Berkeley Bar Proposes Not Serving Alcohol

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Talk about your non-story. A new Kava bar set to open in Berkeley is planning on not serving alcohol and you’d think they had re-invented the light bulb. Between the bar’s own application claiming it “aims to be Berkeley’s first and only alcohol-alternative bar” and Alcohol Justice tweeting the news with their characteristic glee assuming it must be anti-alcohol, there’s not a lot to the actual story. Not to mention the way in which the Bay Area BizTalk author is spinning it so that she claims it to be “innovative,” saying that “while the common thread is serving booze, one business that plans to open in Berkeley could change that.” Puh-leeze!

Okay, first let’s dispense with the innovation or that it’s Berkeley, or anywhere for that matter’s, “first and only alcohol-alternative bar.” Berkeley and the rest of the world has thousands, maybe millions of them. They’re called cafes, coffeehouse, tea bars, ice cream parlors, and on and on. Starbucks alone operates nearly 24,000 alcohol-alternative bars, not including the few that have been test-marketing alcohol sales in the evenings. As for Alcohol Justice’s churlish remark that “If this takes off, expect Bud Light Kava,” they’re displaying their usual cluelessness. Kava is a plant “used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety.”

making-kava

The scientific name for the specific plant used to make the kava drink is known as “Piper methysticum,” which means “intoxicating pepper.” So essentially it’s a different, milder high, but is used in much the same way and for the same purposes as many people use alcohol and mood-altering drugs. You just missed celebrating the Feast of Papa-Lea, the God of Kava Drinking, on September 8. Still, it’s not exactly a health drink. “People taking certain kava-based drugs and dietary products have suffered liver damage or liver failure as a result of hepatotoxicity. Consequently, kava is regulated in a number of countries. In the EU it is strictly prohibited only in Poland.” So the bar may be not serving alcohol, but that’s because they’re focusing on another, somewhat similar product. If it were more popular in the U.S., and regulated like alcohol, you can bet Alcohol Justice would be against it, and singing a different tune.

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I want to be clear that I’m not against Kava. I’ve never had it but would try it in a heartbeat if offered a chance to sample it. But I do want to point out the incessant hypocrisy of prohibitionist groups like Alcohol Justice who are so against alcohol in our society that they’ll celebrate the fact that a bar is taking a different theme to reach a specialized clientele and choosing against serving alcohol in favor of a different mood-altering drink. One they’re against, and the other … well, they don’t really understand or care about so long as it’s not alcohol.

Personally, I hope the MeloMelo Kava Bar does open. It sounds interesting, and worth trying, but please let’s dispense with the notion that it’s going to start a wave of non-alcoholic places that will squash alcohol’s prominence as the beverage of choice at bars across the nation. And especially that they’ll be characterized as “alcohol-alternative bars.” According to the Bay Area BizTalk article, “Tea, yerba mate and kombucha will also be on the menu at MeloMelo, but the bar will not serve food or ‘coffee bean-related’ products.” And let’s not forget that MeloMelo is saving themselves thousands by not buying an expensive liquor license. So these are marketing decisions to differentiate themselves from coffeehouses, and their not serving alcohol is not exactly something that’s likely to “catch on” given that there are already thousands of places where alcohol is not served already. Hell, every time someone actually tries to sell alcohol in a place where it’s traditionally not sold — like Starbucks or Burger King — the hue and cry from the wingnut prohibitionists is deafening.

kava

But let’s review the real issue here, and the ridiculousness of the concept of being an alcohol-alternative establishment. I think I see a way out. When you’re at a bar, or restaurant or whatever and don’t want to order something alcoholic off of the menu; don’t. Now, was that so hard? There are all sorts of people in the world, and at any given time in any number of moods. Sometimes you want or need a drink, sometimes you don’t. I’m not a big fan of seafood, in fact hate most if it and could most likely live happily my remaining days if I never saw a fish on my plate again. But I’m not boycotting restaurants with seafood choices on the menu. I just don’t order any of them. But the prohibitionists would rather limit everybody’s choice and simply not have alcohol available for legal adults to enjoy because a minority of them might not be able to handle themselves, in effect punishing those of us who can. So how about we have alcohol-alternative people and give the rest of us the ability to choose for ourselves how we we want to live our lives?

