I still haven't got my mind around this one yet. There seem to be plenty of stories like how Aussies are pounding brews despite the times or this one from the US mid-Atlantic (or is that the north of the South?) describing how wonderful things are in the beer world:
“It’s beer, people love beer,“ said Tommy Williams, a specialty manager at local grocery store Earthfare. Perhaps even more so when times are tough. “I think people are looking for an inexpensive indulgence and I think beer offers that,“ said Williams. Tommy Williams runs the beer section at Earthfare in Johnson City. “Compared to last year beer sales have increased,“ said Williams, both in his store and company-wide.But then there are others - maybe more others - like this about Heineken suffering in the UK. Like Canada's booze trade starting to retract back in October. In the hard hit US Midwest, people are switching to "low-line" beers. And it's not even that more people are necessarily at home cocooning with their brew as take-home beer revenues are down almost 14% in the US over the last five or six months. Can we set out some possible principles that might be emerging?
- Wanting a beer may be more important wanting a good beer - meaning "life is too short for bad beer" is not true.
- If so, could it be that beer is devolving into a commodity that is affordable but not a luxury to a greater than expected degree because people at the end of the day just want "a beer"?
- As a result, once there is a weeding out of the breweries that are due to unfortunate ill-timed debts like Heineken or other poor business plans that pre-date the recession, will people prefer the non-luxurious but familiar over the exotic presenting a brutal challenge to craft brewers?
- Or is it more. Are we going to move past all that, move past 1990s recession cocooning that spawned Martha Stewart, that poster child for the ills of this first decade, to something sterner, to "a deliberate effort to deny oneself pleasure" or "conspicuous non-consumption"?
- Or, worse than that, are things going to go so quickly to hell that by August we are all going to be living in cardboard boxes making beer just a sweet malty memory?
I don't know. That is, in fact, the safest thing I can say: I don't know. No one knows. And when no one knows, it might be a little safer to say that a beer might taste good about now, no matter what type of beer that is. Maybe that is what's happening.