Prohibitionists Pissed Over Deadpool Alcopops

I don’t really like malternatives, alcopops, malt-based beverages, or whatever you want to call them. I find them too sweet, the latest overly sweet concoction to take the wine cooler segment of the market. But the one thing I hate more than alcopops in prohibitionists telling me only kids like comic book characters and that if anything appeals to kids in any way, shape or form, then it must be stopped, even if adults happen to like that thing, too. Honestly, it’s a fucked up way to view the world.

It would be pretty hard to miss the news that the latest Marvel Comics film adaptation opens today, and it’s the antihero Deadpool. I just learned, from the sheriff of not-having-fun, Alcohol Justice, that Marvel’s done a collaboration with Mike’s Hard Lemonade and created several flavors with Deadpool on the cans and packaging. Deadpool, the character, has been around since 1991, and while he started out as a villain, he’s become more of a wise-cracking antihero, and as such appeals to young adults and, undoubtedly, precocious teens.


As a result, the cross-promotion has Alcohol Justice (AJ) screaming bloody murder, accusing everyone involved of actively “threatening” kids. Why? Because “comic books,” of course. If there are comic books, then anything to do with them is about the kids. As the sheriff of AJ claims, “Kids are inherently targeted, PR damage to the brands is substantial, and shareholders should scream for heads to roll.”

For that reason, he’s placing both companies in the “Alcohol Justice Doghouse.” Oh, the humanity! How will they survive their banishment? Here’s a taste of just how out of touch AJ is about this.

A superhero’s mission is to champion good over evil and stand-up for those who can’t defend themselves. Superheroes appeal to many young boys and girls who dream of being one. It’s often reflected in how kids act and dress. But those dreams come crashing down fast when Big Alcohol capitalizes on the popular cartoon imagery of the latest superhero to sell booze.

Obviously, AJ has never before encountered Deadpool. He’s about as much a role model superhero as I am, which is to say not at all. Those values AJ espouses have nothing to do with this film, the character or, frankly, reality. Superman he’s not. He’s not even Spiderman. But what it really comes down to is their unshakeable belief that comic books are only for children. To which I can only say, grow up. Maybe that was true in the beginning or possibly after the Comic Code was instituted insuring family-friendly fare. But it hasn’t been the case since independent comic stores starting popping up in the late 1970s and 80s, creating a market for non-code comics, allowing for a much richer range of stories aimed at all ages. And that’s meant that for several decades there has been sequential art aimed squarely at older kids and even adults. They used to be called “underground comics,” but these are in the mainstream now, and have been for a long time.

I read comics as a kid, of course, but then stopped when I reached my teen years, because in the 1970s there wasn’t much that appealed to me. Most of the comic books were pretty sanitized, with only a few notable exceptions daring to include real current issues and societal problems in their books. But all that changed again in the 1980s when a flurry of creativity created an amazingly mature and complex body of work that was aimed squarely at an older, more mature audience. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s The Watchmen and V for Vendetta, or Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, are good examples, to name just a few.

The point that seems lost on AJ is that there are comics that are for children, but there also comics for adults, and everyone in between. Just because something is drawn or animated, doesn’t automatically make it “inherently targeted” at kids. Try Art Spiegelman’s Maus, John Lewis’ March or Joe Sacco’s Palestine and see if you still think comics are only for children.

But here’s where they go off the rails again, where they just make shit up, and create their own reality.

“Though the alcohol industry claims ‘Millennials’ are their target alcopop audience, their promotions and campaigns effectively target youth who are years younger than the minimum legal drinking age,” said [Bruce Lee] Livingston. “As a result of the low prices, wide availability, and marketing tactics like this one by 21st Century Fox & Mike’s Harder Lemonade, alcopops are very popular among underage youth and responsible for a disproportionate share of underage alcohol-related harm.”

So the industry just “claims” they’re marketing to legal adults. Of course, if that weren’t the case they’d be breaking the law, not to mention they’d have an incredibly stupid business model. Don’t you think that if Alcohol Justice could prove actual targeting of underage people, that they’d have tried to put them out of business years ago? This is just propaganda and hyperbole, and not exactly the high moral kind that they so often pretend to be following, usually from atop their very tall horses.

