Why Beer Lovers Should Hate U.S. Drinking Holidays
As we head into yet another St. Patrick's Day and bars and liquor stores that were once culturally ambivalent start placing shamrocks in every available window, figuring out how to install a nitrogen tap for Guinness and dyeing their light lagers green, it may be time to take a second look at the U.S. drinking holiday. We're not implying that everyone who's ever worn green on St. Patrick's Day or quaffed a tequila shot on Cinco De Mayo should engage in some self-flagellating exercise that leads them to a greater understanding of why co-opting another culture's days of remembrance or your own country's historic milestones as an excuse to get wasted is disrespectful at best.
We're just saying that unless there's an emerging global market for bad ideas, maybe the U.S. and its beer industry shouldn't be manufacturing them.
Holidays such as St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo are no more about beer than Presidents Day is about selling cars. Each has become increasingly important to their respective industries, though, as belts tighten and soft spots on the calendar need toughening up. President's Day sales helped fuel a 1.1% uptick in car sales from January during a time buyers in key markets hunker down for the winter and dealers have few of the previous year's models to offer at cut-rate prices.
In the beer world, St. Patrick's Day comes at the end of what is typically a long, dry winter. Take a look at the Brewers Almanac put together by Washington-based lobbying group The Beer Institute and you'll see a U.S. beer consumption pattern that shallows out around labor day and doesn't really pick up again until folks start buying their Memorial Day 30-packs in May.
That's where St. Patrick's Day comes in. In 2010, for example, Americans hit their peak beer consumption in June, when they took down more than 20.1 million barrels of beer. Their thirst for beer kept them buying roughly 19.5 million barrels a month until the end of summer, but trickled off every month thereafter until they were down to 15 million barrels each month in January and February 2011. By March and St. Patrick's Day, however, that amount shot up to 19.1 million again before settling back to 17 million in April just before the summer resurgence.
The last decade is marked with similar March upticks, with the greatest prompting hibernating revelers in 2006 to up their beer intake from 15.4 million barrels that February to 19.2 million the next month. So that's something, right? That means the plan is working, yes?