TIME Saving & Spending

The $1 Draft Beer Is Not Extinct

Philip Nealey / Getty Images

One man set off on the noblest of quests: finding a bar that still sells draft beer for $1. It’s a task could have been doomed to failure a decade ago, let alone right now—in swanky Miami, of all places.

Kyle Swenson of the Miami New Times recently set off trying to find the impossible. His mission was to locate — and enjoy one, two, or nine — $1 drafts at a bar somewhere in the greater Miami area. He had a few ground rules, including the requirements that the $1 beverage be draft beer only (no cans or bottles), and that the bar’s $1 draft special must be available every day of the week, so no $1 Draft Tuesdays or anything. Also, no chain restaurants.

Besides the obvious reason for the quest—he’s a fan of cheap beer, and $1 is cheap for a soda, let alone anything alcoholic—what is it that drove this modern-day Ponce de Leon on a search for something that is unlikely to exist? Well, $1 is a nice round number. (Cheap too, has that been mentioned?) But Swenson also writes that there’s also something wonderfully democratic—American even—about the $1 beer:

Nothing beats the neat and easy economics of the dollar draft. Not only do ten singles alone pack enough kinetic pop for a one-way trip to a buzzy, calm headspace but the dollar draft is the great equalizer. In the bar serving the one-buck beer, nobody’s priced out; the bricklayer and the longshoreman, the Russian gazillionaire and the Gucci bro drink together.

Yet over the course of several weeks last fall, Swenson failed at every turn to find the elusive dollar draft. At any place remotely trendy, draft beers go for at least five times more than his goal price. Even at a VFW ($2.25 bottles) and a gas station ($1.68 for a Bud Light tallboy), it’s impossible to trade a single dollar for a single beer.

(MORE: After PBR: Will the Next Great Hipster Beer Please Stand Up?)

A few dive bars have Coors Light or Bud on draft for $2 or $2.50 during happy hour. All sorts of colorful characters lament about how expensive things have gotten in South Florida, and the nation as a whole, and their leads for draft beers in the $1 vicinity are one dead end after another. Eventually, Swenson finds his way to the Wayside Inn, a family-owned Dania Beach dive bar with a two-star rating on Yelp—and also, more importantly, with a happy hour special featuring 12 oz. mugs of beer for (yes!) $1.

“We have a lot of people that have been coming here forever, and we’re trying to keep the deal going,” the owner tells Swenson. Before long, however, the dollar draft is bound to disappear even here, perhaps bringing on the end of grungy blue-collar dive bar culture with it. The owner said that the distributors just raised the price of kegs. She’s trying to keep $1 drafts during happy hour, but no one knows how long she’ll be able to keep the special going.

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