The Orchid Of Beer: Women’s Beer Circa 1953

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I believe we tend to think of marketing efforts to create a beer specifically aimed at women as a more recent development, but apparently that’s not the case. I recently discovered that in 1953 the Storz Brewing Co. of Omaha, Nebraska was trying to sell beer to women using the same tired tricks that are often still being used today.

Apparently, in 1953, Storz created the “Storzette,” a smaller package designed for the ladies to be “calorie controlled” and less bitter, and which also had a pink and lavender package with orchids on them, and whose slogan was — believe it or not — “The Orchid of Beer.” Rusty Cans has the full story, from 2004, of the brewery and this dalliance into women’s marketing.

In 1953 Storz tried to market a new product for women, “Storzette.” Designed to be a beer for the ladies it was supposedly not too bitter and was calorie controlled. It also came in a smaller can, 8 ounces, which Storz called “Queen sized” and it came in four can packs called “Princess Packs.” The brewery noted that market studies showed that many women felt that the standard 12 oz can provided too large a serving. The beer inside was also different, made to be less bitter than standard beers. The can even had a pink orchid pictured on it to help it appeal to women. It’s initial test market results in San Diego seemed positive, but in the end the effort was not successful and Storzette did not last long on the market. As a result, the little can with the orchid is very scarce. Storz also used a slogan on its regular cans for awhile in the 1950s, “the Orchid of Beer” which has to be one of the more unusual beer advertising slogans.

Absent any additional information, I can only assume “Calorie Controlled” is done through offering a smaller size can. Smaller portions equals less calories. Of course, you could just drink less, couldn’t you? The control aspect of their claim seems entirely up to the drinker rather than anything designed by the packaging or the beer itself.

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According to orchid websites, the particular type of orchid on the label is a cattleya. Not only do they use a flower, but the color palate is soft pastels, pinks and purple.

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I presume this is a vintage grocery display using a cart filled with six-packs and surrounded by banners. Notice on the side there’s a gal wearing glasses saying the beer is “Strictly for the Girls.”

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And finally, here’s an ad for the beer using an orchid in the advertisement.

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Interestingly, a group of local folks from Omaha revived the Storz brand and opened a newer version of the brewery in 2013.

The Three Europes: Beer, Wine & Vodka

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I love maps, I does, and especially the more interesting graphic ones that go beyond just showing you point a, b and so on, especially the kind often referred to as pictorial maps. So I was excited to find out about this collection, called The Atlas of Prejudice, by Yanko Tsvetkov, a Bulgarian graphic designer living in Spain. From what I can gather, it’s an amazing, sometimes hilarious, collection of maps and charts showing how different groups view themselves and the world around them. He’s recently published a second volume of the atlas, and in promoting the new volume put out this clever poster of 20 ways of “Tearing Europe Apart,” as an example of the kinds of charts to be found in Atlas 2.

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Click here to see this chart full size.

Number 6, in the second row, shows how Europe can be divide into beer, wine or vodka loving/preferring regions.

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Take a look at that yellow sliver of a triangle in continental Europe. I suspect that the whole project is meant to be more thought-provoking and/or funny as opposed to being a completely accurate rendering of data, more using stereotypes or the author’s (and perhaps many other people’s) sense of these differences that are highlighted by the charts. But still, the slice of beer seems a bit too small to me, cutting through Belgium, obviously, the Netherlands, but only a portion of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, and also ignoring most of the Balkans and many far eastern European nations. I had always thought that those areas heavily favored beer, but maybe that’s outdated or was simply wrong. So I ask my Europeans friends and colleagues. Does that look right? Is vodka more popular than beer in most of those areas shown in in blue?

I don’t think he did a similar chart for the U.S. But I think it would look something like this:

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Ninkasi Drops Big One, Signs With Smaller Distributors

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Here’s an interesting little item that speaks to the image that a brewery can, and often strives, to create. While small in and of itself, given the changes we’re seeing in brewery ownership and other business dealings, an important one. This is especially true in the wake of another prominent up and coming Oregon brewery that witnessed a pretty severe backlash for selling an interest in the company to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) last year. And witness how the tribe reacted to the lawsuit that Lagunitas initiated for trademark infringement against Sierra Nevada, despite it being a perfectly reasonable and understandable business decision. What those recent incidents have taught us, if anything, is that perception often matters more in the eyes of customers than following traditional business practices. Apparently, this really isn’t your father’s brewing company, and woe be to any brewery that doesn’t at least follow its own heart, if not the perceived heart of its fanbase.

Ninkasi Brewing, of Eugene, Oregon, announced that they were ending their relationship with their large beer distributor, owned by ABI, and signing with two smaller, locally owned distributors to cover the same territory — “Eugene-based Bigfoot Beverage Distributors and Bellevue, Washington-based Odom Corp.” Apparently, the only reason Nnkasi was with ABI distributors in the first place was because of a buyout a few years ago of the beer distributors that originally sold their beer to the larger ABI-owned one.

