Beer in a cooler at the Yokota Air Base Shoppette.

Beer in a cooler at the Yokota Air Base Shoppette. (Bryce S. Dubee / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Poppin’ a top at 5 o’clock has gotten more expensive for those who do their shopping at AAFES stores.

Prices on many brands of beer rose this month, as some have each month this year.

In January, a case of bottles of Budweiser cost $16.60. In March it cost $17.60, and this month it’s up to $19.60. A case of Heineken that cost $21 in January is now sold for $28.40.

“Every time you go into the store the prices are bumped up, bumped up, bumped up,” Bud drinker and disgruntled customer Bob Raymond said. “When it pushed $19, I was like, “‘You’ve got to be kidding.’”

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said that since the late 1990s its prices for beer and alcohol have been based on market prices in the continental United States, similar to gasoline. AAFES conducts a stateside survey each month and then prices the beer accordingly.

“Across the board, beer has gone up recently due to price increases in the U.S.,” AAFES Pacific spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan Potter said. “Our directive is we are supposed to mirror those prices.”

He referred to DOD Instruction 1330.09, which deals with pricing of distilled spirits at exchanges. AAFES interprets the instruction to include beer as well, Potter said.

The instruction states that exchange stores in the United States may discount distilled spirits “no more than 10 percent less than the best shelf price in Alcohol Beverage Control States (ABC) and 5 percent less in non-ABC states.”

Prices overseas, according to the directive, “shall be priced within the range of prices established” for stores in the States, unless “the same alcoholic beverages are sold locally for less.” Those beverages may be sold for 10 percent less than the local price.

Raymond, 40, a former Marine and current on-base employee, said the rising beer prices have been a frequent topic among his friends. A couple of weeks ago, he got a text message from one of them saying “AAFES beer prices suck.”

Stateside beer prices reflect state and federal taxes on alcohol — taxes AAFES is exempt from paying because it is a government business.

“After nearly 112 years of service, this command believes that market-based pricing is one of the best ways to ensure American troops find prices they would expect to find if they were living in the United States,” an AAFES statement from headquarters in Dallas said in response to a Stars and Stripes query about beer prices.

At Navy exchange stores, prices on beer are considerably cheaper. Last week, a case of bottles of Budweiser cost $15. Heineken cost $18 and Corona $19, which is $10 cheaper than the same case at an AAFES store.

According to NEX spokeswoman Kristine Sturkie, Navy exchange stores also base their beer prices on those in the States, but prices are only changed once a year.

“We work with our AAFES counterparts to develop similar price retails,” she said.

Both AAFES and NEX “do pass along savings, depending on special deals we are given by distributor,” Potter said. He noted that Budweiser suitcases were discounted in stores recently because the brewer, Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, was pushing that product.

“We always give the best price we possibly can,” he said.

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