Upfront, I promise this isn’t going to be some rant about inflation. But yes, beer prices are going up, up, up.
It’s not just beer, though; pretty much everything has gone up in price (except energy?) from one year ago. Impressively, but not surprisingly, food and beverage represented one of the biggest spikes in year-over-year price change with a 7.7% increase in costs from April 2022 to April 2023.
But I don’t need to tell you that beer is more expensive! We can all see it. In fact, I have it documented! Looking back at an old article of mine published in 2018 (More Buzz For Your Buck), I analyzed the ABV of beer and the price per volume to determine the most economically “efficient” buzz.
Well, times have changed, but my article hasn’t — at least not yet. I’d love to leave it as a relic of the past.
In the article, I compared prices of beer using the cost of a 6-pack of 12oz cans from Total Wine or BevMo. Five years ago, a 6-pack of Coors Light would have cost $5.49. Today? $8.49 from BevMo (and it’s on sale!) for an increase in price of 55%. Bud Light isn’t much better, jumping from $5.99 to $7.49.
Having lived in Seattle at the time, I also included Elysian’s Space Dust IPA, which in 2018 ran you $9.99 per 6-pack. Today, Total Wine lists it at $11.49, about a 15% increase in price.
Ok, we’ve rehashed that beer is so expensive. But why?
Why Is Beer So Expensive?
We can look at several factors that are impacting beer prices, none of which is the single factor that’s made prices jump.
People are buying less beer
Apparently the market share of beer is dropping. While I don’t know how to differentiate craft beer from big beer, the argument is that with market share (and as a result sales) dropping, breweries are forced to charge higher prices.
Workers are getting paid better
Craft brewing has a loooooong history of underpaying workers. Well, most industries do, but that’s beside the point. With today’s “nobody wants to work” world with staffing shortages at every conceivable service job, it should be no surprise that breweries are forced to pay more to attract talent. That added cost has to come from somewhere, so beer is priced up.
Beer ingredients are more expensive
If everything is inflating (except energy I guess), then it makes sense that the ingredients that go into beer are becoming more expensive as well. If the cost to produce a product rises, then the price would also rise to offset the costs.
When Will Beer Prices Drop?
Probably never! That isn’t really how inflation works.
I know that the cost of beer and, well, everything going up is frustrating. Unfortunately, this is our new reality — a world where I struggle to find a $5 pint in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Can you believe it?!
My concern for the industry is that this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Beer prices go up, people buy less beer, breweries need to make more money, beer prices higher…you get the point.
But hey, if Space Dust is only up 15% while Coors Light is up 55% over the past five years, maybe it would be worth spending money at breweries that don’t inflate their prices so quickly.