Wine, Beer Or Spirits?

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Here’s a cool interactive map created by Ghost in the Data. Using data from the World Health Organization, the map shows “How much — and which — alcohol is drunk in the world during a week?” As the instructions explain: “Move over countries to learn it, or use the buttons to show the top wine, beer and spirits drinkers or each country’s favorite drink.” The first three maps show each alcohol type with darkest countries drinking more and lighter one drinking less that of that particular type. Check it out at Wine, Beer or Spirits?

Beer
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Wine
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Spirits
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This map, called “Favorite,” shows each country by which of the alcohol types is the most popular there, and its intensity shows how popular it is relative to the other types.

Favorites by Type
ghostdata-2014-fave

If you move your mouse over each nation, you can see the breakdown for the alcohol types. I seem to recall that the WHO data also has an “other” category for native drinks that aren’t one of the big three so I’m not sure how they addressed that, whether including them as the one they most closely resembled or if they simply ignored them.

The profile for the United States
ghostdata-2014-usa

Popular Is As Popular Does

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A variation of “stupid is as stupid does,” either works, as far as I’m concerned. Because this is a stupid type of study that keeps going around and pretending to be scientific and valuable, of which it appears to be neither. The latest one of these, entitled Beverage- and brand-specific binge alcohol consumption among underage youth in the US, appeared in the May edition of the Journal of Substance Use (although the Post’s infographic mis-identifies the source as the “Journal of Substance Abuse,” which ceased publication in 2002). What it “found,” is that when underage youth drink, and binge drink (a ridiculously defined term), they drink popular brands of alcohol, from which they draw sinister conclusions. Here’s how the Washington Post reported the the absurd conclusions drawn in What underage drinkers drink when they binge drink:

“The most important finding is that the phenomenon of binge drinking among our youth is extremely brand specific,” Dr. Michael Siegel, professor at Boston University School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, said in an interview. “For the first time we’ve found the brands that are most responsible for binge drinking among our nation’s youth.”

For the first time? Seriously? This sort of “study” has been done before, as I detailed last year in New Study Concludes Kids Drink Same Beers As Adults, in which I found it’s been done previous to that one, as well. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, or new.

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Perhaps most obnoxious is Alcohol Justice, who naturally has been tweeting with their usual glee anything that they believe shows alcohol in a negative light. Here’s how they characterized it:

What underage drinkers drink when they binge drink http://wapo.st/1u1V76Y Spoiler alert: BEER.”

So what’s especially annoying about that, is that while beer is indeed number one on the list, of the 25 brands listed, only 8 are beers, or only 32%. And even by the total percentage, the eight beer brands are 44%, less than half. Then there’s the fact that the spirits and wine are, on average, much higher in alcohol than beer, so comparing straight percentages skews the actual amount of alcohol consumed. If we adjusted this for the amount of alcohol in each, and thus how much alcohol was consumed, the amount of beer would likely plummet to an even smaller percentage of the whole. So by virtually every measure, beer is not the biggest culprit, yet Alcohol Justice singles it out with typical ignobility by saying “Spoiler alert: BEER.” Yet it’s not really beer, if you bother to actually look at the data. In the abstract of the actual study, even the conclusion of the researchers is that “binge drinking among youth is most commonly involves spirits [sic].” But Alcohol Justice ignores that — reading is hard, after all — and targets beer once more.

Of course, the data itself is questionable, too. According to the abstract, it was compiled via “[a]n Internet panel [that] was used to obtain a sample of 1032 underage youth aged 13–20, who drank alcohol in the last 30 d. For each brand consumed, youth reported drinking quantity and frequency, and whether they engaged in binge drinking with that brand (≥5 drinks for males and ≥4 for females). Each youth reporting binge drinking with a brand constituted a binge drinking report.” So they put up an internet poll and asked kids to report on their own illegal activity. How scientific. How could anything go wrong?

