One Man's Quest to Find a $1 Beer in South Florida

One Man's Quest to Find a $1 Beer in South Florida
Illustration by Craig LaRotonda

It was me this time, but it just as easily could've been you.

"The cost of a lot of beer now at wholesale prohibits any sane person from selling that for a dollar."

The week had been an emotional bruiser. Deadlines, bosses, landlords, bank tellers, traffic, lady friend — each had their go, catching me with one unexpected kaboom after another until my nerves were breached and my patience was in hospice care. And it was only Wednesday.

I needed a beer. A draft, ice-cold. Not the memory wipe of a dusk-to-dawn bender. Just one. Something to pull a temporary curtain over all the noise. A breather before the next round.

VFW Post 3559 is a longtime outpost of affordable drinking on South Beach, but — alas — it doesn't offer $1 draft beer. The Bud that bartender Debbie Brooks is offering goes for $2.25.
Jacob Katel
VFW Post 3559 is a longtime outpost of affordable drinking on South Beach, but — alas — it doesn't offer $1 draft beer. The Bud that bartender Debbie Brooks is offering goes for $2.25.
Like any good American dive, however, the VFW offers darts and photos of random people on the wall.
Jacob Katel
Like any good American dive, however, the VFW offers darts and photos of random people on the wall.

So I popped into Abbey Brewing Co. in South Beach. The last gulp of an IPA splashed in my glass as I hooked my head around to take in the happy-hour crowd. A couple nuzzled in a booth. A lonely tourist locked on SportsCenter. It was a clean, poorly lighted place, to twist the line from Hemingway. The quintessential American rest stop for the battered soul: the bar.

The guy manning the counter slipped me the bill. My wallet was out before I scoped the charge: $4.50. That's with a $2 discount for happy hour.

Suddenly, my easy-earned peace was rubble. A whole hosanna choir of fat ladies began screaming in my head: "Too fucking expensive."

"Hey, man," I said to the bartender, papering over my annoyance with a buddy-buddy vibe, "how do you guys decide how much to charge for a beer?"

"I guess it's just what the owner decides he needs to charge to brew the beer," the guy said.

"Because this," I say, pushing a finger at the $6.50 on the menu, "is pricey."

Everything in South Florida is getting too fucking expensive. True, this place has always been wrapped in an haute couture image, the drop-top destination for global elites. But Maybach Miami is more mask than reality, and underneath, this region has working-class guts. Unfortunately, as the country stumbles out of the Great Recession, it's the normal folks who are getting sidelined and screwed.

Start with the land. Real estate prices are in upswing. I'll bet you a case of Ice House your rent has gone up in the past three months. It's been jacked for me and everyone else I know. And with land, so goes the price of everything else: fuel (10 cents higher than the national average), natural gas prices (more than 50 percent higher), and food. They just keep slapping meretricious layers of cost over the region like paint jobs on a stolen Camaro.

That's why those wallet-busting bar tabs sting. I'm from the Rust Belt, where we fight crippling winters and postindustrial blues with feeding tubes of cut-rate beer. I've stanched my own worst hours with soul-boosting trips to cheap dives, where amber waves flow easily, the American spirit in 16 ounces. And let's face it: If you're on the losing end of a boom economy, cheap drinks are the only consolation prize.

But South Florida is becoming a 1-percenter playpen. The succor of the working stiff is hard to find. So, like a postrecession Aeneas skiffing over a Mediterranean of booze, looking for a homeland that might exist no more, I set off on a quest for the greatest beer deal of them all — the dollar draft.


I lay out some ground rules for my search. (1) Draft beer only. (2) No one-night-a-week deals; any bar that satisfies my quest has to offer a daily special. (3) No chain restaurants. (4) No Googling — word-of-mouth suggestions only. On a random Tuesday night in November, I set out into the belly of the boom economy, the blingy Oz of silicone beach bods and glass condo towers: South Beach.

Lesson number one from the field: It's hard to fit a fat roll of cash in your pocket if you're wearing skinny jeans. Put it in your back pocket: hard to sit. Front pocket: porny bulge. Still, I break two Andrew Jacksons down to 40 Washingtons and pocket that rubber-band bank.

If any place has a dollar draft, I figure, it's got to be the VFW Post 3559 — an open secret tucked into a condo building on West Avenue, with buzzer access. Marlboro smoke veils the small room looking out onto Biscayne Bay. By 5 p.m., regulars are hunkered down on stools, each new arrival heralded by backslaps and handshakes.

