Beer Bears Through the Bad Times

The front page of today’s Washington Post features a photo of a hundred or so craft beers on the shelves at Total Wine & More, and the headline reads: Cold Comfort In Hard Times.

With a headline like that I thought this was going to be a story of good news. But then I read the subhead: Beer Holds Up as Vice That’s Not Too Pricey.

Huh? What makes beer a vice? This article reflects America’s ongoing schizophrenic attitudes toward beer and drinking in general. Read the article for yourself below.

Life’s guilty pleasures usually thrive during tough economic times. Though we may forgo new frocks or fancy dinners out, we have traditionally turned to the three big vice industries — gambling, smoking and drinking — to help ease our pain. Read the rest of the article here.

This flaw aside, the article is in fact mostly good news. Beer does fine in recessions. My favorite line in the article is from Rob Sands, chief executive officer of Constellation Brands, who said his “customers haven’t been trading down so much as trading across.” In other words, choosing beer over wine or a cocktail isn’t a step down but a move to something else that is equally good.

(Btw, I discuss the issue of America’s ambivalence toward beer in more detail in my book Fermenting Revolution.)

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3 Responses to Beer Bears Through the Bad Times

  1. Beer, sir, and drinking spirits in general are the victims of Protestantism and Puritanism, specifically. These folks love to deny themselves the “pursuit of happiness” in the interest of self-righteousness.
    http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVSermons/DrinkingInTheNewTestament.htm

  2. Brendan says:

    The intro is fairly contrived – I have no trouble at all naming several other major vices besides smoking and gambling – and I’m still chuckling at the idea of Belgian/A-B Rolling Rock being called “superpremium” – wasn’t that one of the Super Friends? – but the article is pretty decent and gets at a point that I’ve heard from Sam Calagione.
    You can buy a top-quality bottle of beer for prices that are still entry-level for wine and scary-cheap for liquor. I like whisky in nearly all of its forms and I don’t regret the $85 that I just put into a nice bottle of 20 year-old bourbon, but the same amount would have brought home 2-3 cases of excellent beer.
    The article also has me wondering about seasonal changes in beer consumption – not just the modest preference for lagers and light ales in warmer weather, but more along the lines of bulk purchases in a narrower range. I’m thinking of the comments by 7-11, for example.

  3. beeractivist says:

    Morning Angel – Funny thing is that Puritans and Protestants have a long tradition of drinking. I wrote about this extensively in Fermenting Revolution. Martin Luther himself was quite the beer activist and his wife was a nun who brewed beer!

    Brendan – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was shopping for beer at Total Wine & More last night and picking up bottle after bottle of 750ml amazing beers for $6, $7, $8. The most expensive ones were more like $15. On the other hand, the cheapest wines were about $10 and they just skyrocket from there. For affordability you certainly can’t beat beer. The bad news is that the industry has gotten kind of locked into that “low-cost” trap, such that people are less willing to pay more for beer even when the costs of producing it are going up.

    Chris

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