According to a story in the Register-Guard, CEO and co-founder Nikos Ridge remarked that this “arrangement did not fit well with Ninkasi’s world view” and added. “We are committed to being an independent and locally owned craft brewery, and feel we will be better aligned long term with independent and locally owned wholesalers.”

It’s interesting that Ninkasi wants to stay true to their roots, even as they expand into other markets, preferring local distributors over potentially more efficient and possibly more effective ones. Even at the expense of their business, they chose what they perceive to be the better fit with their company ethos. That’s a lesson many other brewers will have to learn as they navigate the landscape of the modern age of beer. These things matter to a lot of people, even if they rarely even understand how to run a business, what are the intricacies of trademark law, or what’s involved in signing with a distributor. Perception is your street cred in this day and age, and that’s likely to only intensify as a growing number of breweries are vying for your attention, your loyalty and most importantly, your business.

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The Ninkasi brewery during a quick visit to Eugene last summer.

Wine vs. Beer, Big vs. Small, More Trademark Woes

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Opened in 2012, the tiny Cambria Beer Co. is located in the equally small town of Cambria, described more as a “seaside village,” boasting about 6,000 residents. It’s located along Highway 1, in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and L.A.

The brewery uses a small 3bbl brew sculpture system, and operates a small tap room on Cornwall Street. They offer a wide variety of beer styles, continually rotating. A recent list included five on, with two in the fermenters and three more scheduled right behind those. Beers sell out quickly, but they try to keep up. Owners Aaron and Jennifer Wharton decided that since they were the only brewery in town, that Cambria Beer Company was the right name for their decidedly local enterprise.

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Not everyone agreed. The Jackson Family Farms is best known for Kendall-Jackson wine, but that’s just one of the more than a dozen wineries that they own. Another one of their labels is Cambria Estate Winery. So you’re probably thinking that makes sense, probably located right down the street. Nope. To get to the Cambria Estate Winery from the brewery, you’ll need to head south on Highway 1, then pick up Interstate 101 at the junction in San Luis Obispo. Drive south to Santa Maria, turn left in downtown and drive west out of town to the winery. All told, it will take you about one hour and twenty minutes to get there, because it’s nearly 80 miles away outside the town of Santa Maria, which is even in a different county (Santa Barbara County), too.

I first saw this on Grub Street, but the local newspaper, The Cambrian, naturally has the most complete account in When is Cambria not in Cambria? Apparently, the Whartons have been trying to negotiate to keep their name since they received the C&D letter from KJ’s lawyers on New Year’s Eve.

Unfortunately, as I understand it, when it comes to trademark law, alcohol is alcohol; they’re in the same class of goods as far as trademark is concerned. This is hardly the first time this has happened. Another small brewery in the Bay Area had to add a letter to their name because a spirits company was using the original spelling. A San Francisco brewery not long ago had to change the name of one of its beers, because there was a rum of the same name.

So there is some precedent here, it’s not totally out of left field. The Cambrian author wonders if every business in Cambria using Cambria in their name should be worried, rightly concluding no. But the fact that the winery is so far from the town and they serve largely a different demographic makes it not so cut and dry. A commenter on Reddit who claimed to be close to the parties involved mentioned that the brewery’s attorneys believed they had a strong case, but the $50,000 (minimum) price tag to fight it was too much for them, as it would be for almost any small company. So the brewery did what most people would in this situation, and decided to change their name. Last week, they posted that decision on their Facebook page, asking fans and customers to help them come up with a new name by leaving a comment. They’ve had a lot of suggestions so far, including several funny ones.

I’m starting to think that trademark law may need some modification. Clearly, alcohol is not alcohol anymore. Maybe there was a time when that made sense, but I think most of us can agree that we can tell the difference between beer and wine. And it seems to me geographic truth should trump whatever reason this winery is using a name that has nothing to do with where it’s located. I seem to recall another trademark case where the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) sued Boston Beer Works and lost, the court ruling that “Boston” was too generic a term, ditto “beer.” Komlossy Law has a nice overview of the case, if you’re interested in learning more. And those were both beer companies, so it does seem like Cambria Beer might have had a decent shot at keeping their name. Still, you have to understand not wanting to spend a fortune going to court on an uncertain result. As we learned in “War Games,” sometimes “the only winning move is not to play.” If nothing else, I hope we can all support whatever new name they decide on and stop by and spend our money there the next time we drive by on our way to or from Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Success is always the best revenge.

The Rise Of Cancer

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This has very little to do with beer, but it is related. In covering beer and health over the years, and especially the attacks by prohibitionists, I’ve read more studies, scientific journals and policy papers than you can shake a stick at. What causes different kinds of cancers is something that I’ve ended up following far more than I ever expected to focus on in any way. My mother died of breast cancer, and apparently it runs in my family, on my mother’s side, so perhaps I was predisposed to pay closer attention to cancer.

