How Much a Six-Pack of Beer Cost the Year You Turned 21

Baseball Fan Wearing Double Beer Hat

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Baseball Fan Wearing Double Beer Hat
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A Coming of Age Tale

Hear us out: Beer is important. Beer is so important, in fact, it may have been the reason our hunter-gatherer ancestors settled down and invented civilization in the first place. Many archaeologists think the earliest farmers may have settled down primarily so they could grow grain and ferment it into beer, even before anybody got around to inventing bread.


In modern times, beer remains important enough that the United States government officially keeps track of its cost: the Consumer Price Index, maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, has recorded the cost of “beer, ale and other malt beverages at home” every year since the early 1950s. Here's how beer prices have changed over recent American history and how much a six-pack cost the year you turned 21, alongside some notable beer-related happenings.


All inflation adjustments are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator, comparing prices in January of a given year to prices in March 2023.

1950's Vintage Goebel beer Sign

1950s: Beer Prices

At first glance, beer prices in the 1950s look low — especially when measured in 2023 dollars — but after adjusting prices for inflation, a six-pack of beer back then cost almost 50 percent more than it does today (even after the past year's price increases). Here's the cost of a six-pack in the 1950s, plus the inflation-adjusted equivalent today:


1952: $1.57 (equivalent to $17.88 today)

1953: $1.57 ($17.82)

1954: $1.62 ($18.18)

1955: $1.61 ($18.20)

1956: $1.64 ($18.47)

1957: $1.67 ($18.26)

1958: $1.66 ($17.52)

1959: $1.68 ($17.49)

US WI Milwaukee WI 1950s PABST BLUE RIBBON BREWERY by Up North Memories (CC BY-NC-ND)

1950s: Beer Happenings

In the 1940s and early 1950s, the United States Brewers Foundation ran a series of magazine advertisements promoting beer at family gatherings and calling it “America's beverage of moderation” (compared to distilled spirits with far higher alcohol levels).


Despite such official calls for moderate consumption, the Fifties are also when students at Dartmouth College are said to have invented the distinctly immoderate game of beer pong.

1960s Beer Advertisement

1960s: Beer Prices

In absolute dollars and cents, beer prices rose very slowly in the first half of the decade but picked up the pace in the second. Despite this, the real, inflation-adjusted price of beer continued its decline.


1960: $1.70 (equivalent to $17.51 today)

1961: $1.70 ($17.22)

1962: $1.71 ($17.20)

1963: $1.73 ($17.18)

1964: $1.74 ($17.00)

1965: $1.76 ($17.03)

1966: $1.79 ($16.99)

1967: $1.82 ($16.70)

1968: $1.87 ($16.55)

1969: $1.92 ($16.28)


Related: Cheap Beers That Are a Source of Hometown Pride

Beer in the sand
Archive Photos / Getty Images
Miller High Life Beer, 70's print ad

1970s: Beer Prices

The Seventies were a decade plagued by “stagflation” (a portmanteau of “inflation” and “economic stagnation”).  Beer prices broke the two-dollar barrier at the beginning of the decade and topped three dollars by the end of it.


1970: $1.98 (equivalent to $15.81 today)

1971: $2.05 ($15.55)

1972: $2.07 ($15.20)

1973: $2.10 ($14.88)

1974: $2.30 ($14.90)

1975: $2.55 ($14.77)

1976: $2.61 ($14.17)

1977: $2.65 ($13.67)

1978: $2.80 ($13.52)

1979: $3.09 ($13.66)

A six-pack of Ballantine's limited edition commemorative beer honoring the American Bicentennial, 1976
Santi Visalli / Getty Images

1970s: Beer Happenings

People have brewed beer at home for thousands of years, but the United States made the practice illegal during Prohibition and it stayed illegal until 1978, when then-president Jimmy Carter signed a bill legalizing the home production of beer or wine for personal use.

Vintage 80s beer cans

1980s: Beer Prices

The 1980s are considered the start of the microbrew revolution in the US. Increased competition from a growing number of independent beer producers doubtless contributed to beer's growing affordability (after adjusting for inflation).


1980: $3.40 (equivalent to $13.19 today)

1981: $3.65 ($12.66)

1982: $3.82 ($12.23)

1983: $4.04 ($12.47)

1984: $4.18 ($12.38)

1985: $4.29 ($12.27)

1986: $4.37 ($12.03)

1987: $4.45 ($12.08)

1988: $4.59 ($11.97)

1989: $4.75 ($11.84)


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beer-drinking goat mayor

1980s: Beer Happenings

In 1984, the National Drinking Age Act raised the drinking age to 21 in all 50 states. Two years later, in 1986, the town of Lajitas, Texas, elected a beer-drinking goat named Clay Henry to be its mayor.

Beer cans from the 90's

1990s: Beer Prices

In 1991 the federal government doubled the tax rate on beer, leading to a steep and noticeable price increase from the previous year.


1990: $4.96 (equivalent to $11.75 today)

1991: $5.56 ($12.47)

1992: $5.77 ($12.61)

1993: $5.75 ($12.17)

1994: $5.76 ($11.89)

1995: $5.78 ($11.61)

1996: $5.92 ($11.57)

1997: $5.95 ($11.29)

1998: $5.96 ($11.13)

1999: $6.10 ($11.21)


1990s: Beer Happenings

In 1994, it became legal in the United States to sell beers with the alcohol content printed on the containers. In sadder news, beer-drinking Mayor Clay Henry of Lajitas, Texas, died in 1992 after his own son head-butted him to death during rutting season.

2000s Miller Lite Beer

2000s: Beer Prices

Despite the tax increases of the early 1990s, the new millennium continued the previous half-century's trend of beer growing ever-cheaper, in real, inflation-adjusted costs.


2000: $6.30 (equivalent to $11.27 today)

2001: $6.46 ($11.41)

2002: $6.62 ($11.28)

2003: $6.77 ($11.25)

2004: $7.02 ($11.44)

2005: $7.09 ($11.22)

2006: $7.16 ($10.90)

2007: $7.40 ($11.03)

2008: $7.65 ($10.94)

2009: $7.93 ($11.34)

Miller Lite Beer

2000s: Beer Happenings

A shortage of hops led to the “great beer crisis of 2008,” when supplies of hops became so limited that breweries had to enter a lottery to determine who would get the chance to buy some. It took a couple of years for supplies and prices to stabilize again.

Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale by Davide D'Amico (CC BY-SA)

2010s: Beer Prices

Although beer prices in absolute dollars were higher than ever before, in real, inflation-adjusted terms beer was the cheapest it's ever been. In 2018, the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health published a paper investigating “an international analysis of the price and affordability of beer,” concluding that “the increased affordability over time of beer in most countries raises concerns about public health.”


2010: $8.07 (equivalent to $11.24 today)

2011: $8.19 ($11.23)

2012: $8.34 ($11.11)

2013: $8.48 ($11.12)

2014: $8.59 ($11.08)

2015: $8.64 ($11.16)

2016: $8.80 ($11.21)

2017: $8.96 ($11.14)

2018: $9.03 ($11.00)

Democratic presidential candidate US Sen
Democratic presidential candidate US Sen by EMMANUEL DUNAND (None)