‘Who can afford this?’: Shock at price of beer pint in Sydney

The price of a single pint at a pub in a Sydney tourist hub has left Aussies gobsmacked.

Taking to Reddit on Monday, a consumer shared a photo of the beer (brewer unknown) and its accompanying $17.80 price tag on the EFTPOS console at the Harbour View Hotel in The Rocks.

“$20 pints are just around the corner,” he captioned the photo.

The price included a 15 per cent surcharge, he added, without which the beverage would’ve cost $15.13.

The price, one Reddit user declared, was “tough to swallow” – a sentiment which others agreed with.

“Who can afford this? This is partly what’s ruined the night-life in the city,” one wrote.

“Stopped drinking two years ago. I honestly don’t know how people can afford to go out drinking on a regular occurrence,” another commented.

“I paid $40 for 2 pints the other day (of bloody Peroni). I almost had a heart attack when the notification popped up, and it honestly killed the buzz for the rest of the evening. Absolutely insanity,” a third said.

It comes after Australia’s foreign beer “duopoly” – behind the likes of VB and Toohey’s – was accused of freezing out small local brewers from pub taps with “anti-competitive” contracts.

Independent brewers have long complained about being unable to compete with lucrative deals offered to venues by deep-pocketed multinationals, including cash rebates and other incentives such as furniture fit-outs.

But the issue, which was dismissed by the competition regulator in 2017, has only “gotten worse” since then as the number of small brewers nearly doubled, from 350 to more than 600, industry representatives say.

A parliamentary inquiry into competition earlier this year heard evidence that beer brewers were raking in eye-watering profit margins of up to 40 per cent in Australia, where drinkers pay among the highest prices in the world.

According to the World Health Organisation, the average price per 500ml of beer in Australia, as of 2016, was $US5.10 ($7.90), compared with $US3.10 ($4.80) in the US, $US3.47 ($5.37) in the UK and Canada, and $US3.58 ($5.54) in New Zealand.

Roughly 80 to 85 per cent of beer sales down under are dominated by two Japanese multinationals.

Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), which owns brands including Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter, was acquired by Asahi in 2020. Lion, formerly Lion Nathan, was acquired by Kirin in 2009. Lion’s beers include Toohey’s, XXXX and Hahn.

High profit margins and high taxes — Australia’s beer excise of $59.06 per litre of pure alcohol makes it the world’s third highest-taxed country behind Finland and Norway — have been blamed for sky-high beer prices.

At the same time, independents claim alleged anti-competitive behaviour by CUB and Lion is stifling growth of alternatives.

Labor MP Andrew Charlton, who grilled representatives from the two companies during the parliamentary inquiry last month, described beer brewing as “one of the worst duopolies in Australia and so ridiculously profitable”.

“Australians are drinking among the most expensive beer in the world,” he told The Australian Financial Review in September.

“Is this not a clear case of a [duopoly] that is negatively affecting Australian consumers?”

– with Frank Chung

Read related topics:Sydney

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