One thing I’ve noticed about all of the studies purporting to show what causes cancer, or what increases the risk of getting it, or similar conclusions, is that they’re rarely cut and dry. You hardly ever find that all studies agree or come to the same conclusion about anything. That’s one of the reasons that they have to be read so carefully, because their results are very much effected by the methodology, assumptions made, how whatever they examined or studied was collected, the biases and prejudices that were contained in either the questions asked or on the part of the people conducting it, and on and on. In short, the variables are nearly endless and frequently, if not always, have a lot to do with the results themselves. Even who funded a study can influence its results. Statistics and the studies that create them can be used to say just about anything and are used by organizations on every side of every issue to promote their view, both good and bad. This is detailed quite well in the classic book How to Lie with Statistics, but even more forcefully in the later expose Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.

You can read one hundred studies about a particular kind of cancer and find that they all conclude something different, and sometimes have even contradictory findings. It’s rare that they all agree because the way they’re conducted is so different, and the parameters, geography and demographics are different, too. Similar ones may start to more closely agree over time, and patterns may emerge, and that’s where the real progress happens. Meta-studies examine multiple studies to see how, and if, patterns can be gleaned.

Drinking beer obviously affects our health, and has both positive and negative risks and consequences depending on how one drinks, how often and how much. Meta-studies have shown that people who drink moderately tend to live longer than both total abstainers and people who drink too much, but surprisingly even those who abuse alcohol will probably live longer than teetotalers. But that’s overall. For different types of cancer, drinking may either increase or decrease the risk of various kinds, making figuring out what to do a tricky, difficult and ultimately personal decision.

Something that’s always bothered me as I’ve been reading the findings of so many studies over the years is that they’re confusing, contradictory and often make little sense. It should make sense, shouldn’t it? But it doesn’t. Two people can live in exactly the same way, eating and drinking the same things and one will live to be 100 and the other drops dead at 50. Why? Even with something as obvious as smoking, who gets lung cancer and at what age will vary widely. I’ve always felt like there must be something more to who’s susceptible to cancer than what we’ve thought.

The new issue of Time Magazine (the January 19, 2015 issue) has an article that may shed some light on this dilemma. In Most Cancers Aren’t Your Fault, a new study seems to suggest that “Random DNA changes are usually to blame,” as opposed to the usual causes, or possibly in combination with those typical risks. Here’s the big finding in nutshell.

Now, in an eye-opening study published in Science, researchers report that the majority of cancer types are the result of pure chance, the product of random genetic mutations that occur when stem cells–which keep the body chugging along, replacing older cells as they die off–make mistakes copying the cells’ DNA.

That seems huge, a sea change in our understanding of how cancer works. “About 65% of cancers are the result of these DNA mistakes made by stem cells.” While that seems crazy, it might make better sense in explaining why some people get certain cancers and why others do not. For all our dogmatic insistence about what’s healthy and what’s not, it may turn out that luck is the single biggest factor. In the Abstract of the study, as reported in Science, Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions

Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells. This is important not only for understanding the disease but also for designing strategies to limit the mortality it causes.

The Editor’s Summary makes it even clearer:

Why do some tissues give rise to cancer in humans a million times more frequently than others? Tomasetti and Vogelstein conclude that these differences can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions. By plotting the lifetime incidence of various cancers against the estimated number of normal stem cell divisions in the corresponding tissues over a lifetime, they found a strong correlation extending over five orders of magnitude. This suggests that random errors occurring during DNA replication in normal stem cells are a major contributing factor in cancer development. Remarkably, this “bad luck” component explains a far greater number of cancers than do hereditary and environmental factors.

As far as I can see, this goes a along way in explaining the seeming anomalies of why some smokers live to be 100 and others never make it past 50. The study, at least what limited amount of it I have access to, doesn’t go into which types are which, that is which types of cancers can be “attributable to environmental factors” or hereditary and which involve random chance.

But if fully two-thirds of all cancers are primarily subject to this roll of the dice, that seems to undermine a lot of walk-a-thons, colored ribbon awareness campaigns and careful abstaining as all for naught. Better to roll the dice and live your life to the fullest, enjoying all the pleasures you can.

Unsurprisingly, that’s not what the study’s authors are recommending. They’re quick to say that the “element of chance does not, however, mean you should stop wearing sunscreen or take up smoking.” One of the authors, Cristian Tomasetti points out that “while we may not be able to prevent all tumors, we can focus on early detection and taking advantage of lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, among other things,” adding that “[w]e need to do everything we did before, but we want to do it even more than before.” I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, because it seems to contradict their own findings, but perhaps he’s just being cautious, or doesn’t want to take the blame if people go wild.

Medical studies like this one, and all scientific studies really, are supposed to be objective and free of bias, and indeed most are sold that way. Most people hear that a study found this or that and assume it was an impartial finding. But it’s been my experience that that’s rarely, if ever, the case. Bias seems to creep into every nook and cranny of science and medicine, just as it does in every other aspect of human existence. I want to believe that most scientists try to avoid such prejudices, but how many succeed is an open question in my mind. It’s not so much evil as being human. Isn’t the story of humanity simply the struggle between rationality and self-interest?

