Inflation? Omicron? Americans shopped right through it all

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RETAIL THERAPY

Never underestimate just how much Americans are willing to spend to soothe ourselves in the midst of a crisis.

The US economy grew 5.7% last year, the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan was in office and the pinnacle of cool was hanging out in suburban malls.

The last three months of the year were especially strong — GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 6.9% in the fourth quarter.

Why? Because even with inflation at its highest level in nearly four decades and supply chains still backed up from the pandemic shutdown, Americans will always treat Christmas shopping like a professional sport. And consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant, which emerged in the United States after Thanksgiving, arrived too late to significantly curb spending (which means the first quarter of 2022 might not look quite as robust…but we won’t have a clear sense of that for a few months).

My colleague Anneken Tappe has more.

BEER-ISH

It’s the holy grail for brewers: a low-calorie, zero-carb beer that is still, somehow, beer. You know, the thing that’s made from barley and wheat, aka grains, aka complex carbohydrates.

Anheuser-Busch thinks it’s cracked the code with Bud Light Next. It’s being touted as the first zero-carbohydrate beer on the market, with just 80 calories.

How’d they do it? How’d they extract the evil carbs from a drink that’s basically liquid bread? Jennifer Logan, senior general manager of the Georgia plant that’s brewing it, declined to give details about how it’s made, but she told my colleagues Jordan Valinsky and John General that it is a “highly technical process.”

Logan described the crisp taste as a mix between elderberry and chamomile, with a fruity aroma (frankly that’s hard to believe, but OK). “The body is very thin, as you would expect being a zero-carb beer.” The body is very thin… just like yours will be when you switch to Bud Light Next? Because it’s apparently just fizzy water flavored with beer-y essence. Like a beer-flavored La Croix?

We’ll see for ourselves when the beer hits grocery shelves February 7. That’s a week before the Super Bowl, a sacred weekend when calories don’t count and diets start on Monday.

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