No froth in the beer industry …

Can it be possible? The Beer Institute trade association is reporting that U.S. beer sales are actually declining.

Chalk up one more piece of evidence showing that this economic downturn is a vastly different animal. In previous periods of recession, beer sales did not really suffer. Perhaps that’s because it’s been a relatively inexpensive discretionary item. If you’re feeling down about the economy or your personal finances, why not drown your sorrows in a nice cold one?

Not so this time around. The Beer Institute reports that domestic brew sales have declined 4% in the first two months of 2009 compared to the same period last year, while import beer sales are off a whopping 19%. Not only that, foreign beer sales registered a decline for the entire year of 2008 as well.

Shipments from Mexico have fallen nearly 14% so far this year compared to last, led by Corona. But Corona is still America’s top-selling foreign brew, beating Heineken by a long shot. Speaking of which … beer sales from Holland have declined by an even bigger percentage (more than 25%).

What should we make of these statistics? Are Americans now tightening their belts on absolutely everything?

Or maybe we’re doing for our health what we’re also doing for our personal savings rate. Perhaps switching to something better than brewskies – like heart-healthy red wine? We’ll have to wait for the latest statistics from the National Association of American Wineries to find out.

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