But speaking of evil, every time a new study (often funded by them) finds that drinking alcohol will turn you into a zombie, prohibitionists use it to push their agenda, and ignore every other study that says just the opposite, that moderate consumption will cure zombies, no need for decapitation. Their propaganda machine goes into full swing, insisting that one sip of beer and you’ll be undead. But this study (especially if follow-up studies confirm the findings), seems to support what I’ve frequently pointed out, that life is far more complicated than do this and that happens. Few things are all bad or all good. As cancer is apparently poised to become the number one cause of death in America (displacing heart disease at the top spot), it’s worth noting that we’ve come a long way since I lost my mother in 1982. If she was diagnosed today with breast cancer, the chances are much greater that she’d still be alive. But predicting whether or not she’d get cancer in the first place was more likely the result of bad luck than anything else. That’s what I’ve always believed and that won’t change no matter how many ribbons I wear. I often feel like the universe is laughing at us, so we might as well have a drink, or as the great Charles Bukowski once advised.

“We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

Roll the dice. Pass the bottle. Repeat.

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If you’re curious about all of the colored awareness ribbons, and what they mean, or what disease or condition they represent, here is the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen. Scroll down about halfway through the post for the list.

Ponies, Puppies & Pac-Man, Oh My!

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The Super Bowl propaganda machine is already out in full force, even though the teams that will play have yet to be decided. I’m not talking about the NFL, or even football in general. The propaganda machine I’m referring to is the prohibitionist group Alcohol Justice, who each year uses the Super Bowl as an opportunity to talk about the ills of beer and other adult beverages, since — horror of horrors — fans who are on both sides of the arbitrary dividing line that is the minimum drinking age will most assuredly watch the game.

And more horrific and worrying, is that advertisers are keen to reach the more than 112 million viewers watching the game. Of those 112 million Americans, roughly 90 million are potential beer customers. (That’s a rough guess based on several data points from various sources, made all the more difficult because Nielsen and others break down age groups into the 18-34 range for the very reasonable reason that they’re all young adults, except when it comes to drinking alcohol.) Yesterday, Alcohol Justice, tweeted the following regarding Anheuser-Busch InBev‘s plans for advertising during the Super Bowl.

Budweiser Super Bowl ads target youth with puppies, ponies & Pac-Man http://bit.ly/1BMFsft Self-regulation failure

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So as far as I can tell, according to AJ, if there are any children present, it’s a family event, and that means — you guessed it — anything to do with alcohol is aimed directly at the under 21 crowd. Because unsurprisingly, their statement is ridiculous on several levels. First, the idea that advertising during an event with 80% adults is “targeting youth” is absurd, especially when you realize that the demographic statistics include 2-17 year olds. How many two-year olds are corrupted if they even, undoubtedly by accident, happen to see all three minutes of ABI’s ads during the fours hours that the game is televised. The Budweiser ads comprise 1.25% of the total Super Bowl experience, and that’s down 25% from last year, when they aired four minutes’ worth of ads. ABI is, as usual, the only alcohol advertiser among the 21 major advertisers for the Super Bowl. But that’s still too many as far as the wingnuts at AJ are concerned. Zero is the only number that would satisfy their loony way of viewing the world.

They close their tweet with “Self-regulation failure,” which is to be expected. AJ seems to think Budweiser is “targeting” kids just by showing ads during the Super Bowl. But the self-regulation they believe is failing (presumably the Beer Institute Marketing and Advertising Code) states that the criteria to be followed is that “at least 71.6% of the audience is expected to be adults of legal drinking age.” Here, the Super Bowl viewership will most likely be at least 80%, and frankly higher since children below a certain age who happen to be present aren’t likely to even be paying attention. So how exactly is following the code a fail?

But moreover, where exactly did Alcohol Justice get the idea that ABI’s ads were using “puppies, ponies & Pac-Man,” and what exactly is wrong with that? That line comes, sort of, from the link in the tweet, which takes you to an article on MediaPost, “an integrated publishing and content company whose mission is to provide a complete array of resources for media, marketing and advertising professionals.” That article is merely reporting on what ads ABI is planning and is entitled Budweiser’s Super Bowl Line-up Includes Puppies, Kings, And Pac-Man. Why AJ changed “Kings” to “ponies” is undoubtedly to make it sound worse than it really is. It’s a favorite propaganda trick of Alcohol Justice, bending reality to their agenda.

But what really pisses me off about AJ’s propaganda, a tactic they use time and time again, is the idea that if something might appeal to someone who’s under 21 then it’s only for kids and is therefore “targeting youth.” For example, the BI’s advertising code specifically forbids beer companies from depicting Santa Claus, which personally I think is utter rubbish. Beer labels and advertising by beer brands all over the world use St. Nick, and few people seem to have a problem with it. And that’s because many adults love the idea of Santa Claus, too. I know I do. I get that Santa is aimed primarily at kids. I already miss the time when my kids were still young enough to believe in him. But the idea of Santa Claus is really for all ages. Every time someone tries to put a cartoon character on a bottle of beer, prohibitionists go nuts, but adults love cartoons, too, they’re not just for kids, and there are many, many cartoons aimed specifically at an older audience. Have they never been to a comic book convention? The idea that people simply stop being interested in the things they enjoyed as children the day they cross over into their alcohol years on the day they turn 21 is completely laughable.

