Farm Yard Ales – Reassuringly Expensive

We live, in my opinion, in a golden age for beer. We’ve never had more choice, there are brewers of every size and every stripe and their ability to put great products in front of us seems to be endless.

There are lots of interesting side effects to this, Big Beer sniffing around and buying up craft brewers for instance, but it also brings us the spectre of a saturated market and whilst that can be great for consumers, because that saturation leads to price competition, it’s a dangerous place to be for a brewer; no business wants to operate in  a market where their product is over supplied.

We are starting to see this play out now in a few ways and, for me, one of the sadder outcomes is the inevitable race to the bottom. We have a brewer locally selling firkins, nine gallons, for £45; that’s insane and utterly unsustainable.

Beer duty in this country is currently £19.08 per hectolitre multiplied by the ABV of the beer, that equates to £31.22 for a nine gallon cask. Pity the poor brewer who feels the need to sell a firkin of beer for £45, if there’s a margin in that it must be razor thin.

For me at least, it’s reassuring to find a brewer like Farm Yard who absolutely refuse to compromise on price and will lose a sale rather than get into discounting.

They have a product that’s good, they know it’s good and they know we will agree once we taste it. We aren’t going to get to taste it on the cheap though; they can sell every drop they make so if we want their beer it’s going to be on their terms. I really admire that.

On the day I was there I was fortunate enough to try three of their products. Chaff is a 4.7% session IPA, Gulf is a 5.8% full strength IPA and Easy Tiger was a short run special at 5% and dangerously easy to drink. I couldn’t decide which I like most so came away with a selection of all three.

I’ve tasted some sensational beers over the last couple of years, I’ve made it my business to try as many different styles from as many different brewers as I can. I’ve become a big fan of Brewdog, partly because they’re uncompromising and partly because they make cracking beer. Goose Island I know very little about apart from the fact that they make a stellar IPA and the Four Lions brewery in Spain also make a dazzlingly good IPA.

These brewers, the ones who put such quality and passion into their products, represent the high water mark of the brewer’s art to me and Farm Yard are right up there with them; that’s how good their beers are.

Making beer isn’t actually that difficult, making good beer is. I feel sorry for brewer’s who feel the need to get involved in price cutting but those are the ones that are vulnerable, there will be consolidation and closures for sure and those operating at the bottom of the market are likely to get mopped up by the competition or shut down as unviable. The next few years may be a good time to be in the used brewing equipment field.

These won’t be questions that some brewers have to face because they have identified their market and stuck to their guns. Farm Yard will be among those for as long as they want to be.