The Rise Of Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Editor’s Summary makes it even clearer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll the dice. Pass the bottle. Repeat.

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

V Is For Vomit

Inexplicably today is “Vomit Day,” though I’m not entirely sure why. Usually days have sponsors, or were created by somebody. Nope. Often they make sense, like if it was possibly the day after St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Or perhaps something significant occurred in history to mark the day or there’s some tradition behind it. Nope. I’ve been collecting holidays and dates since I lived in New York City in the late 1970s, so I got it from somewhere, I just don’t know where I found it, and Google didn’t turn up anything useful or definitive. So I’m left scratching my head as to why today might be “Vomit Day.” But celebrate we will.

A few years ago I made a list of Puke Words, that is different slang terms for throwing up, tossing your cookies or paying homage to the porcelain god. It’s not nearly as exhaustive as my Drunk Words list, but it was only a one day project on a slow news day once upon a time. It was merely a love of language that set me down that path. But whether by getting sick or — gasp — drinking a bit too much, I reckon it’s happened to all of us at one time in our lives and I thought it would be fun to see how many puke words I could find. If you know of one I missed, please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list. If you know where it came from, or anything more about it, that would be even better, but if it’s just something you heard somewhere while your head was bent over in the commode, that’s okay, too. Happy Vomit Day, everybody! Let’s be careful out there.


Don’t Bet Dollars To Donuts Or Drinking

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


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


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

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

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

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

World’s Drunkest Countries

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

See the chart full size.

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

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

See the chart full size.

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

Beer Birthday: Rick Lyke

Today is the 53rd birthday of Rick Lyke, a fellow drinks writer in North Carolina. Rick writes for a variety of publications and online at Lyke 2 Drink. It’s especially terrific that we can all celebrate Rick’s 53rd today, because he recently fought and won a battle with prostate cancer, which prompted him to found the grassroots organization Pints For Prostates. Rick is a terrific champion for both great beer and men’s health. Join me in wishing Rick a very happy birthday.

Rick Lyke, Organizer of Rare Beer Tasting @ Wynkoop
Rick at the first Rare Beer Tasting at Wynkoop during GABF Week in 2009.

Carol Stoudt, Amy Dalton & Rick Lyke @ Rare Beer Tasting
Rick with Carol Stoudt and Amy Dalton at the first Rare Beer tasting at Wynkoop to raise money for his Pints for Prostates organization.

Lew Bryson and Rick at the World Beer Festival in Durham in 2008.

Jeff Bearer, Stan Hieronymus, Stephen Beaumont, me and Rick Lyke @ Great Divide
Jeff Bearer, Stan Hieronymus, Stephen Beaumont and me with Rick at the Great Divide open house on the first day of GABF a couple of years ago.

And finally, the ubiquitous Sam Adams brunch photo I use four times a year, with Daniel Bradford, of All About Beer, Jim Koch, Amy Dalton (also with All About Beer) and Rick.

The Unintended Consequences Of Prohibitionist Propaganda

So I know this is one of those thorny issues that tends to fire people up and argue from an emotional point of view. That being said, the issue of a woman drinking when pregnant is a tough one, especially because the science is not exactly as settled as people believe. My understanding is that it’s not clear how drinking effects an unborn fetus, though a significant amount of drinking has been shown to have potentially disastrous consequences. Generally speaking, a modest amount of drinking probably won’t do any lasting damage, especially in the very early stages of pregnancy. But since when and how much are fairly unknown with any precision, doctors, and the medical community as a whole, have tended to recommend that a woman abstain from drinking during pregnancy. And that seems almost reasonable, except for the fact that prohibitionist and anti-alcohol groups have taken that advice as sacrosanct without really examining the science behind it and have done their best to shame women who might have an occasional drink and make them feel as guilty as humanly possible.

For example, WebMd says. “For decades, researchers have known that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. But the potential effects of small amounts of alcohol on a developing baby are not well understood. Because there are so many unknowns, the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise pregnant women not to drink alcohol at all.” But again, that’s just because they don’t really know, not because it’s proven that any amount of alcohol is harmful. If you do a quick search, you’ll find that a lot of websites claim that pregnant women should never drink because, as most of them put it, “[t]here is no known safe amount of alcohol that you can consume if you are pregnant.” But that’s misleading. It’s not so much that no amount is safe so much as the amount that is safe is not known with precision, and for every person. I know that sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but I think it’s an important distinction. There are safe levels of drinking alcohol that would have no effect on a woman’s pregnancy, and for any given woman that amount would differ, but so far we don’t know how to calculate that amount, so instead doctors recommend abstaining. But that’s very different from hounding women who might have the occasional drink or acting as if they’re actively or willfully harming their unborn fetus.