But it’s especially the conclusions they draw from them that seem absurd. For example, as was found in the previous study I reported on, Bud Light was the brand most often chosen. But Bud Light is, of course, the best-selling brand of beer in the U.S., a fact you’d think the researchers would be aware of. You don’t need a slide rule to figure why the beer that most of their parents are buying, might also be the one their kids are drinking, too. The same is true for just about every brand on the list, all very popular ones, the best-sellers in their individual categories. So you’d expect that they’d be the same brands consumed by our youth, especially if they’re taking them from their parents or other adults’ stashes. It’s the most obvious reason. Even if minors are asking adults to buy them some booze, the more popular brands would be the ones most readily available and sold by the most retailers. But the obvious answers seem to always elude the scientists, who seem more interested in making tenuous, off-the-wall but apparently agenda-supporting conclusions.

But even if we assumed that beer was number one, so what? In terms of both volume and sales, beer outsells every other adult beverage by a wide margin. So why wouldn’t that be across the board, including underage drinking, too. Why would they appear to be surprised that the best-selling type of alcohol, as well as the best-selling brand of beer, are also the most popular among minors?

And they seem to do the same thing with the others, too. So instead of recognizing that Jack Daniels in the best-selling whiskey (the chart incorrectly calls it bourbon, which I’m not sure means the researchers or the Post don’t know what they’re talking about), they instead go down the road less traveled of bizarre reasoning.

The list of the most popular alcohol brands among America’s heavy-drinking youth might appear somewhat disjointed at first glance. Some of them, after all, are difficult to comprehend — Jack Daniel’s bourbons [sic], for one, is significantly more expensive than other lower shelf whiskeys, and yet ranks as the second most popular brand across all spirits and beers. But there’s actually a reasonably clear thread that could be tying them all together: millions upon millions of dollars in marketing.

“Why are these brands the most popular? Is there something in their marketing? There could be messages in their marketing efforts that are encouraging the use of these not just by youths but also in excess,” Siegel said. “We need to take a closer look at the marketing practices of these larger brands.”

Yup, kids choose them because of “millions upon millions of dollars in marketing,” not because they’re already the most popular brands, or because their parents drink them and so are in their homes, or because they’re the brands available for sale at the most places. Yes, you could argue that it’s marketing that built and now maintains their popularity, but that some malicious scheme will be revealed by “tak[ing] a closer look at the marketing practices of these larger brands” is completely absurd. When you go looking for a bogeyman, that’s what you find, especially when you ignore the simple, logical answers and try to find something more complicated. Because it seems like they’re going out of their way to ignore the obvious in favor of finding something to blame alcohol companies for.

Another reason to suspect this study is about promoting an agenda is something they state in “Background and objectives.” They begin their “study” with this underlying premise. “Binge drinking is a common and risky pattern of alcohol consumption among youth.” But as even the NIH admits, “[s]ince 2007, alcohol use and heavy drinking have shown appreciable declines in national surveys of middle and high school students. One study found that 12th-grade alcohol use declined from 66.4 percent to 62 percent in 2013, with a similar downward trend seen in eighth- and 10th-graders.”

And finally, in the Post article’s conclusion, author Roberto A. Ferdman, whose beat is “food policy, consumer business, and Latin American economics,” really shows what he doesn’t know about beer and its history, with this. “Currently, national and state-level policies aimed at curbing underage drinking are more focused on the point of purchase and consumption than on the time of potential indoctrination that precedes them.” Hardly. The moment prohibition ended, prohibitionist organizations began targeting advertising regulations to limit where, when and how alcohol could be advertised, along with where it could be sold, to whom, and all manner of other restrictions intended to do anything they could to limit it, figuring it was the next best thing if they couldn’t outlaw it outright. And they’ve been crying about that very issue ever since, incessantly trying to move the needle to limit “the time of potential indoctrination that precedes” … “the point of purchase and consumption,” exactly what Ferdman seems to think has been ignored has been the number priority of prohibitionist strategies for over eighty years.