As I mentioned, there will be three ABI ads during the Super Bowl. According to AdWeek, they will be the following:

1. Lost Dog

This is the “puppy” referred to in the article and the tweet. It’s the sequel to last year’s Puppy Love.

A Bud spot called “Lost Dog” from Anomaly will show how “only your best buds are the ones who always have your back,” [Budweiser VP Brian] Perkins said. It’s a sequel to last year’s “Puppy Love,” the most shared ad on Facebook of all time, and once again will feature a puppy and the brewer’s iconic Clydesdales. Jake Scott is back as director.

And while yes, it does include a puppy, the only way this doesn’t appeal to all ages is only if someone watching it doesn’t have a heart. Since when do only kids like puppies? Seriously, what’s wrong with these people? If you don’t find that adorable, you should probably consider becoming a prohibitionist.

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2. King of Beers

Not much is known about this ad specifically, just the general idea has been reported, and according to the AdWeek piece from January 7, it won’t be shot until this week coming up. But it’s the “King” in the article and what AJ replaced with “ponies” because it made what Bud was doing sound more sinister.

Another Bud spot, which Anomaly will shoot in the next week, will focus on how A-B brews the King of Beers. As scripted, the ad “talks with real pride and real attitude about Budweiser quality,” Perkins said, adding, “A lot of brands try and do that and there are prosaic ways to talk about that kind of thing. This one is going to do it with pride and swagger.”

But let’s go back to the “ponies” Alcohol Justice was referring to, which in reality, of course, is the Budweiser Clydesdales. These are big damn horses. I suspect that even Clydesdale ponies are probably the same size as regular horses. They’re draft horses, one of several breeds used to pull heavy things. They’re also used in equestrian vaulting, a little-known sport my daughter has been doing since she was six. The best way to describe it is gymnastics on the back of a moving horse. So you want a big horse to give you more room to work on and also because they’re more stable, too. I’ve taken my daughter to see the Budweiser Clydesdales when they visited the Fairfield brewery a few years ago. She’s into horses, as you’d expect, and like Lisa Simpson she puts down a “pony” on her Christmas wish list every year. But again, is that unique to children? Hardly. My wife informs me that one day we will own a horse, if not a pony. And that’s because like many, many adults, she loves horses, too. Liking ponies, and horses, is not unique to childhood and no one over the age of 21 stops loving them. If so, wouldn’t we think of rodeos as events just for kids?

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3. Coin

This is the ad where “Pac-Man” will appear that was referred to in the article and the tweet.

A Bud Light spot called “Coin” from EnergyBBDO will tell the story of a drinker of the light beer who steps out for a night of fun with 1980s icon Pac Man as he enters a life-size, interactive Pac-Man game. The ad will be supported by a House of Whatever event that the brewer will set up for three days in Phoenix, the host of this year’s game. Steve Aoki will serve as DJ at the house.

But again, does Pac-Man appeal exclusively to children? Pac-Man debuted in 1980. My kids, especially my 13-year old, loves video games. But my son Porter, who even loves older retro games, thinks Pac-Man is really old school and wants nothing to do with it. So who does love Pac-Man? If you assume that the youngest kids were maybe ten years old when Pac-Man first came out, those same kids would be 45 today. It’s apparently hipster Millennials that ABI is hoping to target with Pac-Man. In an earlier Advertising Age article, they explained the changing focus of Budweiser advertising. “The Super Bowl ads come as Anheuser-Busch begins a new media strategy as it seeks to remain relevant with millennials in an age where smaller craft beers are the rage among young drinkers.”

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So it’s younger drinkers that ABI is hoping to reach with their advertising in 2015, but they are pointedly not targeting youth under 21, as Alcohol Justice would have you believe. But this is what they so often do. They take a relatively innocuous article and twist it just enough that it sounds like something entirely different. Not once in the MediaPost they linked to did it mention targeting underage youths. They just made that up. They also failed in their characterization of a self-regulation fail since the ads during the Super Bowl fall within the industry guidelines. And changing the headline to the catchier, alliterative “puppies, ponies & Pac-Man” may have sounded clever, but as is so typical of the prohibitionists, it’s misleading and inaccurate. And that’s the problem with agenda-driven propaganda. It’s more important to be provocative and push an agenda than it is to be truthful, accurate or reasonable. And it’s that very devotion to fanaticism that makes any honest discussion nearly impossible.

I’m going to watch the Super Bowl again this year, even if my team (the Green Bay Packers) ultimately doesn’t play in the big game (Go Packers!). My kids will watch it, too, and several adult members of my family will undoubtedly drink a few beers during the game. And I have one prediction I can almost guarantee will take place on Super Sunday. It will be a typical day, and nothing bad will happen as a result of my kids seeing a few Budweiser commercials. Because a true family event is one where both adults and kids can be together, it’s not where every adult has to hide or forgo adult pleasures because children might see them and get the idea — in the prohibitionist’s own words — that such behavior is normal. The problem is that adults drinking alcohol is one of the most normal activities people have ever engaged in, having been doing so non-stop since the beginning of recorded history.