But there's no dollar beer here. Bud Light comes in the bottle for $2.25. I load up on two.

"The days of the dollar draft on the Beach are dead," one patron grumbles. A lady who overhears that I'm a New Times writer looking for cheap drinks shakes her head solemnly. "They don't pay you too much over there, do they?"

I plot a course northeast. Quickly, my bulging bank of singles crash-diets down to a slim roll. At Lost Weekend on Española Way, a Fat Tire is $5.02. I skip over to Finnegan's Way on Ocean ($5). The Whitelaw Hotel and Bar ($7.62). FL Cafe ($7.56). Tomorrow, I'll find a Post-it that says "beech place draf $5.24."

On the north end of Washington and 13th, I'm struggling to get my roll of ones comfortably into my jeans pocket when I lock eyes on two women who are sandblasted with makeup and tilting on club heels.

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75 comments
Lynxx3
Lynxx3

Great story Kyle. 

danny_geee
danny_geee

Lol wow this was such an interesting read . I don't even like reading stories in the paper n shit but this was exceptional

barnyard2217
barnyard2217

You can't get a glass of panther piss for a $1 in S.Florida.

Aldo Malbec
Aldo Malbec

Gone to Puerto Rico. All day everyday!

Zalykha Maria
Zalykha Maria

Jorgie Chamorro I can't show my face there ever since I was accused of wearing a wig

Marco Zug
Marco Zug

Tall PBR at @lostwekeend miami beach

Jorgie Chamorro
Jorgie Chamorro

Zalykha Maria omg remember this bitch from Veterans!! lol

Andrew West
Andrew West

you can get 1dollar beers on old cheney highway in Orlando fl

Eddy Carballo
Eddy Carballo

A little bit of Philly in Miami Springs...$2 (14 oz) Drafts...AND the best Philly Cheesesteak in town.

Gonzalo del Barrio
Gonzalo del Barrio

Catch of the Day in Dolphin Mall has dollar domestics every day from 3pm-7pm

Luis Ricardo Lopez
Luis Ricardo Lopez

Is La Covacha still doing $1 beers on Fridays during happy hour?

Marco Ruiz
Marco Ruiz

When you find it be sure you let me know !

Stephanie Calzadilla
Stephanie Calzadilla

$1 beer and everything else on the menu at 100 Montaditos every Wednesday! All locations

Nick Bernal
Nick Bernal

Any American Legion post has $1.50 draft (yuengling, amber bock, bud/bud light, and miller) all day every day!

Turk Avnayim
Turk Avnayim

FTM Records ϟ Studios has Dollar Yuengling on Draft

Miguel Armenteros
Miguel Armenteros

Graziano's Market in the Gables, $1 draft beers 5-9pm Sunday - Thursday.

andycarr
andycarr

$1.25 drafts in the morning at Artie's, near Lamppost at 2218 North Federal Hwy. In Hollywood.

misterflorida2000
misterflorida2000

Yep, times are changing. When I was younger, people would do slum bar crawls and have private parties and drink case after case of this cheap watered down beer, get bloated and often gotten sick and many times they would throw up. Now people spend more money drinking stronger better beer and they are conservative and careful on what they drink, and they actually appreciate the beer that they do consume. 

Lynne Dear
Lynne Dear

$2 at the Turtle Crawl restaurant on Hollywood Beach.

Alison Alcantara
Alison Alcantara

Great read. I really felt like I was back in South Florida. My favorite was "No, bro. You should probably go home."

Meredith Eastman Argüelles
Meredith Eastman Argüelles

The drink$ in Miami are way too high! It should be considered price gouging to charge 6,7,8$ for a beer in this city!

Juan Arce
Juan Arce

Sportsgrill on birdroad and 117 avenue Robert Gow Courtney WeaverStance Mitchell

Shady King
Shady King

$1.00 beeer in Liberty city...all day !!!

Jenna Goode
Jenna Goode

Pegs pocket but it's only while you're playing pool. Doesn't hole in the wall have $1 beers?

barnyard2217
barnyard2217

Fuc Orlando, you get a knife in the heart by them illegals.

barnyard2217
barnyard2217

Bullshit, the road kill tastes like fuc'n wallpaper with cum sauce you dic heads call cheese whiz.

 
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