According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average price of beer and malt beverages “away from home” dropped 0.5 percent in the last six months. This marks the first time the cost of beer in bars and restaurants has dropped in a six-month period since 1997, Business Insider reports.
What’s happening is multifaceted: Beer sales by volume are declining, nationally and globally. As VinePair reported in January 2018, consumers have been drinking less beer but paying more for it. Now, according to the BLS, we’re drinking less and paying less, too.
Another facet is, you guessed it, the changing drinking habits of millennials, as well as Generation Z drinkers.
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A report last year found that Generation Z, or those born roughly between 1996 and 2010, prefers other types of alcohol over beer. It also found that generation is drinking less alcohol in general, “in part because it doesn’t think drinking is ‘cool’ anymore,” according to Business Insider. (We’ll take that obviously subjective statement for what it is: an abstract. Still, the rise of wellness culture could lend support to a movement away from beer, a caloric beverage often used in conjunction with the word “belly.”)
How health and wellness became cooler than drinking is beyond me — I suspect it looks better on Instagram — but I haven’t lost hope for the beer-drinking world. Breweries are introducing low-calorie, low-carb, low-ABV beers targeted to health-conscious consumers. Small, local breweries and brewpubs are growing. Regional brands are finding new carbonated income streams.
Beer has been a part of the human experience for centuries. It’s not going anywhere. The industry and audiences are just changing, as they must do.
Pabst Goes Against the Grain
Pabst Brewing is partnering with Louisville, Ky., local brewery Against the Grain. The announcement follows rumors that Against the Grain would be “selling out” to a larger brewery, LEO Weekly reports.
Against the Grain “Marketing and Media Maven” Katie Molck told the local Louisville publication the partnership “only applies to Kentucky,” and that the smaller brewery is “testing things out” and “taking advantage of [Pabst’s] distribution network.”
Molck also said that the brewery, founded in 2011, “focused our sales outside of Kentucky because that’s where craft beer was most popular at the time,” and that the new plan is to stay close to home.
While I agree shifting focus from outer markets to local ones is a good idea, some Against the Grain fans aren’t buying it.
“As someone who lives in [Kentucky,] I don’t know what the hell they’re on about when saying they want [to] reintroduce themselves to [the state],” one reddit user posted. That user also argued that other craft brands produced in the state are “infinitely more marketable than Citra Ass Down or Brown Note,” two Against the Grain beers whose names and label artwork are offensive to some. (I, too, have lamented the unfortunate appearance of Brown Note.)
It doesn’t help that Against the Grain also released a beer satirically named “Blatz from the Pabst” in 2015.
Back then, a much younger, infinitely more naive me may have thought this partnership was BS. But the state of the industry has changed. Breweries seeking to expand beyond their local and regional markets do so at the risk of quick failure. Those setting their sights close to home are setting themselves up for success.
Against the Grain’s decision to partner with Pabst in particular is curious, considering Pabst’s recent troubles, including a now-settled lawsuit with MillerCoors. Pabst has been reaching lately, too, announcing both boozier and less boozy versions of Pabst Blue Ribbon, as well as its own whiskey. (Incidentally, that whiskey is produced by New Holland Brewing, a Michigan-based brewery that inked a distribution partnership with Pabst in 2017.)
Pabst has problems of its own, and it’s hard not to see this partnership as precarious. However, if it means Against the Grain is reigning it in and flooding its local markets with sales support from a legendary brand, it’s very possible they’ll succeed.
Man Successfully Sues BrewDog for (and Misses Entire Point of) Gender Discrimination Campaign
A man has successfully won a lawsuit against BrewDog after suing the brewery for gender discrimination last year, DevonLive reports. The man, 27-year-old Thomas Bower, sued the brewing company for refusing to serve him a discounted Pink IPA, instead offering him a regularly priced Punk IPA.
The significance of the two beers, other than a price difference of £1, was to highlight the 20 percent gender pay gap between men and women in the U.K. It was part of a BrewDog campaign that began on International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2018.
The discounted Pink IPA was to be sold to those who identify as female as a way to raise awareness for this issue.
Not taking “no” for an answer, Bower said in a court document that he “felt forced to lie about my sex in order to receive the product at the lower price.” He told the bartender he identified as female, and the bartender then served him the Pink IPA for the discounted price.
Way to miss the point, Bower. While it is technically true that he was refused the beer on the basis of gender (and BrewDog’s campaign was admittedly problematic to begin with), this man is obviously a jerk.