Beer May Lessen Chronic Pain

health
Here’s another study you won’t see reported by Alcohol Justice, because it goes against their propagandist mantra. A study conducted at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland essentially found that the moderate consumption of alcohol might lessen chronic pain, especially in people with fibromyalgia, defined as a “a syndrome characterized by fatigue and chronic pain in the muscles and in tissues surrounding the joints.”

Drinks Business summarized the findings:

In a study of over 2,000 sufferers of chronic widespread pain, those who often consumed above average amounts of alcohol had lower levels of disability than those who never or rarely drank.

The research into sufferers of fibromyalgia — a rheumatic condition that causes muscular pain and stiffness — surveyed patient’s eating and drinking habits to determine the effect of diet on their symptoms.

Of the 2,239 people surveyed, those who drank 21 to 35 units of alcohol per week were 67% less likely than to experience disability than those who didn’t drink.

The study itself was published on the July issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research under the title “Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk (and severity) of chronic widespread pain: Results from a UK population-based study.”

Aberdeen also put out a pdf with the basics of the study and here’s the Abstract:

Objectives: To determine whether reported level of alcohol consumption is associated with the likelihood of reporting chronic widespread pain (CWP) and, amongst persons with CWP, the associated disability.

Methods: A population-based study in two areas of the United Kingdom. Participants self-completed a postal questionnaire. They were classified according to whether they met the American College of Rheumatology definition of CWP and whether the pain was disabling (Chronic Pain Grade III or IV). They reported their usual level of alcohol consumption. Potential confounding factors on which information was available included age, gender, cigarette smoking, employment status, self-reported weight and height and level of deprivation.

Results: 13,574 persons participated (mean age 55 years; 57% female) of whom 2239 (16.5%) had CWP: 28% reported never regularly consuming alcohol, 28% consuming up to 5 units/wk, 20% 6-10 units/wk and 24% more than 10 units/wk. Amongst persons with CWP, disability was strongly linked to level of alcohol consumption. Prevalence of disability decreased with increasing alcohol consumption up to 35 unit/wk (Odds Ratio (OR)21-35 units alcohol/wk v. never drinkers 0.33 95% CI (0.19,0.58)) adjusted for confounders. A similar relationship was found between reporting CWP and level of alcohol consumption (adjOR21-35 units alcohol/wk v. regular drinkers 0.76 95% CI (0.61-0.94).

Conclusions: This study has demonstrated strong associations between level of alcohol consumption and CWP. However the available evidence does not allow us to conclude that the association is causal. The strength of the associations means that specific studies to examine this potential relationship are warranted.

So while the researchers believe more study is necessary to confirm a causal connection, they do believe there are “strong associations” between moderate drinking and chronic widespread pain, and that those are robust enough to warrant additional study.

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NYC Gives Bad Advice During Heatwave

statue-of-liberty
So right now many places are going through a heatwave, even where I am in Sonoma County has had some very unseasonably hot days. But apparently New York City is having a particularly bad time, with temperatures close to 100° F. On Monday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to assuage New Yorker’s fears and offer suggestions on how to stay safe during the heatwave. Also on hand at the event with the Mayor was the commissioner of the Department of Health, Mary Bassett, who “told New Yorkers not to crack open a frosty lager or pour themselves a crisp ale in a chilled glass” during the heatwave, warning them about “the perils of alcohol and caffeine, both dehydrating diuretics, for those who must labor in the sun.” She’s quoted in the Observer.

“Water is the best beverage for staying hydrated. Beer is not,” she said.

Unfortunately, at least as long as ago as 2007, studies have shown that not to be the case. As I reported in late 2007, in Forget Gatorade, Drink Beer, a Spanish study has concluded that the best thing you can drink after playing vigorous sports is not Gatorade, but beer. Specifically, the study found that for the dehydrated person, beer helps retain liquid better than water.

paulaner-victory
What would you rather down after sweating yourself silly either in a soccer match, mowing your lawn or simply enduring a blazing sun heatwave, Gatorade, water or this?

