Death of the beer drinking yobbo

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By Leith van Onselen

The beer drinking Aussie yobbo is fast becoming an extinct species, with new analysis from CommSec showing alcohol consumption in Australia hitting a 17-year low, with beer consumption at the lowest level for 67 years:

Alcohol consumption has hit 17-year lows. Unfortunately the data doesn’t totally flesh out the reasons why. Certainly the anecdotal evidence suggests that Aussies are embracing ‘quality’ ahead of ‘quantity’. That is certainly the case with beer, where craft beers are gaining favour over mainstream brands. But it may also be a case where Aussies are paying greater attention to health issues. In fact other data shows a lift in purchases of sporting and other recreational equipment over the past year.

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And indeed the much more longer-trend influences on alcohol consumption are still prevalent such as random breath testing, immigration, greater variety in leisure pursuits, increases in income and wealth (affordability of alcohol is at 20-year highs), diet and lifestyle. All these factors explain why Aussies are drinking less beer, more wine and drinking less alcohol more generally…

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Reduced alcohol consumption is positive from many social standpoints. But it has implications for government coffers in terms of excise revenue…

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


    • everything to do with the fact that we abuse the stuff, and as a consequence, our govt’s feel the need (retain the right) to charge us a lot more for it, to save us from ourselves (and make a crap load in revenue while they’re at it).

      I personally don’t blame them.

      Do you know what a beer costs in Germany??

      You’d fall off your chair.

      • €3,49 for a sixpack of cans in The Netherlands when on special. And that’s decent stuff.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        In the US (at least the parts I went to) alcohol was very inexpensive.

        Stupidly I could buy Aussie wines from a CVS store (similar to 7/11 type store here) cheaper than I could get the identical bottle from the Dan Murphy’s down the road back in Oz.

        Find yourself a Walmart and it is even cheaper again. Talking $3 USD for a bottle of wine that is $15+ here.


      • Those who want cheaper alcohol just join pilgrims heading to places in Central Europe … so cheap that’s become a pinnacle of the year to many teenagers from Western Europe.

        [for Danes] … “Prague has become a favourite destination for young people in the country’s upper-secondary schools, with entire classes taking the trip to the city famous for its discos and cheap alcohol. Travel agencies report that this year’s trips are sold out”

  1. Labor will definitely oppose.

    There’s two-thirds of the population who will see this as an immediate negative to the value of the property that they own (alone or in partnership with a bank) and/or a threat to their tax-lurk. That alone is simply too tempting for any opposition to pass up, putting aside the fact that most of our Lib/Lab ruling class themselves are directly conflicted on this point.

    The broader economy and the nation’s future be damned. Proactive measures will never be taken to end this nonsense.

    Brace for impact.

    • RTD volume of pure alcohol per capita is down. It has nose dived from 1.1 litres in 2007/08 to 0.65 litres in 2012/13. Mostly because of the alco pops tax.

      Meanwhile, Cider has increased 3 fold in that time.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        As has the ‘harder’ liquors…

        That tax sure worked in putting the kiddies off the alco-pops. Pity it put them onto Vodka and Scotch instead…. ooops!

      • No, Hard liquors have increase only 1.29 litres of alcohol from 1.19 litres between 07/08 to 12/13.

        Interestingly because of the taxes on alcohol, these figures are actually really quite accurate.

      • That’s interesting, more so about cider.

        I was kind of wondering whether possibly RTDs only came into being or became popular around the end of the seventies early eighties, when there was a big drop in beer consumption.

      • The ABS only started the RTD vs Hard Liquor in 2001/02. Before that it was merely level of pure alcohol for all Distilled Alcohol.

        I could look at it but I am home now and I don’t Excel as I don’t believe in working at home.

  2. migtronixMEMBER

    Sadly the chardonnay sippers still vocalise their equally unpalatable opinions in that nasely high pitched “im on my 3rd bottle I’m anyone’s” lush tones. Uuuuuggghhh.

  3. BubbleyMEMBER

    Quality over quantity?

    Crap beer costs the same as craft beer, so why would people drink the rubbish when it’s the same price as a nice drop?

    • because craft beer tastes like shit … apart from Crownies which some people dont consider craft

      • Your obviously drinking at the wrong place squirell, I drink our local micro brewed beer and its as good as any Euro beer, and certainly heads and tails over the usual VB, Crownies etc etc, but again at twelve bucks a pint, I cant afford to drink too much of the stuff, unlike my teenage years where I could spend 40-60 bucks and get blotto.

        More and more people are going the micro route and thats for beer and spirits

    • The Patrician

      +1 The old man switched to home brew. Hasn’t bought one in years.

      There’s a big whack of demand gone, right there.

    • DodgydamoMEMBER

      ^^^ this!

      Be your own microbrewery, plus keep big liquor and the Laberals away from your beer money.
      Win, Win!

  4. Most of the XXXX and VB drinkers are probably dead after a (short) lifetime on the liquid equivalent of McDonalds. Fortunately I discovered Coopers in time. It appears that not many of us were saved.

  5. It’s surprising how many people I know of who have stills. I suspect that quite a lot of booze is being made at home. It’s not exactly rocket science.

    Similarly, there is a steady stream of reports of people engaging in illicit tobacco growing.

    At some point, people will do what they do outside The System because of taxation of regulation.

