Urban Whiskey Angst

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There’s a great article in the New York Times this week with lots of juicy comments about the angst of urban living these days now that rents are sky-high, homelessness is rampant, the traffic is debilitating, and the middle class continues to vanish in places like San Francisco and Seattle. While the point of the op-ed was to discuss the manner in which we describe our anxieties, comparing them to what we see and fear in other major cities, the feedback from readers is a cornucopia of responses that range from bitter and desolate to bushy-eyed and optimistic. Some folks are terribly upset with the way the world is going, while others are perfectly fine with it. It’s all very reminiscent of what we’ve seen happen with spirits over the last decade:

  • high rents = high prices

  • lack of affordable housing = lack of affordable bottles

  • gentrification of certain neighborhoods = yuppification of certain brands

  • urban sprawl = craft distillery boom

  • traffic = too many customers

  • tech bros buying up all the property = tech bros buying up all the Pappy

What we’re ultimately talking about here is capitalism, right? In the case of both life and alcohol, we’re dealing with trends that send people surging in a certain direction, driving up demand for supplies, and pricing out the individuals who can no longer afford to participate. That’s how a number of the commenters responded, at least. “Does the author want us to become Detroit?” one defender asked. “The author secretly wants to say what is bad about liberal voices because we are successful,” another added. “You can live wherever you want in America,” said a Bay Area resident; “If you don’t like it here then move.”

I have my own views about gentrification and the fact that many of the modern enterprises replacing our long-standing institutions (profitable or not) are speculative, short-lived, and show no desire to build any real community ties, but I’ll save that for another soapbox. Having just finished an exhausting multi-home move, I can say with updated authority: moving is hard, incredibly expensive, and likely impossible for a number Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Switching booze brands, on the other hand, is only sentimental in its difficulty. It may be painful, tragic, and aggravating, but there are plenty of delicious, plentiful, and affordable brands outside the cult bubble.

You may not be able to afford that move to Austin or Portland right now, or that house in the suburbs, but you can definitely afford to drink something new. Sometimes small steps lead to larger ones.

-David Driscoll