We saw this recently when prohibitionists, specifically again — sigh — Alcohol Justice, opposed a California law that would allow local beer, cider and winemakers to sell and sample their goods at farmers’ markets alongside local farmers and craftspeople as just another locally made product. They criticized the law saying that farmer’s markets were for families and therefore no alcohol should be allowed because it made such behavior look normal. Unfortunately for them, it is normal, and happily they lost that battle and it did become a law in California. If you’ve made it this far and still haven’t had enough of me shouting in the wind, you can see AJ making the same arguments in What Does Family Friendly Mean?

But I really think it’s important to push back on this idea that family-friendly and alcohol are mutually exclusive. Alcohol is in the world, and the more we can do as adults and parents to teach our kids the proper way it should be consumed, modeling our best behavior, the better adults our children will become. Pretending it doesn’t exist and separating kids from learning about the adult world in the end does more harm than good, and doesn’t prepare them in any way to join the world at large once they’re chronologically old enough to be considered adults. Watching the Super Bowl with three minutes of beer commercials during four hours with their family and friends is, and quite rightly ought to be, a non-event and the fact that millions of Americans don’t give it a second thought should convince anyone how out of touch Alcohol Justice is with the world.

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Don’t Bet Dollars To Donuts Or Drinking

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I think we can all agree that doughnuts are high in calories. I suspect few people would try to defend them as being a health food. Alcohol, on the other hand, is trickier. There are clear health benefits and, for some, health risks, too. But in order to paint alcohol as something worse than it is, prohibitionist groups feel no need to be truthful or avoid being misleading. To wit, today Alcohol Justice tweeted that “[t]here are the same amount of calories in a glass of wine as there are in a doughnut.”

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To ad insult to injury, the image they used to hammer home their point depicts not one doughnut, as the text is singular, but a pile of them, in fact eleven doughnuts are visible, though some just partially. And look at that glass of wine. Does that look like the standard 5 ounces? It sure doesn’t to me. That looks like a short pour, all in effort to deceive and mislead, as if just a tiny amount of wine is equal to nearly a dozen doughnuts.

donut-wine

The truth, of course, is different. A standard glass of red wine — 5 ounces — is around 125 calories, while a doughnut is 195 calories. That’s from doing a simple Google search for calories in a glass of red wine and calories in a doughnut. Not surprisingly, calories in doughnuts vary widely, and according to a list on Calorie Lab can range from around 100 to nearly 400, and apparently Krispy Kreme doughnuts are even higher, ranging from 200 to 400.

Alcohol Justice included a link with their tweet to a story at Redbrick, a student publication from the University of Birmingham in England. That’s also where they snagged the photo of the glass of wine. Who knows where the pile of doughnuts came from.

The article AJ is using for their own purposes, Should Alcohol Show Calories?, has its own share of inconsistencies, not that they’d matter to Alcohol Justice. Redbrick states that a “large glass of wine is about 200 calories, which is the same as a doughnut” but then, of course, it links to a British drinks calculator showing that a standard glass of wine is 175 ml, or less than 6 ounces. So to make their analogy of a doughnut and a glass of wine being equivalent they have to pour a larger glass than is considered the standard amount. Naturally, AJ ignores that and even tries their best to make it appear that drinking a small glass of wine is like eating almost a dozen doughnuts, at least that’s the visual message they’re sending.

I had hoped we’d see more honesty from the prohibitionists in 2015, but I guess that was a foolish hope on my part. I think I need a doughnut, or maybe a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which at 175 calories is still less than my glazed doughnut.

World’s Drunkest Countries

world-map-3
An online article today on Business Insider examines the World Health Organization’s most recent Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. Entitled Here Are The Drunkest Countries In The World, it gives the highlights of the WHO report. Unfortunately, in my experience WHO tends to lean on the side of prohibitionists in their approach to alcohol, highlighting primarily the bad aspects while ignoring the positive. As a result, WHO tends to be all doom and gloom about alcohol in the world. It’s a somewhat odd position. At any rate, they use the map below, showing per capita alcohol consumption by country, as of 2010 (but it’s the same data in the 2014 report).

world-alcohol-map-2010-1
See the chart full size.

One thing to notice is that despite the hue and cry from U.S.-based anti-alcohol groups, American consumption has been flat or down since its 1980 high point, and worldwide we’re pretty much in the middle of the consumption scale, not the lowest or the highest, as they’d have us believe. Canada drinks more than we do. So does Australia and most of Europe, especially Eastern Europe and Russia.

But even with WHO’s very conservative view of drinking alcohol, American patterns of risky drinking is even lower than average, squarely in the second-lowest category. For example, Mexico may drink less than Americans per capita, but still manages to drink in a more risky manner, and Canada and us are the same, despite out-drinking Americans. Likewise, Western Europe, which drinks more than most, engages in the least risky behavior, at least as WHO defines it.

world-alcohol-map-2010-2
See the chart full size.

