One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 2/7/17

Whoever wrote the headline for this article earned their money.  It is a paragon of SEO and will generate a ton of hits.  It got me.  Here are a couple of questions, does it deserve all those hits and does it say what the headline suggests?

My main difficulty with this article is that most of the things he attributes to black people not drinking craft beer are the reasons most people don’t drink craft beer.

Craft beer made up 12% of the total beer market in the United States in 2015.  The rise of craft beer has occurred as the total volume of alcohol consumed in the US has decreased slightly.  So, if your article’s headline suggests maybe black people just don’t like craft beer, that could honestly be extended to most of the beer consuming adults in the US.

That means the actual question the article tried to ask is, “Of the 12-13% of people in the US beer market who drink craft beer, why aren’t more of them black?”

The first section on the economics of craft beer starts off good.  Among insights that touch on institutional racism, the barriers nonwhite brewers may face in trying to get a loan or find distribution, and the price of craft versus macro, the article again delves into an insight about craft beer that is not endemic to black folk.

At a barbershop, because you can’t have an article about black people and culture without going to a barbershop or a church (don’t worry that comes later), one of the patrons of the barbershop is quoted:  But a third hinted at another reason that craft beer might not be popular among Black people. “Why would I want to waste my time trying to make beer when I can just go and buy it?” he said.

That is a sentiment shared by most people not just black people.  The number of homebrewers hit 1.2 million in 2013, the last year with reliable statistics.  Since that time the number of homebrewing shops crested at about 820 across the country in 2015 but has since declined.  Why? It is easier to buy craft beer than to make it.

Then this section of the article compares the rates blacks spend money on alcohol to whites and finds that they spend about half as much annually, before pointing out that blacks just spend less than whites across the board.  So, those paragraphs meant nothing.

The section about regionality is priceless.  First, black people in the South don’t drink craft beer because they like lighter beers (like most people in the South and like most people just getting into craft beer).  The assumption seems to be all craft breweries make are IPAs, stouts, and barley wines.  All these hefeweizens, witbiers, Kolsches, and pilsners I sell are in my imagination.

Then there is an anecdote about how a brewer’s father refuses to drink anything but Miller before segueing into the now infamous Alabama politician Alvin Holmes, “What’s wrong with the beer we got” clip.  First, a 55-70-year-old who has only ever drunk Miller saying he isn’t going to drink anything but Miller isn’t racial it’s generational.  Second, a politician railing against changing distribution laws isn’t racial it’s monetary.  Distributors have a lot of money and they use it on politicians.

The question of if we should care that black people don’t drink craft beer is a good one.  In a vacuum, black people are no more or less likely to drink craft beer and are probably just on a slower path to craft beer than white people.

There is an article to be written and a study to be done as to why African Americans don’t drink craft beer at a rate commiserate to their percentage of the overall population.  If I were doing the study, my first question would be what is the percentage of African Americans who drink beer? Second, what is the percentage of African Americans who drink craft beer? No anecdotal evidence, actual numbers.  Third, what is the percentage of African Americans who drink imported beer?  A lot of black people drink Heineken.  Then, how do all those numbers compare to the population overall and to other nonwhite groups?  Finally, what are those numbers when you control for income and gender?