Spinning Statistics … Again

A few days ago, I wrote that in my mind, Alcohol Justice, as much as any prohibitionist group, had achieved the status of a cult, given their by-any-means-necessary tactics and casual relationship with the truth. Today presented a perfect example of that, in which they took another “study” and bent it and remolded it into the shape they wanted it to be in order to advance their agenda. This morning they tweeted the following:


And there’s certainly some scary claims in that tweet. “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” which is apparently linked to “alcohol” and also “drug misuse.” Or is that misuse of both drugs and alcohol? It could be read either way, and since you rarely here “alcohol misuse” as a term — it’s almost always “alcohol abuse” — I suspect that it was chosen on purpose to give the impression that it was simply drinking alcohol that leads to this “stunning death rate.” But what does the actual “study” claim? The tweet includes a link, which takes you to an article from November 2 in the New York Times, Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. But that title is similarly misleading, because once you actually read it, you’ll discover that it’s not all middle-age white men whose risk is increasing, but a specific subgroup within that cohort. That group is increasing overall, but only because the steepest rise is almost entirely coming from less educated men in that group.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

I guess that’s statistically significant, but it’s an increase of 0.134%, which doesn’t sound as bad as they’re making it out to be. Later in the article, they say that “[i]n that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.” Of course, I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics, as one of the people who conducted the study does, which the article makes a particular point of pointing out. Despite those honors, they’re as flummoxed by the results as apparently everyone else who’s found it’s such a growing problem for “the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites.” adding. “In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans” and this has been “puzzling demographers in recent years.” Seriously? Let me take a stab at it. The middle class has been eroding for decades, real wages have been stagnating almost as long, people are losing their pension plans, unions are under attack and our government has been co-opted by business interests who have been doing everything possible to keep tax breaks for the wealthy, allow our elections to won by whoever has the most money, and generally make life miserable for every worker below the executive level, the people in the 90%. And which group would you expect that to most affect? I would suggest it’s people in the lower paying jobs, the ones requiring less education, which would go a long way toward explaining why these are the same people drinking themselves into an early grave.

They do finally make some mention of this, but apparently don’t think it was significant enough to “fully account for the effect,” when they earlier cited that middle-aged white men with only a high school diploma have “a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures.” But doesn’t it seem like one of those “well, duh” moments?

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation-adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

But that can’t be it, they seem to conclude. That wouldn’t cause them to become depressed, which might lead them to drink excessively or take more drugs, is what they’re saying. Why do we continue to go out of our way to insist that the alcohol or drugs, in and of themselves, are the problem, but not the underlying problem or problems that make people reach for them? Remember, the message from Alcohol Justice was that “alcohol and drug misuse” were the link to a “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” but that’s not what the study found, or is even the focus of the article, despite the fact that misleading headline could make you think that was the case, if you didn’t bother to read it. What this study of metadata from the CDC found was that there’s an increase for such men with less education and who abused alcohol, which is very different from what AJ is peddling. And this spin is doubly reinforced by the photo they chose to use with the tweet. It shows two older couples, well-dressed and sipping on champagne. That’s practically the polar opposite of the image one would expect for which group is showing an increase in their risk of death found by the study they’re referring to. And it’s the photo you see first, before you read either the tweet or click on the article. Before you have any facts whatsoever, you’re confronted by this misleading image of well-heeled bubbly revelers.


But that image holds another secret, and one Alcohol Justice probably doesn’t want you to know about, especially as they’ve started tweeting for donations at this, the giving time of the year. The image is actually taken from an article in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, from early September of this year. That piece, entitled Drinkers ‘subsidising’ non-drinkers by £6.5 billion a year, flies right in the face of one of AJ’s most-cherished propaganda lies, the idea of alcohol harm, that people drinking are a drain on the economy, forcing teetotalers to pay for their excesses and strain public resources. It’s one of AJ’s most common arguments for raising taxes on alcohol, under the notion of a “charge for harm” that they’re so fond of insisting. But the subtitle of the Telegraph article is: “A drain on taxpayers? Drinkers pay their dues three times over, new study claims.”

Far from being a financial burden on taxpayers, people who enjoy alcohol pay the cost of dealing with drink-related social problems almost three times over in tax every year, the analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think-tank, argues.

The paper calculates that the NHS, police, the criminal justice and welfare systems in England collectively spend £3.9 billion a year dealing with the fallout from excessive alcohol consumption.

But that figure is eclipsed by the £10.4 billion a year it says the Treasury gains in alcohol duty in England.
It argues that taxes on drink could be halved and still leave the Government firmly in profit.

