Joe Laliberte: I’ll drink to that

I love high-quality beer.

Not more than a few, but just enough. With it, you are able to raise your nose, along with your glass, slightly toward the sky and project a higher knowledge of a beverage that some say predates the discovery of bread.

That’s not why I love it though. It is bold and colorful – more so than its lesser counterparts. It comes in lagers, pilsners, stouts, pale ales, barley wines, porters and blondes. It can be dark or light, served on draft, in a bottle or a can.

As most areas of the economy see profits dwindle, beer sales in the United States have continued to rise. This increase in sales does not come from the empty Keystone or Bush Light cans overflowing your trash. It comes from craft breweries that brew high-quality beer and sell it at a much higher price.

High-quality beer may have just the buzz the economy needs.

SABMiller PLC, the London-based brewer of Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft and Peroni Nastro Azzurro lager, watched as profits for Miller Light fell 7.5 percent in the third quarter. They were lucky enough to raise their glasses to Blue Moon, the craft beer from Colorado, which turned in a double-digit increase in profits during the third quarter. Realizing they needed to advertise their lower-priced beers, Miller High Life is beginning to put up billboards saying, “What recession?”

Along with seafood, candy and pasta sauces, beer is rated as recession proof by Nielsen, a marketing research group.

There are over 13,000 breweries in the United States, 99 percent of which do not make Budweiser or Miller Light. I don’t think they’ll be asking for a bailout anytime soon. They make beers like Lagunitas Dogtown Pale Ale, Allg?uer Cambonator Dunkle Doppelbock (none of these are even words!) and Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter.

In Dallas, one store owner said his high-end and microbrewery sales have doubled in the last year. The governor of Michigan implored her state’s residents to drink Bell’s Beer, from a microbrewery in Galesburg, to keep money in their own state.

College students are drinking more microbrews as well. According the student newspaper of the University of Minnesota, a three-year-old microbrewery near campus is expanding quicker than it can handle. The local liquor store serving campus has become one of the top sellers of microbrewed beer in the state.

Microbreweries are even going green. La Crosse City Brewery is recycling their waste to generate energy for a local hospital in Wisconsin. New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. published a life assessment of one of its six-packs and plans to install $4 million in energy saving technologies. Sierra Nevada is turning their waste byproduct into ethanol.

It is strange to see higher-priced products sell better than their cheaper counterparts during the worst economy since the Great Depression. But therein lays the beauty of craft beer. After a long day going to classes and meetings, sometimes the best things don’t come in an aluminum can among 29 other beers just like it.

Craft brewers have created a product that is unique, local and green. If the rest of the economy were this sustainable, then maybe our country wouldn’t have such a hangover after Wall Street got drunk. I’ll bet those stock traders still drink Keystone.


The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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