The main reason is that water doesn’t replenish electrolytes or other chemicals that the body loses when sweating. Water’s great, don’t get me wrong, it is up to 95% of what makes beer. For example, the UK’s NHS cautions against using just plain water, saying dehydrated persons “shouldn’t be given water as the main replacement fluid because it can further dilute the minerals in their body and make the problem worse.”

When you’re dehydrated, you lose sugar and salts, as well as water. Drinking a rehydration solution will enable you to re-establish the right balance of body fluids. The solution should contain a mixture of potassium and sodium salts, as well as glucose or starch.

Even Gatorade would probably be a little better than just water for severe dehydration that’s associated with a heatwave, although the Spanish study found that beer is even better.

For the study, Garzon asked a group of students to perform strenuous exercise in temperatures of around 104ºF. Half the subjects were given a pint of beer after the workout, the other half the same quantity of plain water. Garzon said the hydration effect in those who drank the beer was “slightly better.”

Juan Antonio Corbalán, a cardiologist who formerly worked with Real Madrid soccer players and Spain’s national basketball team, insists that beer has the “perfect profile” for a rehydrating beverage after sports. Corbalán adds that he has long advocated the drinking of barley-based beverages by professional athletes.

Of course, beer being a diuretic means you’ll lose some liquid through urination, and there aren’t any appreciable electrolytes in beer. But then there aren’t any in water, either, so advising just water seems like poor advice at best. Even critics to the Spanish study, like James Betts, an expert on nutrition and metabolism at Bath University in England, admits that “a moderate amount of beer might be as effective as water at helping the body with liquid retention.” So again, NYC’s position that people should lay off a cold beer and stick to only water seems pretty out to lunch.

Apparently, a C. Johnson, who’s a Theoretical Physicist has come up with Gator Beer, a beer that would apparently include electrolytes and other chemicals lost during perspiration such as sodium (already in beer), potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Sadly, no one is currently making Gator Beer.

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I’m sure Mary Bassett is a lovely person, but you wouldn’t know it from this photo of her supplied by the mayor’s office, where she looks exactly like the sort of person who would say “no” to a beer.

Desperation Propaganda

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The ink was barely dry on my last post about Alcohol Justice’s tenuous grasp on honesty where they claimed Craft Brewers Just Don’t Care when they did it again, with this tweet:

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The funniest part of their tweet is the claim that the Carlsberg Group, the fourth largest beer company in the world, producing 6.2% of the world’s beer, is “desperate for market share” and therefore gave up on beer and decided to diversify into beauty products. This they apparently concluded from an article on Mashable entitled Men, stop drinking beer and start rubbing it on your face. As the article itself makes abundantly clear — but is virtually ignored by AJ — using beer or beer ingredients in health and beauty products has been around forever and is nothing new. There are almost too many instances to mention. Shampoo with beer in it has been around for years, if not centuries. Dogfish Head and many others have been making soap with beer for just as long. There’s nothing in the article about why they’re diversifying (though anyone with a working knowledge of how a business operates will say “well, duh,” diversification is almost always a good move). These came out of the Carlsberg Lab, which has been doing research on beer for over 100 years, and in fact the lager yeast known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, was also once known as Saccharomyces carlsbergensis because of work done by the brewery on yeast in the late 1800s and early 20th century. Here’s the The press materials for the new products.

So there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that Carlsberg’s Beer Beauty products have anything whatsoever to do with desperation. Alcohol Justice just made that up. Why? Because they have to turn a lighthearted story into something they can use as propaganda. Because the truth is not something they seem remotely interested in. If anything, I think it shows their own desperation in trying to find something to complain about.