They continue:

Christopher Snowdon, author of the report, said: “It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

“Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

“The economic evidence is very clear on this – 40 per cent of the EU’s entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six and a half billion pounds a year.”

So that’s where the photo came from that Alcohol Justice used to accompany a misleading tweet about misstated statistics, linking to a somewhat misleadingly titled article. And this is from the organization that claims to be the “industry watchdog,” forcing me to ask, yet again, who’s watching the watchdog? Because left to their own devices, they obviously aren’t terribly concerned with honesty or truthiness. And that makes it increasingly difficult to have any meaningful discussions with them about alcohol policy or indeed believe anything they say or claim.

Thanksgiving Wishes From The Brookston Beer Bulletin

I just finished my family’s Thanksgiving feast, enjoyed with a 2015 magnum of Our Special Ale from Anchor Brewing, and finished a piece of peanut butter pie. Boy am I stuffed. Before I’m found drooling on the sofa, watching the Packers game, I wanted to take a moment to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.


I’m incredibly thankful that people come here to read what I write, see what I share and drink what I drink. Thank you from the bottom of my pint glass.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is here at last …
     The family’s come from far and near.
The kitchen’s smelling mighty nice;
     And Dad’s got Ballantine on ice.
That’s the beer we like best …
     Deep-brewed to meet the “icebox test.”
We chill the bottles thoroughly …
     Flavor that chill can’t kill, you see!

Priceless. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


The Cult Of Propaganda

Some of the definitions of a cult, as defined by Dictionary.com, include 1) “an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing,” 2) “a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.,” 3) “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader,” and 4) “any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.” That sure sounds like Alcohol Justice, and many other prohibitionist groups, to me. They hold up the ideal that alcohol is bad, and anyone making it, selling it or saying anything good about it is not only wrong, but evil. They use extremist rhetoric and tactics to advance their agenda and they’re certainly “outside of conventional society” since the majority of people enjoy alcohol from time to time, and without question they use “methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific,” especially the unscientific variety masquerading as science. I don’t know if I’d call Bruce Lee Livingston “a charismatic leader;” he seems like more of an opportunist than an evangelist, but he’s also a “dancer” and a “tennis player,” so who knows? But as far as I can see, they pass the test for being a cult.

So it’s slightly amusing to see that the cult of propaganda, a.k.a. Alcohol Justice, has placed Anheuser-Busch InBev in the AJ Doghouse for the sin of making something that’s “flavored” and “glow-in-the-dark,” which of course means that it must be “youth-attractive,” whatever that means. And if that wasn’t vague enough for you, they helpfully include a link in their tweet to their doghouse explanation entitled “Flavored? Glow-in-the-dark? A-B InBev.” Which by itself seems fairly silly. I’m pretty sure almost everything, with the possible exception of neutral spirits, has a flavor of some kind. Frankly, even the neutral ones taste of something, I mean nobody confuses them with water. But why is glow-in-the-dark such a danger? Lots of things light up at night. What is Sheriff AJ so worried about this time?

In a desperate attempt to gain back young drinkers with tricks children enjoy, A-B InBev is going to dangerous lengths. A-B InBev hopes that its release of Oculto, a new tequila-infused citrus-flavored beer, will lure Millennials back to the A-B InBev stable and brands such as Bud Light.

I’m not sure what led them to declare it was “desperation” that led ABI to make Oculto, but the link tells you everything you need to know. It’s a Fast Company article from March of this year, meaning it took AJ nine months to sound the alarm. In its title, they ask Can AB InBev Seduce Millennials with a New Tequila-Infused Beer?, in which “Vice President of U.S. Marketing Jorn Socquet outlines the strategy behind the brewer’s new brand Oculto, which includes masks and secret messages.”

So who are these Millennials of which they speak? I’m never quite sure where one named generation starts, and another ends, so I took to that series of tubes known as the interwebs. When you Google the term, the immediate answer is “a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000; a Generation Yer.” So that would mean ABI is targeting drinkers who reached adulthood at least 15 years ago. Oh, the horror. But other sources do claim Millennials include people who were born as late as 2000. But regardless to insist that ABI is targeting people below 21, who are legally unable to buy what they’re selling is, as usual, an absurdity. I’m not a fan of Oculto as a type of drink, alcopops, or even many of ABI’s products more generally, but they have enough legal customers not to risk doing something illegal or trying to court underage customers. That AJ continues to insist that they’re doing exactly that strains credulity and exposes them as charlatans who would say or do anything to advance their agenda, whether it make sense or not. But AJ goes on in their delusional way.