I find it amazing that these types of so-called “studies” — what are essentially internet polls — are taken seriously and that they find journals willing to publish them, in effect legitimizing them somewhat. Because if it’s in a journal, the mainstream media often just writes about it uncritically, taking them at face value. But more insidious, prohibitionist organizations, like the ever delightful Alcohol Justice, will distort then and even fabricate their already questionable findings to use in their own agenda, like saying it’s beer that’s the biggest culprit, when even the study does not say that.

Happy Labor Day: Beer Creates Jobs

occupations
Happy Labor Day everybody. I thought this was a good day to highlight a press release from the Beer Institute about “how one job inside a brewery supports another 45 jobs outside. From farmers to factory workers, and truck drivers to tavern owners, beer puts people to work.” It’s not just that breweries employ a lot of people — they do — but many more job are created beyond the brewery that might not exist were it not for the beer. As their research shows, for every job inside a brewery, there are 45 related jobs outside the brewery.

BEER 3982 JOBS

From the press release:

“Today we toast to the industry’s 2 million men and women who make it possible for Americans to enjoy their favorite beer,” said Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute President and CEO. “America’s preference for beer is a huge boon to the national economy and the American worker.”

According to an economic study jointly commissioned by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association in 2012, U.S. brewers and beer importers are the foundation for an industry that employs more than 2 million Americans, directly and indirectly. Beer also contributed $246.6 billion to America’s economy and generated $49 billion in local, state and federal taxes.

A Beer Institute analysis showed that each job in a brewery supports other jobs in the agriculture, business and personal services, construction, finance insurance and real estate, manufacturing, retail, transportation and communication, travel and entertainment and wholesale sectors.

They also broke down the number of jobs flowing from beer for each state. Not surprisingly, California was number one, with 241,640 contributing over $34 billion into the economy. After California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois have the most beer-related jobs, but even in the smallest states, thousands of people are gainfully employed thanks to beer. The total number of jobs nationwide is just over 2 million with a total economic impact of almost $247 billion. To see it broken down even farther, including by state and Congressional district, check out Beer Serves America.

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Happy Labor Day, the only this missing from this picture? Where are the brewers?

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How’d You Really Get That Drink?

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Navigating the maze of state liquor laws is a challenge for anybody, but especially any bar, restaurant or brewery trying to do business in many, if not every, one of the states. A Chicago law firm, the Hays Firm LLC, with a practice area in Restaurant and Bar Services, created an interesting infographic detailing many of the quirky differences of U.S. Liquor License Laws & Facts, particularly their laws on licensing, BYOB and corkage, introduced with the following:

When you wind down at the end of the day or meet up for a social night with friends for a drink, have you thought about how and why you have access to alcohol? Maybe you ordered a beverage at a bar or restaurant, or maybe you picked up a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer before watching a Sunday football game at home.

But, how’d you really get the drink in your hand? There are U.S. regulations that provide or limit public or business access to alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol sales and serving in restaurants, bars, liquor stores, grocery stores, and even patios and events are subject to local or state laws, or consumers or sellers risk losing permission to interact with it, which could result in legal penalties, and even decreased revenues that keep businesses thriving. Many restaurants aim to have alcohol sales account for 30% of their revenue, so not adhering to liquor license and Bring-Your-Own-Beverage (BYOB) laws, could drive customers away and negatively impact profitability.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Brookston & Porter

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So you’ve probably noticed that one of the latest internet memes is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The idea involves “dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.” Also, the “challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same.” I was challenged by my friend and colleague, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News, who also tapped Stephen Beaumont and Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. So here’s my video, with my son Porter, who decided he wanted to join me.

You can find out more about how to donate at the ALS Association or the MDA.

THE ALS ASSOCIATION

I also challenged three friends:

  1. Fal Allen, brewmaster, Anderson Valley Brewing
  2. Justin Crossley, founder, The Brewing Network
  3. John Holl, Editor, All About Beer magazine

Now it’s their turn. No thanks necessary.

