Young Americans are turning away from beer



I’d like to think that THIS TREND has something to do with all the stupid TV commercials depicting certain brands of beer as essential to the male-bonding experience or to picking up good-looking women:

Poor beer.

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.

Gallup’s new alcoholic preferences survey, summed up in the image above, finds that beer’s lead over wine has slipped by 20 percentage points since the early 1990s. But the demographic breakdown is even more brutal. Young drinkers and nonwhite drinkers saw the steepest falls in beer preference. In other words, the fastest-growing segments of the country are also running the fastest away from brews.


One explanation has been that American drinkers are more health-conscious today because there are so many studies and media reports of studies that make it impossible to be less health-conscious. This has hurt high-sugar and empty-calorie drinks that face relentless press criticism. “You’re seeing that the consumer is taking a healthier look and having more alternatives [than soda], such as tea, and coconut water,” Thomas Mullarkey, an analyst from Morningstar, has told me. “But also, Americans have aged, and soft drinks are most popular among teenagers and twentysomethings.”

Still, that does not adequately explain why Americans would turn against light beer, which dominates the market. For that, we need another explanation.

Think of of cheap beer sales as a health indicator for blue-collar America, especially for men (they call him Joe Sixpack for a reason). Look at the chart at the top of the story again. Beer dips after the 2000/’1 recession and then begins to recover. Then beer preference falls again after the Great Recession, where the hardest hit industries (construction and manufacturing) were blue-collar-male industries. As the Wall Street Journal reported, light beer sales fell for three years after the recession and only bounced back in 2012 due to the resurgence of craft beer.


1 Comment

  1. Craig Knauss

    Excellent! That leaves more beer for us old farts.

    I feel lucky because we have 3 good microbreweries right here in town, 3 more about 25 miles away, and 2 more about 40 miles away. And there are two more real close to where my brother-in-law lives on the other side of the Cascades. Once you’ve had a good “micro” you won’t go back to that mass-produced stuff. Yee hah!

    And for the wine snobs, we have a ton of wineries as well. I believe something like 40 of them within 50 miles.

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