With a campaign based on elaborate masks, whispered secrets, and mysterious club parties where new drinkers are indoctrinated into the brand, more brand ambassadors join the Oculto fold. Yes, it does sound like a dangerous cult or hazing ritual.

No, it sounds like a bad idea to pander to young adults’ love of Halloween by co-opting imagery from Mexico’s — and all of South America’s — Day of the Dead celebrations. But if you’re worried about a dangerous cult, you need look no further than a mirror. When you start manufacturing controversy, you’re engaging in your own cult-like behavior. Don’t look behind the curtain, reality is what we say it is.

Like other alcohol brands hoping to appeal to youth and attract those who would otherwise reject beer, A-B InBev is focusing the majority of its Oculto marketing strategy on social media, e.g. Instagram. The label includes a glow-in-the-dark, Day-of-the-Dead-inspired skull that looks and acts like a children’s decoration. While A-B InBev attempts to illuminate the Oculto brand label, the risk of harm to young people inside the bottle glows brightly.

You keep using that word “youth.” I do not think it means what you think it means. AJ acknowledges that it was inspired by the Day of the Dead, but mis-characterizes it as “a children’s decoration.” Have they seen a Day of the Dead celebration? Apparently not, or they’d know better than to accuse a glow-in-the-dark skull as being exclusive;y for children. What is it about something that glows in the dark that makes it “youth-attractive” anyway? That similarly makes absolutely no earthly sense. I love phosphorus gadgets, and our house and outside of it, is filled with them. I’m about as far away from youth as one can get, and I love things that glow in the dark.

Also, the idea that the target for Oculto is to “get” people “who would otherwise reject beer” is ridiculous, and completely misleading and false. Did AJ even read the article they’re using to put ABI in the doghouse? The people who are rejecting beer are drinking “hard booze,” drinks like “whiskey and tequila.” So this is really AJ specifically targeting beer — sigh, again — and not alcohol in general. If they were really worried about kids, or people’s health, they’d be applauding this effort to get young adults to drink something far less potent than hard liquor. Oculto, even at 6% ABV, is still no where near as strong as the weakest tequilas or whiskies. Tequila is usually 80 proof, or 40% ABV, while whiskey is around 40-46% ABV. But ABI’s in the doghouse for trying to get people to drink their weaker offering. How does that make any kind of sense?

Their laughable insistence that anything kids, or even young adults perhaps not quite 21, might find appealing is, by definition, “youth-attractive,” is a canard, and a dangerous one that they use time and time again. There is no division between “youth-attractive” and “adult-attractive.” Such delineations do not exist in the real world. Many things adults like, kids like, too. And many things kids love, adults continue to enjoy, as well. The only people who “put away childish things” as so-called grown-ups are, in my opinion, idiots with a stick up their ass who forgot how to enjoy their one and only life. But they’re just the sort of person who might join a cult, even one trying to rid the world of beer.


Why The Big Beer Companies Will Fail To Court Women

Earlier this week, I read in AdAge that Budweiser Pulls Puppies From Super Bowl Ad Plans for the very sensible reason that they weren’t terribly effective. As AdAge notes, “as cute as they are, the puppies apparently don’t sell beer.”

I also read in Bloomberg that ABI was going to shift their advertising focus away from the male-dominated imagery that they’ve employed for decades, objectifying and alienating one-half of the world’s consumers, in an effort to win over female beer drinkers. “‘Objectification of women is going away,’ said Jorn Socquet, AB InBev’s vice president of marketing for the U.S.” in the Bloomberg article, What ‘Gender Friendly’ Ads Look Like to Big Beer.


That strategy has created a demographic where only about one-quarter of women drink their beer, yet when they were riding high they didn’t seem to care at all how they treated the mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and girlfriends of the people who bought their beer. Despite loud and vocal criticism of those practices for years and years, only now that their sales are slipping have they seemed to have noticed and decided they should “win back women.” To do this, they’re going to air an ad during the Super Bowl “built around the idea that coming together over a frosty Bud Light can help solve the world’s problems, including unequal pay.”

But can one ad, or even a series of ads, undo decades of tone deaf ads that were, and continue to be, downright awful to women? And it’s not like things have gotten much better in the more enlightened 21st century. If anything, attacks on women have increased in politics, business and in the media.


As The Atlantic wonders, Are TV Ads Getting More Sexist? and Business Insider notes that These Modern Ads Are Even More Sexist Than Their ‘Mad Men’ Era Counterparts. And more specific to beer, Vinepair makes a compelling case that 13 Sexist Beer Ads Show How Little Has Changed Since the 1950s. There’s an entire Tumblr devoted to Bad Beer Ads for Women. There’s no shortage of material to show that it’s not really gotten any better in my lifetime.


