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Are hipsters to blame for the rising cost of budget brews?

American beer Pabst Blue Ribbon's brewing and distribution in Canada is handled by Sleeman Breweries Ltd.

Lee Brown/The Canadian Press

For a subculture dressed in geeky glasses and non-threatening thrift-store finds, hipsters sure get blamed for a lot of things.

Their latest offense is a fondness for budget beer. Cheap beer is becoming an "endangered species" in New York City, wrote Corky Siemaszko of the New York Daily News, "and you can blame Pabst Blue Ribbon-swilling hipsters for that."

Price hikes for budget brews have soared compared to increases for premium beers, according to Restaurant Sciences, which monitors U.S. food and beverage sales.

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"I believe the single biggest driver in sub-premium beer price increases is indeed specifically PBR," said the research firm's president, Chuck Ellis. "It has become quite fashionable."

But in fairness to hipsters – who, by definition, would never refer to themselves as such – Pabst Blue Ribbon has had lowbrow cachet for more than a decade, starting with a cameo appearance in the 1986 David Lynch movie Blue Velvet . Are bearded 20-year-olds truly to blame for the rising cost of cheap beer? Or might the dismal economy have something to do with it?

Hipsters are an easy target for society's ills. An ambiguous group, these would-be beatniks don't really stand for anything other than a horror of becoming mainstream.

Most people would be hardpressed to define a hipster, but Urban Dictionary offers the standard description: "Someone who listens to bands you've never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts, and believes they are better than you."

So, if you're not up on your indie rock, blame a hipster for making you feel insecure. Or if you can't find an affordable apartment in a cool neighbourhood, blame hipsters for driving up the rents. Or if you are weirded out by a parenting practice you've never heard of, call it a "hipster trend" (case in point: diaper-free babies, which is really more of a granola thing).

People love to loathe hipsters. Entire blog posts are devoted to the pastime, including's "Hipster trends we hate." (Strangely, Ray-Bans and skinny jeans figure high on the list, although both are as mainstream as they come.)

Just 16 per cent of Americans have a favourable opinion of hipsters, according to a recent report from Public Policy Polling. In the survey, 27 per cent of voters said hipsters should be subjected to a special tax "for being so annoying." Nevertheless, half of voters aged 18 to 29 identified themselves as hipsters.

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Perhaps it's time to ask, "Will the real hipster please stand up?" According to cultural critics at The Atlantic and elsewhere, we are already living in a post-hipster world. New School intellectual historian Mark Greif documented a phenomenon called "hipster accusation," in which counterculture types use "hipster" as an insult to wannabes. When half of youth under age 29 call themselves hipsters, it's the death knell for cool – and the type of creative thinking that sees charm in scruffy bars and quirky clothing overlooked by mainstream consumers.

It could be that bona fide hipsters, and not cheap beer, are the truly endangered species.

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More


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