Are Young People Really “Turning Against” Beer?

Anecdotally, no. Of course not. It’s the only thing available late at night in most neighborhoods, wildly popular in an explosion of new, fancy varieties, and just generally more of a crutch than ever before (and also I suppose a nice, enriching thing to enjoy when done well). But according to actual numbers, the situation for beer is surprisingly grim.

Per a new Gallup poll, Americans’ collective preference for beer has actually dropped by 20 percent over the past two decades, experiencing a particularly sharp drop-off among 18-29-year-olds and non-whites, i.e. the two fastest-growing demographics in the country. Meanwhile, liquor and wine are on a steady incline. And no one seems to really know why. The Atlantic has a few solid theories, though, including but not limited to increased health-consciousness (beer is fattening, etc.), beer sales as an indicator of a still-terrible economy for blue collar workers (a key beer demographic, as every pop culture cliche and legitimate statistic can attest), and wine’s continued ascension in mainstream American culture, which has been going on since the 1970’s.

It could just mean that more people are making the mature, responsible decision to drink smaller amounts of higher quality beers, given that almost all growth seen in the market has been driven by the increasing popularity (and availability) of craft beer. But again, no one really seems to know what’s going on here. Probably best to file under “trends we haven’t seen even the faintest sign of,” and “solid excuses to go out and support local brewers.” We can think of a few good places to start.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.