But if corporations are people, they are people with convenient Alzheimer’s Disease. They’ll undoubtedly try to convince women that they’ve had this change of heart because it’s right thing to do (and even though it might be) but the truth is that it only has to do with profit. They’ll hope that no one will remember how bad, and how consistently sexist, their ads have been for decades upon decades, right up to the present day.

Fortune magazine weighed in with their take on the new plan, with how Beer Companies Are Courting Women, and here’s how you know that they don’t really get it and it will fail.

In order to win over women, the beer companies are designing more colorful packaging and creating sweeter drinks, like the Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita. But taste isn’t necessarily the problem — MillerCoors and AB InBev are focusing on the social aspect of beer, too.

I love how the big brewers always think that changing up the packaging is the way to woo customers. The idea that women will only respond to “more colorful packaging” and only want “sweeter drinks” is laughably naive and almost criminally insulting. And this is, remember, them trying to “court women,” a similarly insulting turn of phrase. How many times have we seen beer companies try fruitier, sweeter beers and pink packaging to entice women? How often has it worked? The now defunct Beer West magazine had a good overview of such failed attempts in Have You Really Come A Long Way, Baby? How beer is(n’t) marketed to women.


To illustrate that it’s not just Anheuser-Busch InBev wearing blinders, MillerCoors’ senior marketing insights director Britt Dougherty opined that they’re “going through a feminization of culture” as a way of saying the days of “airing ads that objectify women” are over. I’ll believe it when I see it. I suspect that as soon as this doesn’t prove as successful as they want, they’ll return to the tried and true male-oriented advertising that’s been their bread and butter my entire lifetime.


Sexism, perhaps more than any of the destructive -isms, makes no sense to me. I’m male, and it makes no sense. Why do so many men feel they have to keep down women? Every one of us has a female mother. Most of us have sisters, aunts, and daughters. Why would we ever want to keep them from succeeding? I know there’s at least some religious reasons for it, but even that can’t account for all of it. Why would you voluntarily keep you mother, wife or daughter from being able to climb as high as they want to in life? Why would you harass, objectify or otherwise insult every other female, just because they’re female? I honestly don’t understand it. How can you hate your mother? How can you hate your wife? How can you hate your daughters? Because hatred toward some women, by using sexism, objectification and other insults, is hatred toward all women, your own family included.


And yet it seems to be rampant, and growing, in our society. It should be a thing of the past, a relic, but as Gamergate makes abundantly clear, there are males in our society who hate women to the point that they want to do them actual physical harm for saying things they don’t like, disagree with or just having an opinion. That seems nuts, but perhaps more confusing is that we don’t do more to put a stop to it as a society. Can there really be enough men who are deaf and blind to what’s happening, or do they secretly agree with them or just not give a shit so long as they’re on top of the perceived hierarchy? I have a daughter who I want to grow up in a world where she can do whatever she wants, follow every opportunity available to her and live her life to the fullest, exactly the same as her brother, my son, is able to do. And as it stands now, that seems like it’s too much for society to bear, that true gender equality remains as elusive as the end of racism. Why the fuck should that be the case? If we can’t even erase it from the beer industry, which ought to know better, what chance have we for the wider world? So while I think this is the right step for the big beer companies, they haven’t shown themselves to take any action except ones that help their bottom line. And while that is to be expected (being a problem with the institution of corporations) you’d like to think that even male executives have women in their lives that would make such decisions increasingly difficult, yet so far that remarkably hasn’t been the case.

Maybe if we celebrated our similarities — like enjoying beer — instead of pandering to our differences, that would be a good start. So yeah, let’s keep sexism out of beer advertising, out of beer culture and out of the breweries themselves. We’re all just people, beer-loving people.


Craft Beer Product Segmentation 2015: A Tale Of Two Charts

It was the best of charts, it was the worst of charts. So begins every great story. This made me laugh like the Dickens this morning, as fellow beer writer Bryan Roth tweeted a chart showing “Craft Production in the U.S.” apparently as of August 2015.


The data comes from IBISWorld, a company that identifies themselves as “one of the world’s leading publishers of business intelligence, specializing in Industry research and Procurement research.” Their website shows that they have offices in Los Angeles, New York, Melbourne, London and Beijing, although the chart claims they’re “Chicago-based.” The report is entitled “Craft Beer Production in the US: Market Research Report,” and was published in August of this year. If you want to buy yourself a copy, it costs between $925 and $1,595, depending on which purchase option you choose.