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Craft Brewers Just Don’t Care

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Nobody can piss me off faster than Alcohol Justice, the self-styled do gooders and self-proclaimed “watchdogs” of those of us in the evil alcohol empire. I just noticed this yesterday, but for at least the last week, they’ve been tweeting this inaccurate and misleading message that “High-calorie craft beer maker’s don’t care.” Here’s what they say:

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You don’t have to be Noam Chomsky to parse this sentence and figure out what they’re saying. Beer has lots of calories and brewers just don’t give a shit, painting craft brewers in a negative light, something Alcohol Justice has turned in to an art form. But is that the truth? Is that even what the source of this claims? Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that AJ once again has taken a statement and twisted into something else to promote their own agenda. Shocking, I know. The original source of this comes from an article in the Columbus Dispatch on June 26 entitled Small breweries sometimes make high-octane, high-calorie beers.

It’s all about calories and how some higher alcohol beers made by craft brewers have more calories than lower alcohol beers, which is a world class “duh.” If you claim you don’t know that more alcohol has more calories then I’m amazed at the level of ignorance you’re willing to admit. If you’re drinking an imperial stout and have convinced yourself it contains no more calories than a pale ale, you’re willfully deluding yourself, and you probably know it, even if you won’t admit it. But I’m not terribly interested in the calorie question, it’s been done to death and certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. What really annoys me is Alcohol Justice’s flippant hatred of brewers and insisting they don’t care, as if that makes them bad people. The reality, of course, is quite different. Here’s the relevant portion of the article:

Unless they’re aiming for a low-cal beer to appeal to dieters, day drinkers and the like, craft brewers say they don’t give two pints about calories. They’re after flavor and aroma and other qualities that make drinking good beer worth it. The qualities of your favorite porter or citrus-forward IPA depend upon a series of ingredient choices and the complex interplay of water, grain, hops and yeast that follows.

So it’s not that the brewers “don’t care” about higher calories, it’s simply that they place more emphasis on aromas and flavors, preferring to create beers that feature those more prominently. They’re not willfully making high calorie beers just to fatten people up and make them unhealthy, as AJ suggests. And why pick on brewers? This is especially galling since wine and sprits, with far more alcohol, has … wait for it … far more calories. Beer has the fewest calories of any alcoholic drink by ounce. I’m sure people will argue that people drink more beer so that’s moot. But the point of drinking better beer is to drink less of it. To me at least, beer with flavor is not made to pound, but to enjoy at a more reasonable pace, usually determined by the circumstances. Imperial stout is not made to be swigged, but shared in a snifter or similar glass, so the idea that it’s the same as any other beer seems at best facetious. If you’re downing pint glasses of Parabola or Ten FIDY you’re doing it wrong. Here’s an infographic that accompanied the article.

calories-in-craft-beer

But the larger point is why do we attack beer and alcohol makers for the natural amount of calories created by the way they’re made? We don’t do that for calorie-rich desserts like cake, ice cream and pie. You know what else is high in calories? Cereal, avocados, bananas, nuts and berries, granola bars, pasta, lobster and so many more foods we love. But we’re not lambasting the people who farm, grow or make those for not caring about how high in calories they are. That’s because they’re not intentionally making them high in calories, it’s just the result of their nature. The same is true for beer. Brewers aren’t intentionally making high-calorie beers to fuck with people the way Alcohol Justice so churlishly insists. They’re making them because they taste good, and people want them, not because they just “don’t care.”

Are there no ethical standards for non-profits? Shouldn’t “watchdogs” who claim the moral high ground have to at least be honest and truthful themselves? Because even though they claim “beer makers don’t care,” they certainly don’t seem to care about their own veracity, and instead twist anything they can to fit their increasingly narrow narrative that everything having to do with alcohol, and especially beer it seems, is bad.

Session #100: One Hundred Beers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

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It’s hard to believe we’ve doing this 100 months in a row, but it’s true. For our 100th Session, our host, Reuben Grey — who writes the Tale of the Ale — has decided to send us all on a quest to find the ark of the holy grail filled with lost beer styles, or something like that. Actually, for the June Session, the topic is “Resurrecting Lost Beer Styles,” which he describes below.

