Are we no longer beer drinkers?

Beer cans

In August, The Atlantic ran two indepth articles exploring beer-drinking - and the (sad?) possibility that, at least in the U.S., we're no longer choosing beer as our preferred beverage. In the first article, Why Are American Drinkers Turning Against Beer?  they produce some sobering statistics: "

"Just 20 years ago, it was America's most popular alcoholic beverage by far. Since then, per capita consumption of beer down 20 percent and despite population growth, annual domestic production has fallen down, too." And what's almost worse (if you're a brewery), the steepest decline has been the fastest-growing population segments - young and nonwhite.

The author proposes five possible explanations:

  • Health concerns
  • Lower-class white guys are getting crushed
  • Liquor ads work (both liquor and wine sales are up)
  • Wine is delicious and affordable - and many are just learning that
  • Tastes change

But then, two days later, the same author wrote a second article, The Death of Beer Has Been Greatly Exaggerated.  This time he focused on dollars spent; apparently while we're drinking less beer, we're spending more on the beer we do drink. It turns out that it's the cheap, mass-market beer that is getting the full whammy of drinking less volume, but craft beers are picking up the slack:

"Beer is getting more expensive on average, due to the rise of craft beers, which account for about 10 percent of the market. In 1980 there were 8 specialty breweries in the United States. Now there are more than 2,000 "Between 1994 and 2011, an average of 97 breweries opened in the United States every year," consultant David Dworin pointed out in an email to me. As a result, beer hasn't lost much ground as a share of total booze-spending at stores."

So yes, we're drinking less cheap beer, but we still like the stuff - only now we're requiring more taste. So let's toast our increasing discretion!

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