Hopefully, the chart was not created by IBISWorld, because besides mis-identifying where the company is located, as Roth points out, “the graphic designer who created alternating sized circles not dependent on their % share is bad at their job.” It’s a terrible chart, on so many levels. First, why use “stencil” as the font for the title in the red center circle? Why are the outer circles different shades of blue, for no apparent rhyme or reason. There’s no discernible pattern to that decision. Bock is the lightest color, at 3.9%, followed by Amber Ale at 10.9%, so you might be tempted to think the color is dependent on market share, lighter for lower and darker for higher percentages. But no, fruit beer is the lowest, at 3.5%, and is medium blue, while Lager, at only 8.6%, is the darkest blue on the chart.

Why are the black lines not emanating from the center of the middle? Instead, it looks like one of the webs from the 1980s video game “Tempest.” They all meet in an outer ring, too, except for Bock and Wheat Beer, which are curiously left hanging. But most egregious, the size of the circles are not even close to being proportional to the percentages expressed in them. The sizes appear to be nothing more than random, just like the color choices. So at first glance, it makes no sense and is, at best, confusing. At worst, it looks like it was designed by a five-year old, and frankly that may be overly insulting to toddlers.

Carla Jean Lauter, better known by her nom nom de plume, The Beer Babe, was similarly bothered by the chart, but decided to do something about it. She “fixed” it, making the bubbles proportional to their market share so the chart is easier to read and better represents the reality it’s trying to convey. She also chose the colors of the bubbles to be representative of the beer color of each style, even choosing pumpkin color for seasonal. As Lauter tweeted when she posted her version of the chart, “I feel better now.” Weirdly, so do I. It’s so much better.


Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong

Regular readers know that I’m frequently at odds with both the prohibitionists and the addiction community, usually meaning the people and organizations who profit from the status quo viewpoint like AA and others. As I’ve written before, I don’t think alcoholism is something everyone is at risk for and I definitely don’t agree that total abstinence is the answer. If you want any background to what I’m talking about, check out Tipping The Sacred Cows Of Addiction, What Is Addiction?, America’s Addiction Treatment Goal: Perpetual, Lifelong Abstinence or Recent Addiction News Roundup.

I’ve often argued that, from my own experiences, that there as many societal and individual factors for why any individual becomes addicted to something, and it seems to be that it’s the mind rather than genetics or biology that more often determines or causes it.

Here’s yet another powerful denunciation of the prevailing view, entitled Everything You Thought You Knew About Addiction Is Wrong, which looks at ‘experiments in the 1970s by famed professor of psychology Bruce Alexander,” which revealed “that more times than not, the real culprit in addiction is a lack of human connection.”


And that makes perfect sense to me, as I’ve observed it’s usually something wrong in an individual’s life that causes them to become addicted to something, and the addiction is the result of that, not the problem in and of itself. The conclusion of the study was essentially “addiction is just one symptom of human disconnection,” and that it’s a more “complex disease” then simply “just say no” can address. Obviously, the video below uses heroin and cocaine as examples, but it’s just as applicable for any addiction, alcohol included. And frankly, it makes more sense than almost anything else I’ve read or heard, and yet seems curiously removed from the addiction debate even though apparently its findings are from the 1970s.

It was created by Kurzgesagt as part of a series for Patreon, and was “adapted from Johann Hari’s New York Times best-selling book ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.'”

Silly Questions: If Your Blog Were A Beer

Okay, this is pretty silly, but starts out with some interesting comparisons. The infographic by Visually, asks the question If Your Blog Were A Beer, What Kind Would It Be? Once they start trying to define blogs by type of beer, it goes off the rails. For example, calling stouts “the heavyweights of the beer world,” shows that they don’t really understand their beer. Still, it’s fun little exercise, even it went goofy in its execution. Oh, and I don’t think I fit any of their identified blogs.

Click here to see the infographic full size.

The Monthly Session: Should It Continue Or Should We Let It Go?

Way back in early 2007, Stan Hieronymus had an idea, one he’d borrowed from the wine bloggers, who at the time were further along in both numbers and longevity. That idea was Beer Blogging Friday, the monthly Session that takes place on the first Friday of each month. The plan was simple. Beer bloggers from around the world would get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic each month, on the first Friday. Each time, a different beer blogger would host the Session, having chosen a topic and then afterwards would create a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. Over time, I had hoped that we’d collectively have created a record with lots of useful information about various topics on the subject of beer. And for a while, it worked great.


