The Price of Beer
[I]t’s interesting to “eavesdrop” on comments posted about beer at a non-beer site.
Yesterday the Chicago Tribune published a story about two new microbreweries in the city. What seemed to get the most attention is that 6 packs of Half Acre beers cost $9. We’re not talking a knee jerk reaction about how that’s ridiculous, but a discussion. Check out the comments.
For what it's worth, I think the outrage is misplaced. Until recently, beer prices have been artificially low. The hop and barley price hikes surely forced breweries to raise prices a bit, and the forces of inflation have their effect, too. But nine bucks is probably about right by historical standards. If you convert the price of a $9 sixer in 2009 back to 1990 dollars, you get $5.54. In 2000 dollars, it works out to $7.30. My memory is that the price of beer was probably hovering around six bucks and change a decade ago, and we regularly hit the $7 threshold a few years back. So prices have been low for awhile and now they're headed back to historical norms.
Beer naturally lends itself to class commentary. Beer is a blue-collar drink. This has long put craft brewers at a slightly uncomfortable crossroads--trying to appeal broadly to blue-collar drinkers while charging enough to pay the bills. The association between craft brewing and patronage by yuppies hasn't helped (an association I think is particularly weak in Oregon). But in any case, it looks like this isn't a function of real price inflation but rather a reaction to economic instability more generally.