But even if, for the sake of argument, Mike’s was breaking the law, hoping underage teenagers were loitering around their neighborhood convenience store, trying to entice the homeless man living in the alley to buy them some booze, that would not change the fact that kids under 18, and adults under 21, are not allowed to buy alcohol. This is in reality two problems. The first is that AJ believes alcohol companies are actively trying to illegally sell to minors. Given how illegal that is, if they could prove it, they would have by now. The second problem is that even though it’s illegal for minors to buy alcohol, they sometimes still manage to get their hands on it, and they blame the alcohol companies for creating the desire for them. But so what? Seriously, so what?

Before I was sixteen, I definitely wanted to drive a car. I even drove my stepfather’s Corvette around the block when I was 14 or 15. But I still knew I had to wait until I was sixteen before I could get a driver’s license and legally drive. But boy those car ads sure made driving look sexy, and made me want the hot new cars even before I could drive. Maybe we should ban all automobile advertising because it might appeal to kids who don’t have a driver’s license. But, no, we let car companies keep targeting our youth, causing teens to steal cars, go for joyrides and break the law. Obviously, the car advertising is causing the harm, because it appeals to children. Oh, sure, the car manufacturers “claim” that licensed drivers “are their target audience,” but we know better. Just watch how much fun it looks to drive their cars.

So I’m taking my son Porter to see Deadpool tonight, over his Mom’s objection. Not because of the alcopops, of course, but her concerns are because it looks really violent. But Porter loves what he’s seen of the dark humor that’s been shown in the various trailers, and I think he’s old enough. Of course, the film is Rated R, which given that he’s fourteen “requires [an] accompanying parent.” And that’s another reason it’s easy to see that the Deadpool Mike’s are marketing to young adults, 21 and over, since the rating further limits it being seen by minors looking to get buzzed on alcopops. But I’m old and still read comic books. AJ would do well to remember that there are a lot of us, and we drink, too.


Patent No. 20140079868A1: Packaging For Decarbonated Beer Base Liquid

Today in 2014, just one year ago, US Patent 20140079868 A1 was issued, an invention of Jerome Pellaud, Aaron Penn, Wilfried Lossignol, and Neeraj Sharma, assigned to Anheuser-Busch, LLC, for their “Packaging For Decarbonated Beer Base Liquid.” There’s no Abstract, but there’s a lengthy summary after the introduction which appears to serve the same function:

A package for a decarbonated beer base liquid may comprise a non-rigid wall defining an internal orifice, a seal extending along a seam of the non-rigid wall and providing an oxygen barrier, and a decarbonated beer base liquid hermetically sealed in said internal orifice. An individually packaged base liquid for making personalized malt-based beverages may comprise at least about 0.1% wt ethyl alcohol, at least about 3% wt malt extract solids, and a carbon dioxide level between about zero grams per liter and about 1.5 grams per liter.

This is without a doubt one of the odder patents I’ve come across in my year-long quest to document beer-relayed U.S. Patents. This is apparently more aimed at markets outside the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we might not see it used here, as well. Take a look at some of the language used in the “Background.”

In recent years, malt-based beverages, and especially beers, are a fast growing market in many countries such as China and India. In many of these countries, the taste and beer-type preferences are culturally different from markets such as North and South America and Europe. Most breweries operating world-wide, however, provide a limited number of beer types, and hence, beer tastes. Due to globalization, the availability of specialized beer types that meet specific consumer demands becomes a challenge, both in terms of logistics and in terms of the amount of different beer types and tastes to be developed and produced.

Beer taste is dependent on the ingredients used (e.g., malt-type, adjunct levels, hops type and levels, other ingredients such as fruit flavors, water composition, etc.) and operational settings (e.g., boiling time, yeast type used for fermentation, fermentation temperature profile, filtration, etc.).

Brewing finished beer, wherein all the ingredients are introduced into the beer prior to bottling, has a major drawback in that the formulation and thus the taste, smell, color and other organoleptic properties of the beer are fixed.

