Brittany Mazza, a spokeswoman for Crain’s Chicago Business, told The Washington Post that 10-pack prices haven’t been disclosed at Crain’s Chicago Business, “given the knowledge that contract negotiations take place on a confidential basis.” The Publican’s Sean Koenig had no further comment on the deal, she said.

Beer drinkers who have a taste for rare, single-batch brews might not mind a little higher price.

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