It’s quite easy to find this scaremongering in all sorts of places. Not surprisingly, Alcohol Justice, who is a leading propagandist, regularly tweets “Save Babies From Birth Defects: Don’t Drink While Pregnant,” with a link to International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day Aims To Help Save Babies From Birth Defects: Don’t Drink While You’re Pregnant. Which would be reasonable, except for the fact that the Medical Daily piece is littered with exactly the sort of absolutist misinformation I’m talking about.

There’s a common misconception that it’s safe to drink during certain points in the pregnancy, or that one glass of wine or beer is harmless. It has been almost 30 years since the medical community recognized mothers who drank alcohol while pregnant could result in a wide range of physical and mental disabilities, but still, one in 13 pregnant women reports drinking in the past 30 days and one in six reports binge drinking. Fetal alcohol syndrome can be devastating, which is why a day [September 9] has been dedicated to spreading the awareness and clearing up the truth for mothers to understand that anything they eat and drink affects the baby.

The NIH’s Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism branch has supported years of research to reveal the dangers and understand when developmental problems within the womb begin. Babies who are born with fetal alcohol syndrome have been born small and premature, develop problems eating, sleeping, seeing, hearing, learning, paying attention in school, controlling their behavior, and may even need medical care through their life. The severity of drinking alcohol while pregnant cannot be underplayed because of the profound confirmed health effects that could follow a child throughout their life.

Every pregnancy is different and unique to the mother’s health, genetic composition, and the baby. According to the NIH, drinking alcohol the first or second month of pregnancy can hurt the baby with irreversible health consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up the NIH by saying there is no safe level of alcohol to use during pregnancy. If drinking continues throughout the pregnancy, babies are likely to develop fetal alcohol syndrome with characteristic facial features such as a wide set of eyes, smooth ride on the upper lip, and a thin upper lip border. But that’s only the surface, because within the brain lies the possibility of intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays, and poor social skills.

Unfortunately, the “truth” as they put it is not exactly the whole truth, nor is it the same advice given universally by the medical community, despite the fact that both the NIH and the CDC take the absolutist point of view just to be safe. That these government agencies here, and in other places, take this position without actually explaining why, or even how they arrived at it and the uncertainty about it, seems to me a condescending way to treat people. I know, or hope, they mean well, and the goal is to bring healthy babies into the world. Everyone agrees that frequent drinking or drinking large quantities of alcohol while pregnant is a terrible idea, but not giving women all of the facts is yet another example of the medical community talking down to people and treating them with condescension. And it’s taking its toll on some women in unexpected ways, as I’ll explain later.


More recent studies are beginning to show that in fact the occasional drink is not only harmless, but in some cases beneficial. For example, a 2013 study at Harvard found “no connection between drinking alcohol early in pregnancy and birth problems” and at the University College London, they found “Light drinking in pregnancy not bad for children.” Others found A Drink A Day While Pregnant Is OK and Moms Who Drink Wine While Pregnant Have Better Behaved Kids. Yet another recent New study shows no harm from moderate drinking in pregnancy. Likewise, Moderate drinking during pregnancy may not harm baby’s neurodevelopment and the Parenting Squad says that Yes, You Can Drink While Pregnant.

In Is It OK to Drink While Pregnant? Why Scientists Really Don’t Know, the author details why it is that the science is so difficult to pin down, and as such many doctors advise abstaining altogether. One of the problems with this contrary advice is that some people who are convinced that any alcohol represents a danger to an unborn fetus and they make life difficult for anyone who’s received different advice, or who has looked at the issue and come to a different conclusion. Despite it being unsettled, some states have, or are considering, passing laws to punish women who have the temerity to have a drink while pregnant. Both of my wife’s baby doctors advised her the occasional drink was not a problem, and even told her that if it helped her relax was a positive. She tended to have a drink only every so often, rarely even, and I certainly enjoyed the months of having a designated driver. But many other women report having been publicly shamed, ridiculed and punished for drinking while pregnant in public. At least one person reports being accosted for simply buying alcohol (it was for a party and she had no intention of drinking it) and I suspect that’s not an isolated incident. The clerk at the liquor store acted like it was against the law for her to simply purchase it.