One of their initial premises, that “Most breweries operating world-wide, however, provide a limited number of beer types, and hence, beer tastes” is pretty funny. There are at least 400 different types of beers but they’ve chosen to concentrate on one and turn it into a commodity, only to use that now as a negative to promote this idea. Strange. Brewing and bottling beer they characterize as a “drawback” because the way that beer tastes is then “fixed.” Hilarious.

So from what I see here it seems like they’re setting the groundwork for a new business model where you create a base beer with little to no character and then infuse or add whatever flavors you want to create the finished product, not at a brewery, but at the point of consumption. Have you see the new magic soda machines at fast food restaurants where you press a few buttons and can be served 100 or more different flavors of soda? That’s where I think they may be going with this, but with beer. That certainly seems like a scary proposition.


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Misleading With Headlines

Here’s another lesson on how to mislead people with your headlines, brought to us, of course, by the group who claims to be keeping the alcohol industry honest, the good people of Alcohol Justice. This is at least the third time I’ve seen them tweet this headline — they do so love to beat dead horses — and this morning I happened to see it again: Diageo Admits Targeting 18-24 Year Olds with Red Stripe Jamaican Alcopop. Clicking on the link in the tweet takes you to a press release from earlier this month with a very similarly misleading title: Diageo Admits Targeting 18-24 Year Olds for Red Stripe Alcopop.

Sounds bad, right? Oh, no! Has Diageo really admitted to targeting underage kids with alcoholic products? Have they finally run afoul of the law, as Alcohol Justice (A.J.) continues to insist that all of us who work in the alcohol industry are evil inside? Oh, we probably hate children, too? Raise your hand if you think that’s what they’ve caught Diageo admitting. If your hand shot up, you may want to read someone else’s blog. Maybe one focusing on puppies or cute cat photos. Here’s what A.J. is complaining mightily about. In Jamaica, Diageo is test-marketing a malt-based alcohol beverage associated with the Red Stripe brand, called Burst, and is hoping to attract the 18-24 youth market there. In what A.J. terms “a shocking display of truth rarely seen among alcohol producers,” it was someone in Jamaica who made this criminal statement. I assume they’ve alerted the district attorney or attorneys general to start the indictment, and extradition, proceedings.

But before you grab your pitchfork from the closet, let’s examine this a bit closer. Jamaica, like the majority of the civilized work, allows adults to drink before age 21, most at a more reasonable 18. In Jamaica, however, according to the International Center for Alcohol Policies the age when people can legally consume alcohol is actually 16, although some sources say Jamaica has no minimum age. So let’s look at this again. A spokesperson for Red Stripe, a Jamaican company (owned by Diageo), speaking in Jamaica about a Jamaican test market, talks about a product they believe will appeal to persons who are between the ages of 18 and 24, where the minimum age is 16. So explain to me again what laws have been broken, or why this is such a headline-generating admission?

The answer is that she also included this horrific bit in her statement: Burst “is [also] being considered for United States distribution.” Wow, a multi-national company is thinking that one of their products that sells in one market might also sell in another. Based on this stunner, A.J. concludes that “‘It’s clear now that Diageo tests alcopop beverages on 18-24 year old cohorts of young women and men in other countries before marketing them in places like the United States where the drinking age is appropriately higher,’ said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director / CEO of Alcohol Justice.” Talk about a tempest in a teacup. Talk about unmitigated bullshit propaganda blown up to create a headline, is more like it.

Michael Scippa, Public Affairs Director at Alcohol Justice, adds. “Now that we have in a producer’s own words, that they are targeting people under the age of 21 with alcopops, we are renewing our call for change to reduce the threat to youth.” Hey skippy, they admitted they were “targeting” drinkers under 21 where it’s legal to drink when you’re under 21. It’s legal for them to sell to whatever the age group is legal in that country, something you undoubtedly know. But I guess the temptation was too great to make it sound like that also meant they were going after underage drinkers in the U.S., too, even though they said nothing of the kind. If, and when, they decide to sell Burst in the U.S., you can’t possibly believe they’ll openly target anyone under 21 years of age. Considering you claim to be keeping big alcohol honest, it’s a wonder anyone listens to you at all, given how fast and loose you play with the truth. Because if nothing else, this is a willful bending of statements and facts to fit your narrative, and omitting in the headline the fact that the statements were made in Jamaica, about Jamaica, makes it obvious you intended to mislead people with that headline.