There are many [lost or almost lost beer styles] that have started to come back in to fashion in the last 10 years due to the rise of craft beer around the world.

If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose and some others. Perhaps it’s a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.

There are no restrictions other than the beer being an obscure style you don’t find in very many places. The format, I leave up to individuals. It could be a historical analysis or just a simple beer review.

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Not content to follow directions, I recently spent way too much time thinking about beer color and creating several lists as a part of that. So I’m feeling whatever the opposite of listless is. Listical? Listful?

I have a love/hate relationship with beer styles. I think of them as both useless and necessary at the same time. And I’m hopeless when it comes to the instinct to categorize and organize everything, I can’t help but do it. I want to believe it’s simply human nature but I clearly have an advanced case of whatever disease causes people to catalogue, classify and codify the world.

I see beer styles as a dichotomy that will never be resolved. I understand both sides of the divide and think both are correct, and wrong, at least sometimes. The way we think about beer styles is a modern construct. Michael Jackson created the taxonomy that’s still with us (more or less) as a way to write about different beers around the world, and then Fred Eckhardt expanded on it and codified it for homebrewers, sealing its fate as the way we generally talk about beer styles. And I think it worked pretty well … for a while. It’s undoubtedly useful in judging and creating expectations. But I remember fifteen or so years ago Charlie Bamforth, my professor at U.C. Davis for the short course, telling us how beer styles don’t matter at all. And he was right, of course. They don’t. All that matters to a commercial brewery is that people like, and more importantly, buy the beer, no matter what “style” it is.

But where all these different beers came from has to do with geography, climate, agriculture and culture. Place is the single most important factor in having created so many different types of beer. Every local area had its own unique, or a mostly unique variation, of beer that took advantage of what the brewers had on hand, be it the grain, hops or other flavors they could get, what the local water was like, the local customs, and the politics or culture itself. What we call traditional beer styles today are simply the winners, the local or regional styles that survived industrialization and displaced more local styles as breweries grew larger and expanded their reach. Beer, slowly at first, and then much more rapidly, became commodified, became all the same, especially in the U.S., but all over the world to a greater or lesser extent. Popular regional, national and global brands displaced local ones and many of those can now be considered “lost,” if not entirely forgotten.

atlas-beer

A favorite line from Elvis Costello’s 1977 song “I’m Not Angry” is “there’s no such thing as an original sin.” And I think that applies to beer styles, too. Just about everything has been tried before, and we fool ourselves that modern beers are more innovative. That’s not to take away from brewers trying to make distinctive beers, whether by trying to break tradition or finding beers that have become extinct or nearly so and resurrecting them, so to speak, or more often making a modern interpretation. I think these are all good developments. I’m not sure we need another IPA, so I find it much more interesting that brewers are exploring different flavors in an effort to stand out and make their mark in the beer world. So I’m not as interested in opining if they’re styles or not, I just want to taste them.

So for this Session, still feeling listful, I decided instead to do some searching around to simply find how many old, mostly forgotten types of beer I could find. As I said, I came up with the title before I even knew if I could find 100. It took maybe an hour to go past the century mark, and in the end, was no problem at all. And that tells us quite a bit about how much the landscape of beer was changed by industrialization and the consolidation of the industry worldwide. When beer became very much the same, the local, more unique beers were lost. We saw the same thing happen with food, too, which spawned the artisanal movements for better cheese, meats, chocolate, heirloom fruits and vegetables, etc.
Blue metal compass
So the list of 100 beers below is not strictly all extinct beers, but also includes beers nearly so, ones that are starting to come back, beers that are only made by a very few breweries and some so ancient we don’t know much about them beyond their names. The beers are from all over the compass. I gathered them from a variety of sources, mostly websites and a few books in my library. When I say you’ve probably never heard of them, chances are you know the names of at least a few of them. You could probably test your beer geek quotient by how many you recognize.