So if we accept the way WHO comes up with that statistic — stated as by considering “the usual quantity of alcohol consumed per occasion, proportion of drinking events when drinkers get drunk, proportion of drinkers who drink daily or nearly daily, festive drinking, drinking with meals, and drinking in public places — then overall there’s a lot less risky drinking in the world than the first chart would have us believe. While per capita consumption seems to follow the expected bell curve, risky behavior does not, with far less dark spots. The riskiest countries are concentrated in just a few nations, and looks even larger than it really is because one of the countries is geographically very big. The countries in the second-riskiest tier looks to be less than ten nations, suggesting that a majority of places to do not engage in a great deal of risky drinking, which is frankly what I’d expect. Either way, I’m not sure hardly any deserve the title “drunkest countries.”

St. Nicholas: Patron Saint of Brewers

santa-claus
While St. Nicholas is best known — in America, at least — for wearing red and white and giving presents to Children each December 25, he’s actually the patron saint for a number of professions, places and afflictions. His feast day is not actually Christmas Day, but almost three weeks earlier on December 6. That’s the reason why the holiday beer Samichlaus is brewed each year on this day. The person we associate with Christmas, Santa Claus, was based on Saint Nicholas, who was originally known (and still is in some places) as Bishop Nicholas of Myra.

santa-pils

Nicholas is the patron saint of brewers, among many others. He’s also the patron saint against imprisonment, against robberies, against robbers. And Nick’s the patron for apothecaries, bakers, barrel makers, boatmen, boot blacks, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, coopers, dock workers, druggists, fishermen, Greek Catholic Church in America, Greek Catholic Union, grooms, judges, lawsuits lost unjustly, longshoremen, maidens, mariners, merchants, penitent murderers, newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers, perfumeries, perfumers, pharmacists, pilgrims, poor people, prisoners, sailors, scholars, schoolchildren, shoe shiners, spinsters, students, penitent thieves, travellers, University of Paris, unmarried girls, and watermen. Places he’s the patron for are Apulia, Italy; Avolasca, Italy; Bardolino, Italy; Bari, Italy; Cammarata, Sicily, Italy; Cardinale, Italy; Cas Concos, Spain; Creazzo, Italy; Duronia, Italy; Fossalto, Italy; Gagliato, Italy; Greece; La Thuile, Italy; Lecco, Italy; Limerick, Ireland; Liptovský Mikulás, Slovakia; Lorraine; Mazzano Romano, Italy; Mentana, Italy; Miklavž na Dravskem polju, Slovenia; Naples, Italy; Portsmouth, England; Russia; Sassari, Italy; Sicily; Is-Siggiewi, and Malta.

He also has many names around the world, such as Baba Chaghaloo, Father Christmas, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, and Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man” or “Nikolaus”), to name just a few.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Saint Nicholas (March 15, 270 – December 6, 346) is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a saint and Bishop of Myra (in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was the custom in his time. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.

The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honoured by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Barranquilla, Bari, Amsterdam, Beit Jala, and Liverpool. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari. So beloved is Saint Nicholas by Russians, one commonly heard saying is that “if God dies, at least we’ll still have St. Nicholas.”

The American image of Santa Claus in red and white has more to do with marketing than anything else. I wrote about this in The Santa Hypocrisy a couple of years ago when the Shelton Brothers were in hot water from several states who tried to tell them Santa Claus on a beer label threatened the American way of life and especially the impressionable young kiddies who would all be led down the path to underage drinking and alcoholism because Santa was depicted on a beer label. It was an utterly ridiculous position and they ultimately backed down, but it’s indicative of our puritan hang-ups as a culture and our general paternalism where we believe everyone needs to be protected. And in retrospect I can now see how the “institutionalized demonization of alcohol” creates the conditions for such decisions. Remember the message? “Alcohol is evil. No one can be trusted with it.” When that’s the underlying assumption, you create rules for what can and can’t be displayed on a label that are way beyond reason; standards no other products have to follow because they’re not seen as inherently evil.

But before the 20th century and in other parts of the world, Santa Claus was and still is depicted in many different ways and in various colors. Father Christmas, for example, is often seen wearing a green robe, as in the British Isles he’s more associated with nature and the old Celtic religions. The yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths, mistletoe and many other features we take for granted during the holidays do not have direct Christian origins, but were appropriated from pagan religions in order to make the transition to Christianity easier for the masses to make. Personally, I love a green Santa Claus because it reminds me of hops, and a Santa that stands for hops is one I can get behind.
green-santa-4
Few American beer labels show Santa precisely because of our peculiar brand of paternalism and the label laws spawned by our institutionalized demonization of alcohol. Santa’s Private Reserve, from Rogue in Oregon, is one of the few I can think of year after year. Most, not surprisingly, come from abroad, where people take a more reasonable approach to both the holidays and alcohol. There’s the famous Santa’s Butt from Ridgeway Brewing in England, but also Pickled Santa from the Hop Back Brewery and Austria’s Samichlaus is translated as “Santa Claus.”

santa-mugs

Why does it seem like we’re the only uptight nation on Earth when it comes to this silly issue. In Hong Kong, a giant Santa Claus is shown with a mug of beer, and no one seems to be that concerned. Try putting something like that up here, and all hell would break loose. We’re the only country complaining that there’s a “War on Christmas,” as stupid a notion as ever there was one, especially in a nation where those who celebrate Christmas constitute the vast majority.

santa-drinks

The point is if the church can have a patron saint of brewing, why do religious people object to St. Nicholas being on beer labels? Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for brewers to want to place their patron saint on their beer?