In the final paragraph A.J.’s chief propagandist Bruce Lee Livingston has the temerity to suggest that “[i]t may also be time for even state attorneys general to subpoena Ms. Mitchell[‘s] … records. Erin Mitchell works for Diageo in Jamaica. I’m fairly certain state attorneys general do not have subpoena powers in other countries, a fact I’m certain he knows, as well. But it makes a more alarmist finale to this hatchet job of misleading propaganda. Don’t look now, but I think your nose is growing.


FDA To Rule Caffeine Unsafe In Alcohol

Harry Schuhmacher, of Beer Business Daily, just issued a news alert that he’s learned from the website of New York Senator Charles Schumer that the FDA “will rule ‘that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic beverages, effectively making products such as Four Loko, Joose, and others like them, prohibited for sale in the United States.'”

According to the press release from Senator Schumer:


After Months of Pressure by Schumer, FDA to Send Notice to Manufacturers of Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages that Product is Not Considered Safe; Move Will Effectively Ban Products from the Market

FTC to Send Notices to Manufacturers That They Are Engaged in the Marketing of Unsafe Alcoholic Drinks

Schumer: Let This Serve as a Warning to Anyone Who Tries to Peddle Dangerous Beverages to Our Kids, Do it, And We Will Shut You Down

U.S Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will rule that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic beverages, effectively making products such as Four Loko, Joose, and others like them, prohibited for sale in the United States. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to notify manufacturers that they are engaged in the potential illegal marketing of unsafe alcoholic drinks. These announcements come after months of intense pressure by Senator Schumer to have the drinks banned because of serious risks to consumer health and safety.

“Let these rulings serve as a warning to anyone who tried to peddle dangerous and toxic brews to our children. Do it and we will shut you down,” said Schumer. “This ruling should be the nail in the coffin of these dangerous and toxic drinks. Parents should be able to rest a little easier knowing that soon their children won’t have access to this deadly brew.”

After calls by Schumer to ban the drinks in New York, just this past week, the State Liquor Authority and the state’s largest beer distributors agreed to stop selling these dangerous drinks in New York. In addition to New York’s efforts, Oklahoma, Utah, Michigan, and Washington acted to ban the drinks as did a number of colleges, including Ramapo College, Worcester State University, the University of Rhode Island and the Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Popular drinks such as Four Loko and Joose contain as much as 2-3 coffee cups worth of caffeine and 2-3 cans of beer per container — a potent, dangerous mix that can be extremely hazardous for teens and adults alike. Last month, nine students passed out and were hospitalized after drinking Four Loko, leading states and universities across the country to issue ban, limit, or issue warnings about the drink.

Compounded with its health risks, beverages like Four Loko pose a unique danger because they target young people. The style of the beverages – with a vibrantly colored aluminum can colors and funky designs — appeal to younger consumers, increasing the likelihood that the beverages will be consumed by young adults and creating a problem for parents and business owners who might be misled by the branding. Four Loko is also stocked next to other energy drinks, creating further confusion.

Last week, Schumer was joined in his efforts to ban the drink by Jacqueline Celestino, grandmother of Nicole Lynn Celestino, an 18 year old from Long Island who passed away after drinking the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko. Nicole, went into cardiac arrest after drinking Four Loko this past August, she had taken a diet pill that day. Nicole’s family has become outspoken advocates for a ban on alcoholic caffeinated drinks like Four Loko.

The dangers of these drinks are well known. A recent study found that young and underage drinkers who combine alcohol with caffeine, which occurs with increasing frequency given the prevalence of beverages like Four Loko and Joose, are more likely to suffer injury, be the victim of sexual assault, drive while intoxicated, and require medical attention than drinkers who consume caffeine-free beverages. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and MillerCoors LLC reformulated caffeinated alcoholic beverages under pressure from several states and regulatory bodies, but smaller companies like the manufacturers of Four Loko and Joose managed to remain unnoticed.

According to the statement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to notify manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages “that they are engaged in the potential illegal marketing of unsafe alcoholic drinks.”

There’s a lot of nonsense in that press release, and no one knows how whatever ruling the FDA makes will effect beer with coffee, tea or caffeine added for flavor.

