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Thursday, January 11, 2007

You'll Have to Pony Up More the Next Time You Belly Up to the Bar

As if high gasoline prices were not enough, the cost of a pint is also on the way up.

Anheuser-Busch has signaled its plans to take a price increase early this year. The maker of the King of Beers serves as a bellwether in these matters and you can expect most other brewers to follow suit. Unlike the price of gasoline, which appears to go up and down based mostly on commodity trading speculation, there are actual hard reasons behind the climb in beer costs.

Brewers are paying more for hops and barley, two of the primary ingredients in the suds we enjoy. The price of barley has jumped 24 percent in the last year. Packaging costs have jumped, too, thanks to increases in the cost of aluminum. Brewers and distributors also face increased energy costs. Yup, fueling those beer delivery trucks is more expensive than it used to be.

There is not much any of us can do about higher beer prices. Unlike gasoline prices, where we might be able to switch to public transportation or buy a hybrid auto, beer lovers are pretty defenseless if they want to continue enjoying a cold brew after a long day. Will this push some to homebrew? Perhaps. Will cheap wine prices caused by the glut of grapes on the world market attract some? Maybe. The truth is most of us will kick in the extra dime per pint or quarter per six pack and not give it much thought.

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