The "Craft Brew" Economy
In a marathon column at Salon, the political writer David Sirota advances the analogy of expensive craft beer and the trend toward upscale. Essentially, it's like Apple--people are willing to pay more because it tastes better. He wraps it up thus:
A Macrobrew Economy — a high-volume, low-price model — asks us to compete with other such economies throughout the world, and the problem is that countries like China will always have lower-priced labor, more lax environmental regulations and lower production standards to win a battle that rewards more and cheaper for more’s and cheaper’s sake. By contrast, a Craft Brew Economy — a high-quality, lower-volume model — is a different proposition. It follows the German model, which, as Time magazine notes, is all about being “committed to making the sort of high-quality, high-performance, innovative products for which the world will pay extra.” The choice is ours — and it starts with the beer in your fridge.I have only one problem here: the analogy is flawed. Even at ten bones a sixer, beer remains a huge value when compared with good liquor or wine. It's true that Grain Belt is cheaper, but the distance between Bud and Sierra Nevada is pretty slight in absolute terms. The analogy may point to something real in the economy--though David's evidence is actually pretty thin--but I would hate to have it rise and fall on the example of craft beer. It's still a pretty cheap thrill.