First there’s this rant: “‘Let these rulings serve as a warning to anyone who tried to peddle dangerous and toxic brews to our children. Do it and we will shut you down,’ said Schumer. ‘This ruling should be the nail in the coffin of these dangerous and toxic drinks. Parents should be able to rest a little easier knowing that soon their children won’t have access to this deadly brew.’”

Did I miss a meeting. People under 21 can’t buy these products now. My kids, your kids, everybody’s kids have no access to these so-called “deadly brews.” If they do find a way to get them (which I have no doubt of) then that’s a failure of another kind. And doing away with them altogether effectively takes them away from law-abiding adults who want to purchase them. That just makes no sense to me. It’s as if they’re saying we can’t control the portion of the population that are under 21 so we’re going to punish everybody because we can’t do our job.

But that aside, there’s absolutely nothing preventing anybody from simply mixing a caffeinated drink with alcohol and making their own drink. That’s the whole reason companies started making pre-packaged RTD’s with alcohol and caffeine in the first place, because people were already doing that on their own. They didn’t create the demand, they responded to it and simply gave the people what they wanted.

This will do virtually nothing to stop people from drinking caffeine and alcohol together. It may make it more difficult and less convenient, but the cat is out of the bag. If anything, going back to people making these drinks themselves will make them less safe, not more, because there will be no standardized ratio for mixing the two.

Toward the end, Schumer claims “[t]he dangers of these drinks are well known.” Really, people have been drinking caffeine and alcohol together as long as the two have existed. Has it become more popular lately? Maybe, but people were doing it pretty regularly as long ago as when I was a young adult, thirty years ago. I’d love to see that study he cites, I’m willing to bet there are holes in it you could drive a truck through.

But the real danger is that undoubtedly craft beers that have beers with caffeine added for flavor, whether coffee or tea, will get dragged under in the government’s zeal to look like they’re doing something to protect people from themselves. Say goodbye to coffee stouts, a drink no underage kid would drink with a ten-foot straw.

Diving Off the Malternative Pier … Again

I recently went on and on about the many niche markets Anheuser-Busch was looking into infiltrating both within the beer market and outside of it. Looks like I missed one. According to Miller’s BrewBlog, a trademark application has been filed by A-B for an alcoholic tea to be known as “Pier 21.”

The first to make this type of malternative product I’m aware of was Bison Brewing of Berkeley, California. The brewery is generally known for its excellent organic beers but for a period of time they made a line of Hard Ice Tea using flavors like Green Tea and Red Hibiscus. I think there were eventually four or five different flavors. They took a lot of flack for them at the time, but as these things go they weren’t too bad. They certainly tasted good and were much less offensive them the sweeter malternatives that were all the rage around the same time. Due to issues with their contract brewer, they stopped production of them a little while ago. Of course, I should disclose I’m a tea drinker — it’s my preferred vehicle of caffeine delivery. I drink at least a 1 liter bottle of Tejava per day (it’s simply microbrewed tea, unsweetened and with nothing added).

Boston Beer still makes Twisted Tea, their version of a hard ice tea, which now comes in four flavors. It’s most likely the category — or would that be subcategory — leader. BrewBlog mentions that ‘[f]or the 13 weeks ended May 27, Twisted Tea sales increased 44% to more than 55,000 cases.”

Mike’s makes a Hard Iced Tea, too. They’re most well-known for their Hard Lemonade which was — and perhaps still is, I don’t follow these things if I can help it — one of the more popular of the lemonade flavored alcopops. There may be more, but I’m not aware of them.

The application A-B filed described Pier 21 as an “alcoholic tea-based beverage.” This would be yet another niche market along the long tail that A-B might be pursuing. They are already making and/or distributing the malternatives Bacardi Silver, BE (B-to-the-E), Peels (alcoholic fruit juices), and Tilt (an energy malt beverage).

They also used to make Doc Otis, a lemonade flavored alcopop to compete with Mike’s, Hopper’s Hooch, Two Dogs and other hard lemonades during the heyday of such products.

Whatever happened to the old Doc? Can he be found on a golf course, having retired and moved to Florida?