Around 2008, Stan went on an 18-month around-the-world trip with his wife and daughter, and I took over keeping track of the Session, and put up a page here listing all of the topics with links along with instructions on how to host and participate. When he got back, it was simple enough for me to keep the archive going and between the two of us keep recruiting hosts. It’s now been 104 months in a row, a little more than eight years, and somebody has stepped up each month volunteering to be the host and keep it going. There have been a few months when it looked like nobody was going to host, but so far something always seemed to work out. In the early days, we were booked out months ahead with hosts, which was great, and made things a lot easier to manage. Lately, however, it’s been hard finding hosts and fewer and fewer people have been stepping up. For the last year or so, we’ve limped along, and we’ve been able to keep going only by the skin of our teeth. There have been more than a few months when someone stepped up just in the nick of time and offered to host.

But I fear we may have hit a wall. With just two weeks to go before Session #104 is scheduled to take place, we have no host and no prospects for one, or so it seems. I could start asking previous hosts to step up — and perhaps I should — but that also seems a little contrary to the spirit of it being organic, something that just chugs along all by itself. I could also start begging and cajoling bloggers who have never hosted, but then again I don’t want anyone to feel obligated. It’s supposed to be fun, otherwise it won’t work. Which brings me to the elephant in the ether.


Should we keep the monthly Session going, or put it out to pasture, and declare it past its prime and no longer of any enduring interest? Certainly beer blogging has changed in the eight years since we started the Session. When I asked Stan yesterday — since it’s really his baby — he wondered if we should “take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course,” noting that “it lasted longer than the similar wine project” that inspired it.

We originally looked at it as an opportunity to promote one’s own blog, but more importantly to take part in a larger discussion and build cohesion or community or something vaguely positive among our fellow bloggers. I can’t speak for everybody, but that was at least my hope. None of us thought about it in terms of boosting traffic, but it certainly feels like that’s become part of the equation. There are so many ways to engage with readers, one another and just people in general nowadays, with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and who knows what else that blogging itself no longer seems as relevant as it once did as a medium. And indeed, it does seem like there are lots of beer blogs that have been abandoned or are no longer maintained.

According to the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, as of August of 2015, there were 677 beer blogs in North America, 365 more internationally, 133 considered industry blogs, and another 71 they consider to be press beer blogs. That’s a total of 1,246 beer blogs. I feel like that’s number is getting smaller, that there actually fewer beer blogs then there used to be, although I have no evidence to support that whatsoever.


I do know that when I started the Bay Area Beer Bloggers in 2008 there were a little over fifty beer blogs here in Northern California but today’s list on our dedicated website includes less than half that number, and a quick perusal shows me a couple of those are now fairly dormant, bringing the total ratio to around 2/5, meaning three out of every five beer blogs in the Bay Area are no longer posting regularly, or at all, seven years after we started BABB. And that’s the trend I’ve seen around the country, if not the world.

Although to be fair, 1,246 is still a pretty big number. With only 104 Sessions under our belt, and ignoring the fact that a few people have hosted twice, there’s still theoretically 1,142 beer bloggers who have not yet hosted The Session.

So the question I have for the beer collective hive mind is should we continue to do the monthly Session, Beer Blogging Friday? Please vote below, whether you’ve hosted, participated or never even heard of it before now, whether you think it should continue, or whether we should move on to other pursuits. Maybe there’s something else, similar, or whatever, that could replace it, or perhaps we should just go our separate ways altogether. Please vote “No” or “Yes” below:

And if you voted “Yes,” are you willing to put your time where your mouth is? Or something like that. If you’ve never hosted before, would you be willing to? (If you don’t know what hosting entails, The Session page has a description of what’s involved.) If you have hosted before, would you be willing to again? Answer that $1,000,000 question below. If you are willing to host and chose either the first or second answer, please add your e-mail address in the field marked “other” before clicking on the “VOTE” button and it will send it to me. I’ll then reach out and see when you might be willing to host. Right now every month is open from Friday, October 1, 2015 and on. If you already know when you’d be willing to host, just drop me a note directly at “Jay(.)Brooks(@)gmail(.)com.”

Blaming Overeating On Drinking

You know what makes you fat? It’s not food. It’s drinking alcohol. Wait, what? Yup, according to a study financed by the NIH, conducted by the Indiana Alcohol Research Center, and published earlier this year in the journal Obesity, researchers claim that what they’ve dubbed “the apéritif phenomenon” may be causing our obesity epidemic. Except that they’re not.

