Beer appears to be the non-essential necessary item that best demonstrates - to Phuket expats at any rate - the problems caused by flood-driven shortages and profit-taking on Phuket.
With three US warships about to disgorge thirsty crews of up to 400 onto Phuket on Friday, the question on everybody's lips will be: ''How can I replace this question with a beer?''
The answer is, easily - provided you're happy to settle for a beer brand that might not necessarily be your first choice, and at a price that might not even be your first, second or third choice.
The brown amber fluid remains available and it always has been available on Phuket, despite the closure of one large brewery and the difficulties in maintaining supplies from others.
Once upon a time last century, before the advent of supermarkets, expat residents on Phuket would spend a lot of time seeking goods at various local stores. With flood scarcities, the shop-around necessity has made a comeback.
But there's a difference - the irregular and illegal price hikes.
Preechavude ''Prab'' Keesin, who runs Patong's Hollywood disco in Soi Bangla, said yesterday that the cost of beer had risen by 30-40 percent during the floods. But he said many venues were absorbing the extra cost and not passing it on to consumers.
''One of the biggest problems is that the additional cost comes right as high season is about to start,'' he said. ''What it means is that most venues are unable to hire extra staff, as they normally would, and some have had to delay renovations.''
The whole beer buying market, which used to run on credit, now revolved entirely around cash, he said. ''We've had to look further afield, too, and truck supplies in from as far away as Isarn,'' he said.
For a change, because of unavailability, cans were being sold in place of bottles.
The picture varied at bars around Patong but there were no reports of bars running dry - although some have increased prices instantly, and dramatically.
One bar owner reported that ''unscrupulous wholesalers'' in Phuket City were now asking 1300-1400 baht for a carton of Singha beer that had once cost almost half as much.
Steve Wood of the Aussie Bar in Soi Bangla said: ''Most of the bars still have beer but some are jacking up their prices. We stocked up when the problem began, so we'll be ok for another couple of weeks at least. We aren't going to jack up our prices unless we absolutely have to.''
A Phuketwan reporter's recent experience reflects the need to shop around. At lunch in a Phuket City restaurant yesterday, a delivery vehicle pulled up outside and multiple boxes of Chang and Leo were unloaded.
Last night, a search at a local 7 Eleven produced no beer, while a Tops outlet nearby had plenty, but no Singha.
And at an unlikely local Mom and Pop store, treasure at last: bottle after bottle of icy cold Singha, at the regular price.