Throughout Europe, Monks not only kept alive the method of brewing beer but improved techniques for making it. A Benedictine nun in Germany, Hildegard von Bingen, is most likely responsible for the introduction of hops in beer. Religion and brewing are intertwined throughout history and, in every place except the United States, that continues to be the case. Why? What about our particular religiosity makes us incapable of seeing that and reconciling it? Why is it seemingly acceptable for Santa Claus to be used to sell everything under the sun … except alcohol. Santa sells cigarettes, soda pop, fast food and pretty much everything else with capitalistic glee yet alcohol is the corrupting influence? That’s going too far somehow? Please.

That Santa Claus only appeals to children is usually the rallying cry of the buffoons who complain about this sort of thing, but a survey of pop culture will reveal that St. Nick is used in all manner of adult contexts. Kris Kringle, like the spirit of Christmas itself, belongs to all of us, not just children. There’s no doubt that I love seeing Christmas through the fresh eyes of my children, their innocence and wonder adds a new dimension to my enjoyment of the season. But I loved the holidays as much before I was a father and after I was an adult, too.

That St. Nicholas appeals to wide array of people should be obvious from the huge number of groups and places that consider him their patron. When so many look to him for comfort in such a varied number of ways, how can anyone say what he is or what he isn’t, where he’s appropriate or where he’s not? They can’t of course, despite neo-prohibitionists and our government’s attempts to the contrary. As the patron saint of brewers, Santa Claus is, and ought to be, perfectly at home on a bottle of beer.

There’s also a wealth of information about the real Santa Claus at the Saint Nicholas Center online.

When The Food Babe Talks, No Questions

food-babe
This would almost be funny, if I didn’t consider her misinformation so dangerous. Oh, and a h/t to Maureen Ogle for this one. Dr. Kevin M. Folta, who is the chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, writes on his blog, Illumination, about a recent visit by Vani Hari, as the Food Babe Visits My University.

As an actual living, breathing scientist, Folta understandably stood at odds with Hari “spreading her corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism” at his school. Here’s how he really felt. “There’s something that dies inside when you are a faculty member that works hard to teach about food, farming and science, and your own university brings in a crackpot to unravel all of the information you have brought to students.” And she apparently was paid $15,000 by the University to add insult to injury, as well.

She found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about. Her discussion was a narcissistic, self-appointed attack on food science and human nutrition. It was one of the rare times when I laughed and puked at the same time.

So “who do you trust for real scientific information? This is why scientists go nutso.” Here’s a breakdown of the relative experience and knowledge between the Food Babe, Vani Hari, and Dr. Folta.

Hari-vs-Folta

Here’s a few more random thoughts from his post about the talk she gave, although I encourage you to read the entire post.

Hari then went on to talk about her successes in strong-arming Chick-fil-A, Budweiser and Subway into reformulating their foods and beverages. She’s proud that she was invited to the table, that a know-nothing with a following can affect change simply by propagating false information via the internet.

That’s not healthy activism or change based on science. That’s coercion, fear mongering and terrorism to achieve short-sighted non-victories in the name of profit and self-promotion, ironically the same thing she accuses the companies of.

On the plus side, reasonably educated college students weren’t going for her nonsense, he noted. “Throughout her presentation that was about Hari in the spotlight and ‘me-me-me’, students got up and left. She left gaping pregnant pauses where previous performances got applause — only to hear nothing. Not even crickets. This audience was not buying it, at least was not excited by it.”

Overall, he understandably found it disappointing, noting. “If this is a charismatic leader of a new food movement it is quite a disaster. She’s uninformed, uneducated, trite and illogical. She’s afraid of science and intellectual engagement.”

What stood out for me, though not a surprise in the least, is that although microphones had been set out at the sides of the stage for questions (something you see at virtually any academic talk like this) she left the stage immediately, apparently refusing to take any questions from the students. It was as if she finished talking, dropped the mic and walked out, “whisked by limo to her next fear rally,” as Folta opined. Unfortunately, that sounds about right given that numerous people tell me she deletes any questions or contrary evidence from comments on her website or Facebook page. She’s selling a product — herself — pure and simple, and she can’t let facts get in her way. In a sense, she doesn’t even need to engage anyone, as she has untold numbers of unpaid minions slavishly doing her bidding for her — the Food Babe Army — attacking any critics or criticisms, as I discovered for myself when I took issue with her nonsense about the ingredients in beer. I’m almost amazed she’s still peddling her brand of crazy to ready buyers, and yet not surprised at the same time. After all, there are still people who insist the world is flat and that climate change isn’t happening, so truly people will believe all sorts of kooky things if they don’t think too much about it. And in some ways, not thinking about stuff but believing it anyway with all your might may be well be the new American way. More’s the pity.

Derp of the Day
Don’t eat food with kemicles.