Many have written about their experiences with alcohol during pregnancy and are worth reading. See, for example, Take Back Your Pregnancy, by an economist writing for the Wall Street Journal. And for Slate, Emily Oster explains herself in “I Wrote That It’s OK to Drink While Pregnant. Everyone Freaked Out. Here’s Why I’m Right.” In addition, Dr. Peggy Drexler, a research psychologist and gender scholar, examined the history and psychology of shaming such women in A Loaded Question: On Drinking While Pregnant. Not surprisingly, it’s only been since 1981 that the U.S. Surgeon General’s took the official position pregnant women should completely abstain from drinking alcohol. And for a while, drinking among pregnant women declined, but since 2002 has been on the rise again, though it’s the “‘every now and then’ glass of wine or two” rather than binge drinking and the biggest demographic to see this increase is “college-educated women between 35 and 44.” Her answer to why “as a whole we continue to judge women who opt to have that occasional glass of wine,” is that “[w]e’re so fully entrenched in the age of over-parenting — having opinions, and voicing them, about how other people raise their kids — that, it seems, we can’t help but start in before the baby is actually born.”

Similarly, in a lengthy piece for Boston Magazine, Pregnant Pause?, author Alyssa Giacobbe details this explanation.

“As soon as you’re pregnant, or have a baby, it’s like all bets are off,” says Kara Baskin, a 33-year-old mother of a two-year-old boy. “People can say whatever they want, touch whatever they want, make whatever comments they want.” A few years back, she was at a Starbucks when the barista asked her, “Are you supposed to be having any caffeine when you’re pregnant?” She wasn’t pregnant — it was just the shirt — but of course that didn’t matter. She ran out crying.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. My mother drank, and most likely smoked, while she was pregnant with me. If you’re close to my age, or older, your Mom probably did, too. Entire generations did, and while it would be hard to argue that children today aren’t better off thanks to their mothers watching what they consumed or what they did while pregnant, our species made it pretty far before 1981 just by being sensible.

But back to Dr. Drexler, who concluded with these words of wisdom.

This is not a call to drink while pregnant, or to be careless in any way. We know much more now than our own mothers did, and that’s an advantage. But years of experience studying gender and working with families have shown me, time and again, that mothers get a bad rap. This can create needless fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the tendency to assign blame, constantly monitor, and voice our every opinion about the choices other mothers make. After all, isn’t the prospect of having a baby daunting enough?

Indeed, I think we can all agree that over-indulging during pregnancy is not a good idea. But making hard and fast rules, giving people a hard time about it, or even punishing them socially, or legally, is going too far. Which brings me back to my statement earlier that this is “taking its toll on some women in unexpected ways.” An article last week in London’s Telegraph, Pre-pregnancy test binge-drinking: 5 myths busted, detailed the darker side of humiliating pregnant women with the abstinence only propaganda so commonly employed by prohibitionist groups.

Most women try and follow the existing guidelines, or avoid alcohol altogether.

But what about those who don’t know they’re pregnant? What about the women who have spent the first few weeks of their pregnancy binge drinking, because they had no idea they were unexpectedly expecting?

Today, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said that many women are so shocked to discover they’ve been binge drinking through the early stages of pregnancy, that they consider having an abortion.

The organisation reports an increase in women who are so worried about having unknowingly harmed their baby that they’re enquiring about ending what would otherwise have been a wanted pregnancy. BPAS is now trying to reassure pregnant women that this is not necessary.

That’s right, some women have been so traumatized by the scaremongering propaganda out there about binge drinking that they’re considering terminating their pregnancy, that is having an abortion rather than risk giving birth. The BPAS is now scrambling to reassure women that they don’t need to go to such extreme measures, and author Radhika Sanghani takes on five common myths which lead women to consider an abortion, and in the process contradicts much of the absolutist rhetoric and rationale for advising women to completely abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

What struck me about this story is that it’s a real example of harm being perpetrated on women — not to mention their unborn children — through prohibitionist propaganda. I want to believe that the healthcare community has been giving the abstaining advice in an abundance of caution and with a greatest good sort of mentality to protect women and children. But I have no such illusions about the motives of prohibitionists, who have shown they’ll use any tactic to promote their agenda, and will exaggerate any claim that shows alcohol in a negative light. This is what can happen when propaganda goes unchecked. This suggests that there may be children who were terminated and not given a chance to live full lives thanks to exaggerated propaganda by prohibitionist groups and other anti-alcohol organizations. As my British colleague Pete Brown tweeted when this article first appeared; “Proud of yourselves, Alcohol Concern? These are the, hopefully, unintended consequences of prohibitionist propaganda.