  1. Aarschotse Bruine
  2. Adambier
  3. Black Cork
  4. Black or Spruce Beer
  5. Bremer Bier
  6. Brett-Fermented Stock Ale
  7. Breyhan or Broyhan
  8. Burton Ale
  9. Chicha
  10. Citronenbier (Lemon Beer)
  11. Cock Ale
  12. Coirm
  13. Colne Spring Ale
  14. Cöpenicker Moll
  15. Dampfbier
  16. Danziger Bier
  17. Deutsches Porter
  18. Devonshire White or Devon White Ale
  19. Duckstein
  20. Dutch Black Buckwheat Beer
  21. Ebla
  22. Eilenburger Bier
  23. Einfachbier
  24. Erfurter Bier
  25. Erntebier (Harvest Beer)
  26. Fern Ale
  27. Fränkische Biere
  28. Gale Ale
  29. Garlebischer Garley
  30. Geithayner
  31. Gotlandsdrickå
  32. Grodziski (a.k.a. Grodziskie or Grätzer Bier)
  33. Grout Ale
  34. Hamburger Bier
  35. Heather Ale
  36. Hellesroggen
  37. Hogen Mogen
  38. Hosenmilch
  39. Humming Ale
  40. Jopenbier
  41. Kash or Kás
  42. Kashbir
  43. Kashdu
  44. Kashdùg
  45. Kashgíg or Kashgíg-dùgga
  46. Kash-sur-ra
  47. Kassi
  48. Kennett Ale
  49. Kentucky Common
  50. Keptinus Alus
  51. Kiszlnschtschi
  52. Kodoulu
  53. Kotbüsser Bier
  54. Koyt
  55. Kushkal
  56. Kuurna
  57. Kvass
  58. Leipziger Stadtbier
  59. Lichtenhainer
  60. Light Bitter
  61. Light Mild
  62. Lübecker
  63. Makgeolli
  64. Merseburger
  65. Moskovskaya (Old Moscow Brown Ale)
  66. Mum or Mumme
  67. Münster Beer
  68. Naumburger
  69. Pennsylvania Swankey
  70. Peeterman
  71. Potsdamer Bier
  72. Preusishce Bier
  73. Purl
  74. Rheinländische Bitterbier
  75. Rostocker Bier
  76. Ruppiner Bier
  77. Sahti
  78. Säuerliche Bier
  79. Scotch Ale
  80. Seef
  81. Sloe Beer (Schlehenbier)
  82. Sour Bock
  83. Sour Ofest
  84. Sour Old Ale
  85. Stein Beer
  86. Stingo
  87. Stitch
  88. Strong Pale Mild
  89. Sußbier or Einfachbier
  90. Uitzet or Uytzet
  91. Ulushin
  92. Vatted Old Ale
  93. Vatted Porter
  94. Weizenschalenbier
  95. West Country White Ale
  96. Wettiner
  97. Windsor Ale
  98. Winter Warmer
  99. Wurzner
  100. Zerbster

How much fun would it be to try every one of them? Beer, of course, is a global drink and is the third most-consumed liquid (after water and tea) so I suspect the number of lost beers is far greater than this, and probably numbers in the hundreds, or possibly thousands, depending on how you differentiated them. Should we try to catalogue them all? Now that would be a real fool’s errand, but it would be fun to try.

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Cancer Charities Grow Cancerous

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One of the byproducts of keeping a close watch on prohibitionist groups and other so-called non-profit organizations is that I’ve become quite jaded not just about those particular ones, but about the charitable industrial complex in general. It’s really become big business and, in my opinion, most have strayed very far from the (hopefully) good intentions that spawned them. Longtime readers will recognize this thread, that many of the charities and organizations that choose to attack the beer community from the high moral ground, are themselves often in no position to take such a lofty nose-in-the-air position.

