In honour of the release of our fast-selling book for Canadian students More Money For Beer and Textbooks last week, I thought we’d take a fun look at some personal finance principles applied to students’ beverage choices today. My favorite quote from the book is one that I blatantly stole from one of my heroes, UFC fighter Forest Griffin. When Forrest one day asked his dad why he drank a relatively poor-tasting discount beer his father replied:
“It’s only 3.1 cents per ounce. Beer is an acquired taste, so you might as well acquire a taste for cheap beer.”
Truer words have never been spoken. If there was even an easy-to-apply tip to save a student’s budget, it’s to drink cheaper booze (I suppose the most responsible act would simply be not to spend money on a poison such as alcohol at all – but who the hell wants to listen to that sort of stuff?). We’ll leave the hard booze discussion for another day, and focus on how to stretch your budget when it comes to that gift from the gods in the form of hops and barley – aka BEER!
Playing the Big Shot On CampusOnce you’ve spent half a decade on a post-secondary campus you start to pick up on some certain seasonal patterns and cycles that tend to repeat year after year. Inevitably when September rolls around and students are “flush” with cash from their summer jobs and student loan applications, they feel the need to flaunt a little bit of status by buying fancy import beers, or relatively expensive domestic brands. Now I understand the logic in buying a great-tasting beer if you are truly going to sip it over the course of an hour, or along with a superb meal. Heck, now that I’m pretty much an old man, I take pride in the wide-range of beers I’ve sampled and come to enjoy. On the other hand, when I was 18 I did not “casually enjoy” many beers, and definitely had no idea what a good beer actually tasted like. If you’re drinking beer for the sake of getting alcohol into your system and all the loveliness that comes with that state of being, then discount beer is exactly what you’re looking for and don’t let any preppy graduate students tell you different. Besides, watch what beer they’re drinking come April – it’ll be the same “value-based” choices you should be making my thirsty friend.
The Dirty Dozen Discount Beers in Canada
Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fairly extensive experience in researching this topic, but I wasn’t going to merely rely on my personal taste buds when beer reputations are at stake. So, I actually did some extensive research (re: looked at a few websites and forums) to see what Canadian brands give the best bang for your buck based primarily on their status as a discount beer, and then on their taste and alcoholic content per dollar. Some of the options are only available in certain parts of Canada, and for a few of the choices there was some debate as to whether the selection was truly discount priced. Without further ado, here is your 12-pack of Canadian greats for students across the Great White North:
1) Carling (heavily influenced by my personal preference)
2) James Ready
8) Pabst Blue Ribbon (apparently hipsters haven’t totally killed this beer’s appeal)
9) Molson Dry
10) Black Label
The dishonourable mention list includes: Lakeport (for my money, the worse option on the list), OV, and Club.
Stretching Your Beer Budget
Now if you want to be a real cool customer, I believe the superior choice is to brew your own beer. At one point we had a fairly extensive operation going on our floor in residence (we paid off the angel-like cleaning ladies in flowers and hugs, while administration was never the wiser). We’d simply save our first few hundred empties from the first week of the year, and wash them out thoroughly before using them to bottle our new brew. As long as no one pays for anything you’re not breaking any criminal laws. In what became our mantra for drinking homebrew and discount beers we’d recite, “After the first few they all taste the same anyway.” By the end, the product we were able to produce was easily as good as some of the options on the list above. This might be an idea for a whole post of its own in the future!
Finally, if you’re more of the travelling type as opposed to being a brew-master, you’ve no doubt noticed that in the USA every beer is a discount beer for some reason. This is because the USA believes that sins should not be taxed as much as we do in Canada, and so the most expensive beers they offer in most stores would be roughly equivalent to our discount prices. If you’re visiting the Land of the Free for more than 48 hours, you can bring back a 24 of beer (or 1.5L of wine, or a 40 of hard liquor) duty-free, so make sure and take advantage of that.
Let the Debate Begin!
I’m sure the list will generate some serious debate amongst you beer aficionados out there. If it’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that while most students can’t be bothered to talk about politics or vote for who leads their country, they are deeply emotionally invested in the what their choice of beer says about them.
“More Beers More Cheers, That’s It That’s All!” – Fubar