All Hopped Up For The Cure 2014

Last night, Russian River Brewing kicked off their annual month-long All Hopped Up For the Cure charity event, raising money for the local Sutter Medical Services in Santa Rosa and specifically their Breast Care Center. They do it every October, in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a cause owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo feel quite deeply about. It’s a big one for me, too. I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was only 21, when she was just 42. More than two dozen Summit doctors and breast cancer survivors were on hand to show their support. While this year’s efforts just began, there’s plenty of time to stop by the brewpub and help this very important cause in a variety of ways. As they do each year, there are three big items that are being auctioned, and raffle tickets are available until the drawing takes place, on October 30th, 2014 during their annual Halloween Bash. You need not be present to win, but you do have to answer your phone when Natalie calls from the stage. Here’s what you can win:


Raffle tickets can be bought at the pub and placed in lucite boxes at the front of the brewpub. You can also purchase raffle tickets without visiting the pub by contacting Aura Helwick at


The big prize is a brand new White Vespa Primavera 150cc with “All Hopped Up for the Cure” decals. The winner is responsible for claiming their prize in person at Revolution Moto in Santa Rosa! Must be 18 to win. Must answer the phone if/when I call at around 10pm on Oct. 30 to be eligible to win! Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25.


There’s also a Pink Electra Amersterdam Joyride bicycle, graciously donated by The Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa! Raffle tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20.


And lastly for the big raffle items, a very cool Custom Built Guitar, a pink accoustic guitar hand-made by Timmy Lovold and friends! Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25.

Brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo also created a special beer for the events, Framboise For A Cure, which will be available on draft and in 375ml bottles available, but only at the brewpub. FFAC is a sour barrel-aged blonde ale with 31 pounds per barrel of fresh raspberries, giving it a beautiful reddish/pink hue. Each year, it’s only around until it runs out, though they’re setting aside a set number of bottles to sell each day so it’s not gone too soon, and 100% of proceeds from sales of this beer will be donated to Sutter. I had some last night, and it’s really tasty, with big fruit flavors, not too sour but just enough jammy, puckering goodness to keep sipping.


And finally, Russian River creates a new graphic each year for the event, and this year’s logo is really cool, as far as I’m concerned.


The logo is available on Men’s T-Shirts, a Men’s Workshirt and a Ladies T-Shirts. All three are available online or at the pub, with 100% of proceeds donated to Summit, as well.

Give generously this year to help make breast cancer a thing of the past, or at least increase the odds that more children don’t lose their mothers, husbands their wives or friends their friends to breast cancer.

Beer And Good Health, Circa 1907

Here’s another interesting historical artifact on beer and good health. This is from the Tennessee State Fair Official Souvenir Program and Guide, from 1907, advertising a talk by a German professor, Dr. P. Bauer, “demonstrating the effect of beer on the health.” It looks like his appearance was sponsored by the William Gerst Brewing Co. of Nashville, Tennessee. One insight he could be expected to give: “Solid foods often remain in the stomach a long time and retard digestion. Liquid foods, like GERST Beer, are an aid to digestion.” Oh, and there’s this subtitle. “People Who Drink Plenty of Beer Are Always Strong and Healthy.” The ad then ends with this branded tagline: “There is Good Health in every bottle of Gerst Beer.”


Beer In Ads #1328: What Products, Besides Beer, Come From The Brewing Industry?

Monday’s ad is another one from the United States Brewers Foundation, from 1951. This a series of ads they did in 1951 using a Q&A format aimed at highlighting different positive aspects of beer and the brewing industry.

What products, besides beer, come from the Brewing Industry?

Vitamins, yeast and cattle feeds are important industry by-products.

Apparently brewing yeast is the best source of B vitamins every found, and it even may have rid the world of pellagra, “the dread diet-deficiency disease” that I’ve never heard of, although it persists in Africa, Indonesia, North Korea and China. Then there’s also spent grain given as feed for livestock, as common then as now.


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Brookston & Porter

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.


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.