In recent years, several cancer charities have criticized the alcohol industry for our fundraising efforts while hypocritically working with KFC and other unhealthily partners, as I detailed a few years ago with Biting the Hand That Feeds You. Between several of these cancer charities, and the usual prohibitionists, people who work in the alcohol field who want to do good and raise money for a cause that’s dear to them are routinely insulted and criticized for doing so. But taking a closer look at the charities themselves, as I started doing a few years ago, it’s not always clear how much actual good they’re really doing.

Just how many charities are there? In the U.S. alone there are a staggering 1.5 million non-profit organizations, the vast majority of them characterized as public charities. That’s essentially one charity organization for every 213 people in America. Of those, I don’t know how many are involved with cancer, but you can bet it’s a lot. In a partnership between the Tampa Bay Times, the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, and CNN (who joined the partnership in 2013), they examined all of the charities and created a list of America’s 50 Worst Charities. Of the top ten, the second worst charity in the U.S. is a cancer one, the Cancer Fund of America. In fact, fully four of the top ten are cancer charities. In the full list of the top 48 worst charities, ten of them involve cancer. A surprising number of them are also about missing children, veterans and police and fire fighting groups, sad to say.

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But what prompted this was a report on Mashable I saw recently entitled Cancer charities allegedly misused $187 million for concerts and dating sites, U.S. says. Apparently, “Law enforcement from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with the Federal Trade Commission” charged four of them — Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society — “with taking money that donors had given to help cancer patients and using it to on themselves as well as their families and friends,” in an amount in excess of $187 million. The money was used “to buy cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting event and concert tickets, and dating site memberships,” and even for providing lucrative jobs to friends and family. Two of the charities, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society, will be shut down. I don’t know why the other two would continue.

The Washington Post also detailed the story, and also published their 5 reasons why it took the feds so long to catch on to the cancer charities scam.

I find it incredibly sad that the state of charities has become so deplorable. It’s to the point where you don’t know whether you can even trust someone soliciting donations, no matter how worthy the cause might sound. The odds are becoming increasingly likely that it may very well be a scam. And undoubtedly that hurts however many charities remain that are actually staying true to their purpose, because at least in my case I’m not giving to anybody until I’ve had a chance to look into the charity asking for my donation. And without the time to adequately do that most times, my default position is a blanket no. So I think the state of the charitable industrial complex has itself become a cancer of sorts, eating itself. With trust in non-profits understandably plummeting, what will that mean for the good work of the few? The sham charities are harming not only the people they bilk out of their cash and savings, but making many others, I have to assume, reluctant to donate to any charity without first knowing more about them. There must be a special circle of hell reserved for these people, praying on people’s better natures with their own worst.

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The Most Distinctive Causes Of Death By State

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This is somewhat interesting, though it was little to do with beer. The CDC released the results of an analysis of the “most distinctive cause of death for each state and the District of Columbia, 2001–2010.” I never realized this, but it makes sense. The CDC uses a standardized List of 113 Selected Causes of Death, based on the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision. This is to help the data collected be more useful, and allows comparisons to be drawn if the data is not affected by local bias or custom. Then the data used was “age-adjusted state-specific death rate for each cause of death relative to the national age-adjusted death rate for each cause of death, equivalent to a location quotient.”

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The analysis that went into creating the map was done by Francis Boscoe, who’s a researcher at the New York State Cancer Registry. Here’s the main findings, from the CDC website:

The resulting map depicts a variety of distinctive causes of death based on a wide range of number of deaths, from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana. The largest number of deaths mapped were the 37,292 deaths in Michigan from “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described”; the fewest, the 11 deaths in Montana from “acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome.” The state-specific percentage of total deaths mapped ranged from 1.8% (Delaware; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described) to 0.0005% (Illinois, other disorders of kidney).

