Beer Sales Tanking

Via the political blog 538 comes this depressing news:
[T]here has generally not been much of a relationship between alcohol purchases and changes in GDP -- the correlation is essentially zero. Nor have alcohol purchases historically been any kind of lagging or leading indicator.

But something was very, very different in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sales of alcohol for off-premises consumption were down by 9.3 percent from the previous quarter, according to the Commerce Department. This is absolutely unprecedented: the largest previous drop had been just 3.7 percent, between the third and fourth quarters of 1991.

Beer accounts for almost all of the decrease, with revenues off by almost 14 percent. Wine and spirits were much more stable, with sales volumes declining by 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.
These are Commerce Department data, and we don't have details about which segments aren't selling well (if you follow the link, the relevant line is 85). Nor is it broken down by region or state, so we don't know if it's a geographic finding, either. What we do know is that things really took off in the second quarter of 2007, hit a high a year later, plateaued for two quarters, and then in Q4, fell off the face of the earth. Aggregate sales have fallen back to a level they were at before the spike in '07.

Much more to learn, but this isn't a good sign.