How Beer Price Influences Our Perception

Though we’ve been taught that more-expensive craft beer is better than cheap macro brews, there’s a lot more to how beer price impacts our enjoyment than we think. Here’s a look at how beer price influences our perception of the beverage.

The Role Beer Price Plays

The price of beer has a very real impact on our enjoyment of it. In a blind tasting, we may not know the difference, but when we’re aware of the price, we find higher-priced beers more enjoyable. Think you’re not affected by price? Think again. Science says otherwise.

A study by the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University looked at how wine prices impacted both perceived and actual enjoyment of the wine. They found a direct correlation between increased price and increased enjoyment.

Not only did higher prices make people think the liquid was better, but when they were tasted, the areas of the brain connected to pleasure lit up brighter. We don’t just think higher priced items taste better, they actually do taste better to us, simply by attaching a higher price tag.

This is why blind tasting often have unexpected winners, as less-expensive beers are rarely seen as being equal to the more expensive, when we’re aware of the price. In numerous blind tastings I’ve been part of, we’ve found that every-day reasonably priced beers frequently outrank those many consider the best in the world.

Enjoying A Better Beer Experience

So how can we use this knowledge to better enjoy our beer?

One option is to have someone else buy our beer without telling us the actual price of each bottle. Maybe set a monthly beer allowance and have your significant other or friend buy for you. Without a price reference, we’ll be able to enjoy the beer for what it is, without allowing our judgement of quality based on price tag come into play.

The far easier option is to compare beers to others at the same price level. Knowing we psychologically believe that a $50 beer is superior to a $10 one, even if both bottles contain the same liquid, it’s silly to compare the two.

It shows a clear issue with beer rating systems as lower-priced beers will never bring about the higher mental pleasure that higher buck brews do, and thus will never rate as high.

Limited availability also plays a huge role in enjoyment, just as price does. Take a look at any top list and you’ll find most see very limited distribution.

The best option is to simply be aware of how price impacts our enjoyment. Be cognizant of the fact a higher price tag may make you enjoy a beer more, even if the liquid itself isn’t that great.

Also remember that a low price tag doesn’t mean low quality. Be aware of thinking that a cheap beer can’t be good. There are plenty of awesome budget beers out there if we’re willing to forgo first making price perceptions.

Better Beer For Your Buck

Understanding how beer price impacts our enjoyment of the beverage can help prevent us from spending a lot more on beer that isn’t likely any better than the lesser-priced.

In the end all beers are created from the same four basic ingredients. It’s silly to think that ones costing $300 a bottle could really taste 3000% better than a $10 bottle, but that seems to be what’s happening as prices for many prized brews keep climbing.

Remember how price impacts pleasure when deciding on your next drink. It could help you pick a wonderfully enjoyable beer, without totally draining the monthly beer fund.