The self-described “internationally recognized news website” Inquisitr, under the category “Celebrity Health,” published an article entitled “Alcohol Sensitizes Brain’s Response To Food Aromas, Say Scientists — Is Liquor Responsible For Rising Obesity?” Naturally, Alcohol Justice gleefully tweeted the bad news as “new evidence points to alcohol’s role in U.S. obesity epidemic.” Except that, as I mentioned, the evidence does nothing of the kind.

The study that the article is based on is entitled The apéritif effect: Alcohol’s effects on the brain’s response to food aromas in women. Here’s the abstract:

Consuming alcohol prior to a meal (an apéritif) increases food consumption. This greater food consumption may result from increased activity in brain regions that mediate reward and regulate feeding behavior. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we evaluated the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response to the food aromas of either roast beef or Italian meat sauce following pharmacokinetically controlled intravenous infusion of alcohol.

BOLD activation to food aromas in non-obese women (n = 35) was evaluated once during intravenous infusion of 6% v/v EtOH, clamped at a steady-state breath alcohol concentration of 50 mg%, and once during infusion of saline using matching pump rates. Ad libitum intake of roast beef with noodles or Italian meat sauce with pasta following imaging was recorded.

BOLD activation to food relative to non-food odors in the hypothalamic area was increased during alcohol pre-load when compared to saline. Food consumption was significantly greater, and levels of ghrelin were reduced, following alcohol.

An alcohol pre-load increased food consumption and potentiated differences between food and non-food BOLD responses in the region of the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus may mediate the interplay of alcohol and responses to food cues, thus playing a role in the apéritif phenomenon.

The Indiana Alcohol Research Center “focuses on the elucidation of the biomedical and psychosocial factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism,” which suggests to me they’re another group like the NIAAA, or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (whose grant created the IARC), is exclusively interested in exploring the negative aspects of alcohol. And just like the NIAAA, it’s right there in their charter.

Curiously, yesterday the full text of the article was also online, but today it’s restricted. They start with the premise that “consuming alcohol prior to a meal (their “apéritif phenomenon”) increases food consumption,” but of course that’s the point of an apéritif, or at least to enhance and make the experience of the food and/or the food and the drink better.

But as they conclude, this “pre-loading” of alcohol is what makes us want to eat more, which they believe that their study shows. When I briefly looked at the entire article, their longer discussion of the findings, as is quite common, suggested caution in drawing too many conclusions and suggesting further study was warranted. As the shorter conclusion states, these “food cues” play “a role in the apéritif phenomenon,” which is not exactly the same as saying “drinking is responsible for American obesity.”

But that didn’t stop author Alap Naik Desai from making such speculation, fueling the prohibitionist response that of course “Liquor [is] Responsible For [the] Rising Obesity” in the United States.

A research conducted by Indiana University indicated that exposure to alcohol enhanced the brain’s sensitivity and heightened its response to food aromas. In simpler words, food seemed much more appealing and appetizing, which, of course, led to extra consumption. Connecting the dots, one could also summarize that alcohol consumption was responsible for increased intake of food and hence a hidden cause of obesity.

I’m not sure which dots he’s referring to, since that’s a fairly absurd statement that isn’t contained in the study itself. But beyond that, the study involved just 35 female test subjects, no men at all. And it seems hard to extrapolate anything meaningful that could be applicable to the human population from so few people. Also, they claim that people “responded enthusiastically to food aromas after the body had been exposed to alcohol,” but not from drinking it, simply from having smelled it. Despite the lack of causation, or a robust sample size or even anything resembling reality, the lead author of the study, William Eiler, apparently told Desai that “this poses a major risk to those trying to keep their weight down.” Seriously, “a major risk” because 35 women seemed more hungry after sniffing alcohol? Desai continues. “With America weighing down under an obesity epidemic and two out of every three American adults consuming alcohol, there is an immediate need to find more connecting factors between the brain, food, and alcohol, advise the scientists.”

Except that this idea is easily demolished by one simple fact. Even in countries where alcohol consumption per capita exceeds the United States, which according to the World health Organization is 36 countries, the obesity rates do not follow the same pattern, which you’d expect if alcohol “pose[d] a major risk to those trying to keep their weight down.” According to WHO, Belarus, Andorra, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Grenada, Austria, Ireland, France, Saint Lucia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, the Bahamas, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Spain, Latvia, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Gabon, Romania, Nigeria, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Cyprus all consume more alcohol per capita than the U.S., based on data for fifteen years, from 1990-2010.

And as for the most obese countries, we’re number one according to several sources, including Business Insider, the Telegraph and NationMaster. Although there are some sources that claim in 2013, Mexico took the title from us, yet it, too, is conspicuously absent from the list of countries that drink more than we do, meaning they drink less but are more obese.

