Quality control

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April 4, 2013Food and DrinkNo comments

beer

Buy better, buy less.

That appears to be the current commercial mantra. Enjoy less of what you like, as long as you are prepared to pay more than you normally would – is another way of approaching it.

After the meat fiasco of the supermarkets earlier in the year, I noticed a number of emails and tweets from local farms positioning themselves as the reliable alternative. They realise they can’t compete on price, so pitch it as quality over quantity. You can trust us; you just can’t necessarily afford us – so buy less.

It is, after all, what environmentalists have been lobbying us to do for some time now. Have non-meat meals every now and again. You never know you might enjoy it – save the planet – and save up for the kind of steak you’ve always wanted.

So you buy better quality meat, but then, you still eat it in exactly the same time. You may savour it a little more, but it won’t last more than the intended meal. Are you really better off? Experience wise?

The drinks manufacturers have also tried this angle. Exchange your crap tinned super discounted lager or wine with descriptors like “fruity” on the label. Instead, drink something made with real time and effort that sits in a price point higher than what you would normally pay. There is a slight issue here. You might not actually like what it is they sell. Meat is meat in many ways – but hoppy, powerful beer is nothing like cans of supermarket lager. And why should it be?

But there is an upside to moving up the price points here. Come with me to a bar near Kings Cross that sells Spanish lager, and I’ll hoover down pints like there’s a water shortage looming. Come with me to North Bar or shop in Beer Ritz (both in Leeds), buying beer with a bit more “bite”, that looms large in the glass – and chances are I’ll drink halves at the same speed as the aforementioned pints; or call it a night after a couple of beers in the house. It’s not necessarily the strength at play, more so the satisfaction. And that is the key.

It’s the same with my Wine Society membership. In the past it was easy to buy a couple of bottles of, shall we say, mass audience fizz or white wines – which were drinkable irrespective of the vintage. Chilled down they taste, well, of enough to make you want another glass. But pay £15 for a bottle where tannins and big fruit are at play, or the whites need to be a tad warmer to be enjoyed – and you’ll get a slap around the chops as it questions your previously held beliefs in a style of wine. Trust me; you will take your time. You will sip it. You will want it to last, not necessarily because of the price, but also because you want to see how it changes with air, temperature or food.

Buy better, buy less only really works if by better, it means you actually think it is better; not just more expensive. Find a way of trying more expensive – as a present or in a restaurant where you can ask about suppliers – and you might find it a more palatable experience that sees your shopping habits gradually change.

The only thing left to decide is whether you feel going up that price point is really worth it?

Image: A cheap beer and a really great beer

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