    • I am not surprised, for only around $5.00 you can make a litre of spirits, mind you the tax man charges $20.00 tax on a bottle of 700ml bourbon, makes you wonder how the big business such as JB make any money at all with shipping, storage, outlets take etc etc.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        I am not surprised, for only around $5.00 you can make a litre of spirits, mind you the tax man charges $20.00 tax on a bottle of 700ml bourbon, makes you wonder how the big business such as JB make any money at all with shipping, storage, outlets take etc etc.

        When I moved back from the US, I contemplated buying a year or two’s worth of Jack Daniels since it was so cheap there compared to home (eg: US$30 for 1.5L).

        However, after running the numbers through the formula provided by customs to estimate the duty due on importation, I discovered that outside of the tax, the cost of JD in Australia is basically identical to the US.

        Bit of an eye-opener there.

    • Lighter Fluid

      I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more local distilleries, given the success of local microbreweries and wineries? Tasmanian Whiskey appears to be the only exception, which appears to be both flourishing and achieving international recognition. For instance, given the success of our wine industry, why are there so few high-quality local brandy producers? Our sherry (aka apera) is greatly out of fashion, so perhaps that is why?

      As far as the big companies go, Diageo, Beam Inc, et al, who produce the low end Walker and Jim Beam stuff respectively, also own some of the higher end (and higher margin) Scottish distillaries/blends (Highland Park, Adberg, Chevas Regal, Johnnie Walker etc), or have local distributors such as Coca-Cola Amatil who have a) a monopoly on distribution rights and b) the advantage of scale, which together, provide adequate margins after tax.

      I would also hazard a guess that on such a scale, if one product line makes a loss, this would be more than adequately made up for through other products (eg, if the basic 700mL JB makes a loss, I’d expect cans of JB and cola to more than make up the difference).

      Nevertheless, I have a creeping suspicion that the high cost base (in terms of tax, wages, and land/rent cost) in Australia has severely reduced our ability to compete in this area to the full extent of our potential, and this saddens me as a drinker…

      • There is around 12 distillers in Australia, 3 in Victoria at Essedon and another at Toobarac and the third at Newham.

        My life ambition is to build a distillery in Woodend, Vic. It would be Bourbon (not Whisky) but I dont think I can call it Bourbon, but maybe something like ‘sour mash’

        The hardest part is getting anyone to help you with information etc, the best place so far is the liqueur regulators and the ATO. The distillers on the other hand closely guard ANY information and wouldnt part with the steam off their ship….which is a shame really.

  6. I agree with the quality over quantity argument. Not sure what it is like in other States but the love for and culture surrounding food and wine/beer of here in SA is amazing.

    One of the things I actually prefer in Australia over my home country!

  7. i’m a kiwi, thought fosters was the best beer going until I moved to melbourne and now its VB all the way! a beaut drop, sometimes upgrade to crown for special occasions.

    .. but the cost is excessive, $34 for 24 on special. Recently started home brewing, can produce something almost as good as VB for about 30 cents a bottle. High fives all round!!!

    personally i think craft beers are gross and for pretentious fairies – if i wanted a spicy drink with liquorice overtones I’d drink one of my wife’s sherries.

    … get one down ya!!

    • I don’t think your wife is drinking sherry – that sounds like Ouzo.

      I still get shivers at the memory.

      Fosters? VB? When I was NZ i thought your mass market beers were much better than our BBQ cleaning aides.

  8. You can’t even slowly kill yourself for the greater good any more.

    Probably divorce laws has something to do with it too. I’d greatly pity anyone who had to sleep with me after a few.

    Bring on the fat tax. I want the fatties….f#cked. See how they like being dehumanised and humiliated. 😛 Having a gut full of food can make one angry and stupid just like drugs.

    I agree squirrel VB ftw. I don’t mind a few “craft” beers, which usually just means adding banana or herbs or some fairy crap, but not really worth the money.

    • Alex Heyworth

      Best beer of them all is brewed on the Gold Coast: it’s called My Wife’s Bitter.

      Only joking, of course. There really is a beer of that name, though, and it is brewed on the GC.

  9. False alarm, everyone relax, drank enough beer on Wed night to skyrocket consumption rates, QE’d the beer market.

  10. Alex Heyworth

    The tax angle of this has an interesting point on the side: the Henry Review found that taxes on alcohol are among the few that actually benefit the economy. Presumably implying that alcohol consumption has a negative effect on the economy (not surprising, given the cost of supplying all those emergency department treatments as a result of alcohol-fueled violence and the effects of drink driving).

  11. No one has asked whether the illegal drug trade in recreational might have expanded at the expense of the alcohol trade over the past 20 years. That could be a significant impact.

    For those who think that expensive craft beers are better, have some fun with a blind beer tasting of say 8 beers with some friends.

    Our winner was a girl who could associate the taste with a boyfriend and then rember the name of what he drank!

    For those with an interst in wine, read Elliott Morss blog on the results of blind tastings which include doubles of a single wine as a measure of ability to detect the same wine twice in the tasting and consistency in scoring. The other big finding is that cask wines are often preferred to much more expensive wines. Some people can’t taste red vs white if blindfolded. People are greatly influenced by price and label when awarding points for a wine. Taste one week with open tasting and then repeat the tasting but as a blind tsting the next week and compare points and rankings. Across multiple tasters, rankings sometimes give different results to allocating points.