Last December, I suggested that we may see a bump of sorts in beer sales in response to the recession in the US. In another in a series of events that prove that, yes, if enough monkeys used typewriters one could write sonnets, it appears I may well have been right as The Washington Post notes, via a twittery h/t to Cizauskas:
…this time around is different. Smoking has fallen into such ill repute that many municipalities ban it. Fuel costs have made driving or flying to a casino a pricey proposition, and gambling has become almost an afterthought at many of the lavish new ones. Now it seems the only acceptable — and affordable — sin left is alcohol, namely beer. “It’s really considered a consumer staple kind of industry,” said Dan Ahrens, author of the book “Investing in Vice.” He put it on par with toothpaste, or, say, soap. “People gotta drink no matter what’s going on with the economy.” More than 16 million barrels of domestic beer were sold in the United States in July, and annual sales through that month are up 1.4 percent, the largest increase since 1990, when the economy was headed toward a recession…
So not only is beer affordable but, in this time of downturn or at least stagnation, there are fewer and fewer acceptable sins available to the average American, who on average, has a bit less to spend. I still think this means craft brewers need to focus on the low-price end of the their brands.
The high end of beer pricing is moving in the wrong direction, however. When I was beer shopping down south this year, I saw beer in the $20 and even over $30 range for the first time. I declined even though I have some advertising support for my sin spending. I did buy a $20 De Ranke Kriek but that was only because I am obsessed. But I was not snookered at all by those offerings as a quick review of my sales slip shows a great number of great beers for a great price – Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 for $8, a small bottle from Meantime for $3.50, large Bernardus 12 for $10 plus a large number of great new New England craft beers for even less than half of those prices.
My point? Beer is the affordable sin not just as a budget recourse to easy mindless comfort but because it still can provides great value for extraordinary products in tight times.