Beer Geek

Will work for beer: How long does it take to earn a brew around the world?

Sep. 27, 2012 at 11:50 AM ET

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Ahhhh... bask in the glory of your brew after you've worked hard for it.

Working for the weekend and a good brew? Americans earn about a 12-pack an hour, according to the Beer and Labour report posted on Economist.com this week. 

The study looks at how many minutes it takes the average worker to earn a beer in 27 different countries, taking into account the average retail price of a beer in each and the country’s median hourly wage.

While it’s nifty to see how long it takes workers in different countries to bring home a brew, things get even more interesting when you combine this information with the 2010 global beer consumption data compiled by Kirin Holdings.

Let’s look a few countries to see how fast their workers are earning beers (and how fast they’re throwing them back). 

America

It takes an average American worker 5 minutes to earn enough scratch for a frosty reward, the fastest pace of all the countries profiled in the Beer and Labour report.

Now you may be thinking, “Sure, it takes only 5 minutes to earn a Miller Lite, but I like craft beer – that probably takes a lot longer.” But you’d be wrong. The retail price quoted for a beer in the U.S. is $1.80, or $10.80 for a six-pack, and that puts a nice selection of finely-crafted brews within your reach.

Yet while we may earn our beers faster than any other country, we drink slower than 11 of them.  The United States ranks 12th in the world when it comes to per-capita beer consumption, with the average American consuming 123.5 bottles of the stuff per year. 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic wants to know if we’d like a nipple for our 123.5 bottles, because compared to them, we drink like babies. Czechs throw back more beer per capita than any other country on the planet: an average of 208.1 bottles a year. 

While this seems like a staggering number, it could be worse. Per-capita beer consumption in the Czech Republic actually dropped by more than 10 percent between 2009 and 2010.

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As for beer-earning speed, the Czechs ranks right behind Americans; it takes a worker there about 6 minutes to earn a tasty brew. Do a little math (6 minutes per beer times 208 bottles), and you’ll find that it takes a worker about 21 hours of labor each year to keep their glasses full of delicious Czech Pilsner.

Germany

Germany is right behind the Czech Republic in both the time it takes to earn an Altbier or a Marzen (7 minutes or so) and the amount of beer they consume per capita: 168.7 bottles per year.

That rate of consumption should make sense to those familiar with German culture: Beer is tightly interwoven with their national identity, from celebrating Oktoberfest to serving the stuff at McDonald's.  I’m surprised they don’t have beer fountains there – oh wait, they do!   

India

Elsewhere around the globe, things are not so rosy for beer fanciers. In India, it takes a worker almost an hour to earn enough to afford the pale ales that bear that country’s name. Beer is pricey in India ($1.40 per brew, says the Beer and Labour data) and, according to the International Monetary Fund, the average per-capita income in India is about $1,000 U.S. dollars a year. 

Those figures might explain the fact that, even though India represents 17 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for less than 1 percent of the global beer market.

China

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, China consumes a lot of everything, and beer is no exception. China is the No. 1 consumer of beer in the world, accounting for 24.5 percent of the global beer market – a figure that dwarfs the annual consumption of the country in second place, the United States, with only 13.2 percent. 

But that's due to the nation's enormous population, not because the Chinese are thirstier than us. Actually, China’s per-capita consumption is quite low, only 49th in the world.

That's changing, however: From 2001 to 2010, China's per-capita beer consumption shot up 80 percent. If the trend continues, we’ll soon be unloading iPhones and TVs from container ships and sending them back stocked with Stone Arrogant Bastard and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

It currently takes the average Chinese worker about 9 minutes of labor to be able to afford a beer, which at 55 cents a pop represents some of the cheapest suds on the planet.

Canada

It takes our neighbors to the north more than twice as long as workers in the U.S. to afford a beer (about 11 minutes), and when they pony up for a pint they’re paying nearly double than what we do ($3.20 compared to our $1.80). Ouch, eh?

But the higher prices do little to slow them down: The average Canadian consumes 108 beers per year, only about (or aboot) 15 beers fewer than the average American.

Add all of this up, and I’m happy to be a beer geek living in America. Our beer isn’t the cheapest in the world, but the variety and craftsmanship offered up by our craft brewers are second to none, and our ability to earn a well-crafted reward is also unmatched in the world.

If you love finely crafted, affordable beer, there’s no better place to be than right here, right now. Heck, if you’re reading this at work, you probably just earned a beer – is it 5 yet?!

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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