The Battle Over Beer Label Approval

TTB
The Daily Beast had an interesting profile of Kent “Battle” Martin, the person responsible for approving every single beer label at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, in Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator. I’d heard of Martin — um, Battle, I mean — before, but didn’t realize he was the only person approving or denying label applications. I think I assumed he was simply part of a larger staff. I can’t say having a single person in charge of interpreting a fairly vague set of laws in a particularly good idea. There have been some very strange, seemingly nonsensical and contradictory decisions over the years, and I’d always thought that was because those were made by various people interpreting the regulations differently, the way the California ABC does, or the arbitrary way that movie ratings are given. I have to say, I don’t think that should be left to just one individual, no matter how dedicated or hard-working, as Battle apparently is, according to the article.

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Presidential Drinking

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It’s not exactly a beer birthday, but today is the 53rd birthday of President Barack Obama, who’s been known for a few good beery photo ops. Recently, he even played some pool with our only gubernatorial brewery owner — and the only governor I’ve ever shared a beer with — John Hickenlooper, from Colorado. Hickenlooper, of course, co-founded Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, revitalizing the entire LoDo area of town. After two apparently successful terms as the mayor of Denver, he was elected governor of the state in 2011.

Early last month, President Obama visted Denver, and Hickenlooper, and the trip was covered by ABC News in Obama “The Bear” Lets Loose in Denver. They met at Wynkoop, where they shared a pint of Rail Yard Ale.

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They also played a game of pool, which apparently Obama won. When this was first reported, I saw it mentioned that some people were upset that the president was photographed drinking beer, but I never saw those. Sound ridiculous enough to be true, though. If people see the president enjoying himself with a beer, it might give others the idea that it’s okay for an adult to drink a legally permissible alcoholic beverage, and prohibitionists don’t like that one bit.

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We Totally Let You Win! Newcastle Brown Ale’s Hilarious Independence Eve Campaign

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Happy “Independence Eve” everybody. If you’ve never heard of “Independence Eve,” that’s because Newcastle Brown Ale made it up. But it’s so brilliant, I’m going to start observing it, and maybe even will start a tradition of drinking a British ale every July 3. Perhaps even a Newcastle Brown Ale just to say thanks for this hilarious series of ads.

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There’s maybe fifteen ads on YouTube or at the dedicated website Newcastle set up for the promotion: If We Won. The latest is below, though I’d encourage you to go back and watch them all. Here’s the most recent one, and they keep adding news ones every few hours.

And here’s another favorite one, with Britsh comedian and writer Stephen Merchant. There’s also ones with Elizabeth Hurley and Zachary Quinto. You can check out all fifteen (at last count) at Newcastle’s YouTube channel.

AdWeek has a story about the advertising campaign, Newcastle Ambushes July 4 by Inventing ‘Independence Eve,’ Celebrating British Rule The Redcoats Get Revenge. From the article:

British brands, understandably, don’t have much to say around the Fourth of July—until now. Newcastle Brown Ale, among the cheekiest of U.K. marketers, has turned America’s most patriotic holiday to its advantage by inventing a new, completely made-up holiday: Independence Eve on July 3. The idea of the tongue-in-cheek campaign, created by Droga5, is to “honor all things British that Americans gave up when they signed the Declaration of Independence,” Newcastle says.

“Newcastle is a very British beer, and needless to say, it doesn’t sell that well on July 4. So why not establish it as the beer you drink on July 3?” says Charles van Es, senior director of marketing for Heineken USA portfolio brands. “Unlike the Redcoats in the 18th century, we’re picking our battles a little more wisely. By celebrating Independence Eve, we’re taking liberties with America’s liberty to create a new drinking occasion and ensuring freedom on July 4 tastes sweeter than ever.”

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But not to worry, they’re returning to American beer promptly at the stroke of midnight, when it’s no longer Independence Eve, but officially the Fourth of July, and Independence Day.

