Optimal quality of beer

Last evening I went for drinks with a few colleagues. We didn’t think or do much in terms of where to go – we just minimised transaction costs by going to the microbrewery on the top floor of our office building. This meant that after the session those of us who were able (and willing) to drive back could just go down to the basement and drive back. No “intermediate driving”.

Of course, if you want to drive back after you’ve gone for drinks, it means that you need to keep your alcohol consumption in check. And when you know you are going for a longish session, that is tricky. And that’s where the quality of beer maters.

In a place like Arbor, which makes absolutely excellent beer, “one beer” is a hard thing to pull off (though I exercised great willpower in doing just that the last time I’d gone for drinks with colleagues – back in feb). And after a few recent experiences, I’ve concluded that beer is the best “networking drink” – it offers the optimal amount of “alcohol per unit time” (wine and whisky I tend to consume well-at-a-faster-rate, and end up getting too drunk too quickly). So if you go to a place that serves bad beer, that isn’t great either.

This is where the quality of beer at a middling (for a Bangalore microbrewery) place like Bangalore Brewworks works perfectly – it’s decent enough that you are able to drink it (and not something that delivers more ethanol per unit time), but also not so good that you gulp it down (like I do with the Beach Shack at Arbor).

And this means that you can get through a large part of the session (where the counterparties down several drinks) on your one beer – you stay within reasonable alcohol limits and are not buzzed at all and easily able to drive. Then you down a few glasses of iced water and you’re good to go!

Then again, when I think about it, nowadays I go out for drinks so seldom that maybe this strategy is not so optimal at all – next time I might as well go to Arbor and take a taxi home.

Brewsky needs a webcam

When I moved from Rajajinagar 2nd Stage to Jayanagar 3rd Block around this time last year, one thing I missed in this part of town was a watering hole like Rajajinagar 2nd Stage’s 1522. It’s a brilliant pub. Not too expensive. Great atmosphere and decor. Great food. And after expansion, not too hard to get a table on weekdays.

Jayanagar missed such a place. You either had “shady bars” or places like Eden Park in 36th Cross which is ok (and has great paneer) but nothing spectacular, or downright teenager hangouts like Gandhi Bazaar’s SoHo. There was no “nice, clean, good to hang out” place like 1522 here.

And then Brewsky happened. It’s a microbrewery, though they didn’t get their brewing license for a long time (the Excise department was apparently having an issue in pricing the licenses). There’s a terrace with great views, and an indoor place (where you go iff there is no room on the terrace), and they make their own beer. And the beer is very good.

The only problem with Brewsky is that their beer menu is not consistent. They experiment frequently with new kinds of beers – which is frankly not a problem, but sometimes the choice can be severely limited. Like when I went there last Wednesday, there were only two kinds of beer available. Four days before that, however, there was the full complement of six. There have been other times in the past when I’ve been there only to find my choice of beer not being available.

What Brewsky needs is a Webcam. Basically the webcam was invented (as the story goes) to check if there was enough coffee in the communal coffee pot – for if you emptied the pot you were also responsible for refilling it. And so people could remotely track how much coffee was there in the pot and make their decision to have coffee based on the level.

What Brewsky needs, similarly, is a public board where they announce what they have on brew on that particular day. Their website sucks big time, but if they revamp that, it is a good place to put that information. So if I know that there are only two beers available, I’ll probably not go. If I want to have their India Pale Ale (which is generally very good) but it is not listed, then I’ll plan on going another day. And so forth.

The question that arises, however, is if Brewsky themselves have an incentive to put this information out. If their stocks are generally not on high, then indicating that there isn’t much variety available might push away customers and lead to low revenues on their fixed cost of real estate and waiters for that particular day. And they might just get overwhelmed with people on days when they have their full complement of beers.

But then if customers are consistently disappointed with their lack of choice, then in the long run they’ll lose such customers permanently. And that is not a good thing. Except for the fact that there is no comparable place in the Jayanagar-JP Nagar area.

Pricing markets in cabs and beer

Earlier this evening Udhay and I shared a cab back after beer and biryani. We don’t stay particularly close by (using the place we met as point of reference), but I think it was pareto optimal for us to share the cab rather than take two cabs. I got off first at my place and Udhay went on to his place. We used Uber’s fare splitting feature for the trip.

I just got the bill and saw that I’ve been charged exactly half of the total bill. Given the distance from our meeting point to my place and Udhay’s place it perhaps was pareto optimal but had we met any closer it may not have been a fair split – if the place we met was closer to my place than my place is to Udhay’s, then splitting the fare equally would have been unfair to me – for I would have paid more for sharing the ride than I would have had I taken a cab by myself! Can Uber do better?

Once we have enabled the ride sharing and splitting thing, Uber knows who all are travelling, and Uber knows where each of us gets off (if our phones are on, that is). Based on where we break off from the cab, can Uber estimate where each of us got off and split the fare accordingly? Given how good their app has been so far, I would expect them to tweak their ride splitting algorithm and introduce this measure soon.

Going a little back in the day, Udhay and I were at Punjabi By Nature in SuddgunTepALya. We were there during the restaurant’s “happy hours” where they have a buy-one-get-one-free offer on beer. However, it was after we had ordered a “tray” of samplers that we were told that the Bogof didn’t apply to the tray. We also ordered another glass of beer, which duly arrived with a “partner”.

There are two things about Punjabi By Nature’s pricing that I found interesting. The first bit was the non-applicability of “happy hours” to the tray. Is it a measure by them to reward their regular customers who know what to drink at the cost of first-timers who invariably ask for the sampler set? Any other explanation for happy hours not applying to the tray?

The second interesting bit is about the pricing of the drinks itself. A 500ml glass of beer was priced at Rs. 240 plus taxes, which is par for the course for a microbrewery in Bangalore. In most other microbreweries, the sampler trays are priced “reasonably”, approximately at the same per-ml price as the glasses of beer. Here, though, the tray (on which we didn’t get Bogof, remember) was prices at Rs. 625 per taxes! Of course, there were six beers that were sampled in the tray and the quantity was also significantly more than at other sampler trays (here it was at least 150ml per glass if I’m not wrong; in other microbreweries in Bangalore it’s more like 100ml), yet the premium in pricing for the samplers was significant!

I wonder what makes other microbreweries price their samplers at about the same per-ml cost as their glasses – given that the standard practice is to incentivise customers to buy in larger units. I also wonder what makes Punjabi By Nature impose a “penal” price (assuming it was 150ml per sample, it works out to about 70 paisa per ml. The glass of beer (not accounting for happy hours) costs 240/500 = 48 paisa per ml, so the sampler is 50% more expensive) on its samplers. For now that I know how it’s priced, the next time I go to Punjabi By Nature I’m going to order glasses of beer (hopefully in happy hours) and not the sampler!

Pricing is a funny game, I tell you!