Point-of-View: Love That Dirty, Expensive Water

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the price to value ratio of things, and was recently given some excellent reasons to turn my thoughts back to the cost of living in my beloved Boston. On two recent occasions, colleagues were citing the cost to rent or own in the Greater Boston area as a key driver for looking at more affordable cities in the south or Midwest.

A few days ago, I was steered to a recently conducted survey that revealed Boston’s ranking as the #1 City for Quality of Life in the U.S. (and eighth overall in the world). According to this same survey, Boston also has the eighth most expensive beer in the world, priced an average $7.20 for a pint.  Without this context, whenever someone asked me if I thought beer was overpriced in Boston, my answer was simple: unequivocally yes.  

I love this city. I’ve probably made that clear in a prior post. Not just this city, the entire state. But, unless you are in Western Massachusetts or bordering Rhode Island, those Boston price points often extend beyond the city limits.  I understand the adage: you get what you pay for. Massachusetts is a great place to live: tops in education, close to the ocean and the mountains, mere hours from city life and farms and politically progressive. Through the lens of a gastro-centric like myself, there is also a plethora of premium food and beer options to serve the demand of millions of young people and global tourists.  

However, attractive locations come at a premium that the majority of young residents simply can’t afford. In an age when many of them can work from anywhere, the appeal of Boston’s long-term enticements -- a great public school system, for example -- just don’t win against basic cost of living expenses and the dream of buying a house that is not only marginally affordable, but isn’t something they have to ‘settle for’ because of its location. I often look at my own modest Cape-style home north of Boston and ponder what the same mortgage would get me in the South... and then I remind myself that I am paying for the short drive to a city that I now, thanks to the tele-commute culture, rarely visit.   

If you are concerned that Boston’s beer prices have gone up almost $2 / pint in less than five years, take heart: this is where the ‘proximity to everything’ status works heavily in our favor. You can drive less than an hour to Portsmouth, NH or just over an hour to Maine and enjoy premium beers at a more comfortable price range. Portsmouth is quickly becoming a premium beer scene, with five breweries (three within a two-mile radius of one another in the locally-favored West End). And of course, Portland is a considerable Beervana, where you can get your fix of some of the best barrel-aged beers and IPAs on the East Coast -- and expect to pay $5 or $6 for a pour instead of $7 or $8.

Boston might win the argument that you get what you pay for in terms of its infrastructure and real estate -- but good beer can be found in many places. Take a drive and enjoy them.