Some of the findings make intuitive sense (influenza in some northern states, pneumoconioses in coal-mining states, air and water accidents in Alaska and Idaho), while the explanations for others are less immediately apparent (septicemia in New Jersey, deaths by legal intervention in 3 Western states). The highly variable use of codes beginning with “other” between states is also apparent. For example, Oklahoma accounted for 24% of the deaths attributable to “other acute ischemic heart diseases” in the country despite having only slightly more than 1% of the population, resulting in a standardized mortality rate ratio of 19.4 for this cause of death, the highest on the map. The highest standardized mortality rate ratio after Oklahoma was 12.4 for pneumoconioses in West Virginia.

A limitation of this map is that it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. All of these were significantly higher than the national rate, but there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped. The map is also predisposed to showing rare causes of death — for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. Using broader cause-of-death categories or requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths would result in a different map. These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries.

Notice that despite prohibitionists claiming that alcohol is the “3rd-Leading Preventable Cause Of Death,” it’s actually not even on the list. It’s not even on the list of 113, apart from the more specific “Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Also, cancer isn’t among any of the top cause for any individual state, which is surprising given that it’s usually listed as the number two cause overall. Some of the stranger ones include Oregon and Nevada, whose leading cause is “legal intervention.” Then there’s Alabama and Tennessee with “accidental discharge of firearms,” while in Arizona and Arkansas it’s “discharge of firearms, undetermined intent.” Is anyone else bothered by the fact that in four states you’re most likely to die by being shot, whatever the reason?

How To Spot Bad Science

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Longtime readers of the Bulletin know that I’m constantly examining and finding fault with questionable studies used by the modern prohibitionist groups using them to promote their agenda. I’m often amazed at some of the studies that make it into peer-reviewed journals. Apparently I’m not the only one. A British chemistry teacher, Andy Brunning, in his spare time, writes a great blog entitled “Compound Interest,” in which he “aims to take a closer look at the chemical compounds we come across on a day-to-day basis.” He created A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science, inspired by scientific research he looked at “which drew questionable conclusions from their results.” It “looks at the different factors that can contribute towards ‘bad’ science.”

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. Personally, I think it’s therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.

It’s nice to see an overview of a dozen of the more common ways in which studies are misused and the results are misrepresented. Sad to say, I see these all the time, so much so that I’ve started to question the way journals operate and how they select and accept articles. There are so many journals nowadays that they either are desperate for content and thus have lower standards than they used to, or the journals themselves have an agenda they’re promoting instead of simply providing a forum for progress in science. But this should give you a good start at figuring out why the next story you see about a study doesn’t seem to make any sense.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

What 3,465 Breweries Are Doing To The Hop Supply

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I admit there’s a certain “duh” factor to this, but it’s still interesting to see the numbers. With IPA and other hoppy beers accounting for over 20% of the craft beer market, there’s not enough hops being grown to keep up with current demand, and it will only get worse as interest continues to grow, as it seems likely the popularity of hoppy beers will be with us for the foreseeable future. This is from the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, which has a short article entitled Craft Beer is Annihilating the Hop Supply, which adds that demand for hops has “nearly quadrupled in the past decade.”

The article is subtitled “why that might be a good thing,” presumably alluding to the increased demand, but never really answers that question satisfactorily. There’s a quote from the former director of the Hop Growers of America, Doug MacKinnon, saying “Craft brewing is sucking up every pound of hops in the U.S. Growers can’t expand fast enough,” and suggesting that’s opening up the market beyond Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where U.S. hop growing has been concentrated at least since prohibition ended.

The article cites as proof that “single-acre hop operations are popping up on other types of farms across the country, including “Growers in New York, Minnesota, and Colorado,” and I’m also aware of similar efforts with commercial farms in Maine, Wisconsin and California, and I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody. Hops-Meister, which is near Clearlake, started in 2004 and grows ten different varieties on at least 15 acres. Co-owner Marty Kuchinski will be talking to my class tonight about hop farming. California used to grow more hops than any other state prior to prohibition, but never rebounded as farmers here found they could make more per acre growing grapes, but it’s why that legacy includes the town of Hopland and the Hop Kiln Winery. And New York used have an entire hop industry in the 19th century, until a downy mildew problem and other issues forced many to move production out west. So it’s little surprise that, with more modern farming methods, this growing demand would bring back hop farming to many parts of the country, not to mention a strong desire for brewers to have more local ingredients.