Of those 36 countries that the WHO data makes clear drink more per capita than we do, only half of them appear on the OECD list of the top obese nations, from their 2012 Obesity Update report. If alcohol was causing people to eat more, than it seems clear people who drink more should likewise be eating more, too, and we’d see a direct correlation between both sets of numbers.

The three sources other than the WHO list also include on their lists of the most obese nations; Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Tonga, Turkey, UAE, and Zimbabwe, of which only two — Nigeria and Spain — drink more than we do. Again, if any of this were true, it seems obvious that there would be an easily recognizable correlation between both alcohol consumption and the obesity rates, but there isn’t, strongly suggesting there isn’t one at all.

I suspect the researchers know this, but the journalist who took the study and twisted it to fit a narrative probably did not. He finishes with this conclusion. “With America weighing down under an obesity epidemic and two out of every three American adults consuming alcohol, there is an immediate need to find more connecting factors between the brain, food, and alcohol, advise the scientists.” But is that what they’re advising? Because the evidence doesn’t quite measure up to that scary headline. If this were true, wouldn’t doctors be prescribing alcohol for their patients who need to eat more. I’d also say his article seems irresponsible, since it promotes an idea that it doesn’t actually support, and misrepresents the facts to get more people clicking on the link. It’s so bad that only a prohibitionist would fall for it, because facts don’t matter in propaganda, only making alcohol look bad.

Prohibitionists Picking On Past Their Primers

What is it with Alcohol Justice insulting people recently? A few days ago they called people around the world “idiotic,” and now they’re referring to the elderly as “geezers?” What happened to being an organization holding the alcohol industry to impossibly high standards? Or don’t those apply in the first person, only in the third person? Sadly, that’s probably the answer as whatever they do is championed as correct and everything — and I do mean everything — that alcohol companies and anyone who might choose to drink alcohol are doing is considered wrong.

So — sigh — what is it this time? AJ tweeted out the following this morning:


“Some geezers are hitting the hootch too hard bbc.in/1PQelb1 Better wake-up before it’s too late!”

The link takes you to an article posted on the BBC‘s health website, with the far more gentle title, Elderly people warned over alcohol consumption. So why exactly is AJ calling the elderly “geezers?” According to Wikipedia, “Geezer is a slang term for a man. In the UK, it can carry the connotation of either age or eccentricity. In the US, the term typically refers to a cranky old man.” In AJ’s tweet, of course, they show three elderly women sipping what looks like wine, champagne and a cocktail, not “hootch,” or even it’s more common spelling “hooch” (oh, AJ how many mistakes can you pack into one tweet?). Yes, hooch can mean any “alcoholic liquor,” but it usually refers to “inferior or illicit whiskey,” not the good stuff. So calling these three women geezers drinking hooch doesn’t really work, does it?

The BBC article itself, naturally, is problematic, as well. The headline is that they found that “one in five people over 65 who drink” (so only 20% and only 20% of the elderly population that are not teetotalers, meaning less than 20%) is drinking their “hooch” at “unsafe levels.”

First of all, those levels they’re talking about in the UK are arbitrary and were simply made up, as was revealed in 2007, twenty years after the guidelines for the UK had been set in stone in 1987. One committee member who’d worked on the guidelines remembered that they were simply “plucked out of the air” and had “no basis in science” whatsoever, which I detailed at the time in Target: Alcohol. So it’s pretty hard to get worked up about elderly people, and a minority of them at that, who are not following capricious, arbitrary guidelines that were simply made up.

But the kicker, for me, is that final admonishment in AJ’s tweet: “Better wake-up before it’s too late!” To which my first through was exactly the same as the nearly 300 commenters to the BBC article. “Or what?” After working my entire lifetime, and finally reaching retirement age, finally able to do the things I want to do, the last thing I want to hear is “go easy, darling, mustn’t have too much to drink” from … well, from anybody. Seriously, unless I’m falling down, incoherently drunk every single day at age 70, it’s nobody’s business but my own and Alcohol Justice and their ilk can go f*@k themselves. I’m going to enjoy my twilight years, if I can, and if I make it that far on my own, I think I can manage without their unwanted intrusion and advice. They don’t care about my health, they care about controlling people and telling them what’s good for them because they know better than you and me. It’s the true national pastime.

But what I’m still unclear about is why they’ve chosen to begin attacking people with insults and epithets, people who’ve done nothing more than live their lives as they see fit, but apparently differently from how AJ believes they should live. That’s certainly not how you win people over to your way of thinking. It just pisses them off.