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Americans continue to cut back on spending where they can, and for many that means adjusting beer purchases. Not buying less of it, don't be silly—buying cheaper brands. Here's Real Time Economics' Kelly Evans:

It’s well known that cash-strapped Americans are trading down and giving up nonessential items like restaurant meals, designer clothes and vacations. But switching from Budweiser or Heineken to Busch (OTCQB:AHBIF) and Natural Light? Yes, even that, according to July 4 sales data from Information Resources Inc.

Heineken sales sank 18% from the previous year in grocery, convenience and drug stores during the two-week period ended July 5, followed by Budweiser at 14%. Corona Extra sales dropped 11%, while Miller Lite declined 9% and Bud Light fell 7%. Coors Light [Molson Coors (TAP)] sales held up better, falling less than 1% from a year ago.

Meanwhile, sales of “subpremium” beers including Busch [Anheuser-Busch (OTC:HINKY)], Natural Light and Keystone posted “substantial gains”, according to Ad Age, which didn’t provide the specifics.

It’s a sign that despite the cheap, frat-party image of those brands (and debatable taste), consumers are focused on one thing right now: The bottom line.

This certainly looks like an effort to save money. On the other hand, trends are a funny thing. During the flush times of a few years ago, New York hipsters resurrected downmarket Pabst Blue Ribbon, which began to appear in upscale bars at upscale prices. Perhaps trendsetters are simply bestowing the cool label on other, previously forlorn brands. Consider, for example, this Felix Salmon tweet from last weekend:

Overheard at East Williamsburg Pig Roast (with free Colt 45): "Everybody looks way too clean"

Now it could be that Colt 45 and cleanliness are money-saving ideas brought on by recession. On the other hand, Mr Salmon's next tweet remarked on the ubiquitousness of very expensive cameras. There's no accounting for taste, recession or no.

This article originally appeared on The Economist.com

Source: Downscale Beer: A Sign of the Times?