The International Organisation of Good Templars

iogt-new
Just when I think prohibitionists can’t possibly get any scarier, I found out something new to give me the willies. I saw a odd set of letters retweeted by the good nut jobs at Alcohol Justice yesterday; the letters in question were the IOGT. I figured if they were in bed with AJ they would be worth knowing about. I’m not sure how I missed this group. They’re not exactly a secret, despite having all the trapping of a secret society. The IOGT was originally the “International Order of Good Templars,” a temperance organization founded in the 1850s. They eventually changed their name to the International Organisation of Good Templars in the 1970s because they felt Organisation sounded less like a scary secret society than Order. They also dropped the secret rituals and, I assume, got rid of the secret handshake. It didn’t help, and that’s probably why today they just use the initials IOGT.

International_Organisation_of_Good_Templars_membership_certificate_1868
An 1868 membership certificate from a chapter in Michigan. Looks harmless enough.

Apparently, it’s “structure [was] modeled on Freemasonry, using similar ritual and regalia. Unlike many, however, it admitted men and women equally, and also made no distinction by race.” Except in the American South, of course, where folks naturally demanded there be separate lodges for black and white members. So you know they were good people. Nothing furthers a stated goal of “liberation of peoples of the world leading to a richer, freer and more rewarding life” by “promot[ing] a lifestyle free of alcohol and other drugs” like continuing racism after the abolishment of slavery.

In 1875, after the American Civil War, the American senior body voted to allow separate lodges and Grand Lodges for white and black members, to accommodate the practice of segregation in southern US states. In 1876, Malins and other British members failed in achieving an amendment to stop this, and left to establish a separate international body. In 1887 this and the American body were reconciled into a single IOGT.

Throughout the late 19th century, chapters were formed all over the world and today they’re headquartered in Sweden, where it’s known as the IOGT-NTO, and other hyphenated suffixes are used in the forty nations with a chapter.

Fyll-livet-banner-liggande
Apparently they’re fine with perpetuating stereotypes of wine for women, beer for men.

Here in America, it’s IOGT-USA, where there are 21 local chapters in only five states. On the plus side, “women were admitted as regular members early in the history of the Good Templars. In 1979, there were 700,000 members internationally, though only 2,000 in the country of the IOGTs origin, the United States.” I didn’t see any more recent membership figures, so who knows how many Good Templars there are now in the 21st century.

They have a somewhat unintentionally comic petition up on a separate website, with the headline “United to Expose the Alcohol Industry.” They go on: “It tears families apart, trashes personal ambition and holds back developing countries. Still, no one has looked deeper into the alcohol industry and demanded that they take responsibility for their actions. It’s time we expose them.” Seriously, “no one has looked deeper into the alcohol industry and demanded that they take responsibility for their actions?” Isn’t that what the IOGT, and all of the other prohibitionist groups have been doing for well over 150 years? But now “it’s time we expose them?” Maybe it’s because their history is rooted in being a secret society, but what exactly is there to expose? What exactly is secret about the global beer industry that hasn’t been written about, endlessly dissected, debated and discussed?

Down a little farther on the petition page, they claim that the “alcohol industry still rule people and markets without being watched, examined or globally questioned by media or lawmakers.” Um, Alcohol Justice is doing just that; styling themselves as the “industry watchdog.” And they’re hardly alone. Countless organizations are keeping a careful watch on the alcohol industry. It’s one of the most tightly regulated industries in the U.S., and I suspect that’s true in most other places, too.

I get that you don’t like alcohol, and think everybody should just stop drinking it, but let’s not pretend this idea just occurred to you last week. Or that brewers are part of some secret cabal to ruin your world. Because really, it’s not “your” world, it’s “ours,” by which I mean “everybody’s.” And many of us like a nice beer, thank you very much. You don’t want to drink alcohol? Fine, don’t drink it. No one is telling you that you must, I only wish you’d extend us the same courtesy and stop telling us about every problem drinker, as if we’re all the same. There are troubled people everywhere, doing all sorts of bad things, many of them worse than drinking too much. Like virtually every aspect of human existence, there is good and bad, and everyone should have the right to choose their own path. For every anecdote about an alcoholic, there are 99, or 95, people who aren’t; good people who are drinking responsibly, holding down jobs, raising families and getting on with their lives. They don’t deserve to have you condemning them every chance you get.

IOGT-NTO
Examples of non-alcoholic fun. I have fun without alcohol all the time, but only in moderation.