But the numbers just seem crazy: 27 million pounds of hops in 2014, and an estimated 31 million pounds this year.

hops-use

The California Drought: Almonds, Water (And Beer)

almonds
You probably noticed that California is living under severe drought conditions, especially since governor Jerry Brown recently imposed restrictions on our water use. One of the frequent industries to bear the brunt of blame is, of course, agriculture, which uses a lot of water to feed the country. But more specifically, a lot of blame has come down on almonds with stories in the Chronicle, the Guardian and even Slate declaring 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming, among many others. I haven’t paid too much attention to that, mostly for the selfish reason that I’m not much of a fan of almonds, and couldn’t care less if they stopped growing them.

Gizmodo has an interesting article suggesting that all that stuff about almonds was hooey entitled Seriously, Stop Demonizing Almonds. In a persuasive piece, it’s revealed that “Almonds might take 10 percent of the state’s water, but as the same report notes, they’re generating about 15 percent of the state’s total farming value and almost 25 percent of the agricultural exports from the state.” Of course, I’m no expert on these things, but I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself.

But I actually bring this up for wholly non-almond related reasons. Something in the article caught my attention, which is the chart below. It’s an infographic which originally was published in the L.A. Times, which the Gizmodo author, Alissa Walker, characterizes as a “very misguided infographic of “water-hungry foods.” The title indicates it shows the relative amount of water used to make the finished product, “Gallons of water per ounce of food.”

gallons-water-per-oz-food

But look where beer is on the chart. Beverages are in blue. Soymilk looks like it uses the most, but apparently there was an error that’s now been corrected, and it’s actually pineapple juice that’s the biggest water hog, using 6.36 gallons per ounce of juice. Compared to all the drinks listed, beer looks to be the most efficient, and the interactive portions of the chart on the L.A. Times website indicates that beer uses 1.96 gallons to produce one ounce of beer. But even that seems high.

A bunch of years ago I wrote a feature article for All About Beer entitled It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green: The Greening of America’s Breweries, that examined the steps breweries were taking to lighten their burden on the planet, not just with water, but all sorts of things. One thing I learned was that brewing used roughly a 10-to-1 ratio of water, meaning they use 10 gallons for every gallon of beer. At that time, I also found. “Examining smart ways to conserve water, several breweries have reduced that ratio to four or five-to-one and Uinta Brewery from Utah has gotten it down to 3-to-1.” More recently, the Brewers Association’s Water and Wastewater: Treatment/Volume Reduction Manual claims that the average is now more like 7-to-1 gallons, with a few breweries actually below 3-to-1. Two years ago, Environmental Leader reported that MillerCoors managed to get their ratio of water use down to “3.82 barrels of water per barrel of beer.”

But even staying with a ratio of 10-to-1 for ease of math, this seems egregiously high. Converting the L.A. Times figure of 1.96 gallons to 1 ounce figure to ounces, it becomes 250.88 ounces of water per ounce of beer, or a 251-to-1 ratio, or 25 times reality, and undoubtedly more.

So where did this figure come from? All the Times reveals about its methodology is this. “Totals were converted to U.S. gallons per ounce (weight). Beverage values were additionally converted into fluid ounces using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.” But that doesn’t really tell us where they got the numbers they’re basing this on. It doesn’t really tell us anything. But one thing seems clear, breweries are relatively efficient in their water use, much more so than is being reported during the California drought. And that brings us back to a statement U.S. Davis professor Charlie Bamforth recently made, which seems even more relevant in light of this. “When in drought, drink more beer.”