Pennsylvania Anti-Privatization Propaganda

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I’ve considered myself a Californian since 1985, when I moved to the Golden State. But I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. On my Mom’s side, my family first came from Berne, Switzerland, to the Reading area in 1745. I have a relative who participated in the Revolutionary War and another who fought at Gettysburg, and whose name is enshrined on the Pennsylvania Monument there. As a result, I tend to feel a connection to the Commonwealth and try to keep a closer eye on what goes on there.

The Keystone State is a peculiar one, especially when it comes to alcohol. State Stores there enjoy a monopoly on liquor and wine sales, and beer is sold only by the case (with some expensive exceptions) in heavily regulated and licensed beer and soda stores known as “distributors.” When I turned 21, in 1980, the state still didn’t have photo driver’s licenses and I remember having to fill out a form and attach a photo so the state could create my PLCB photo card, whose only purpose was to buy a drink, in effect a drinking card. The drive to change the state’s weird, and antiquated, alcohol laws has been a topic of conversation literally since I was a child, and I can recall my parents debating its merits. They were in favor of privatization, as apparently a majority of Pennsylvanians still are.

But efforts to privatize Pennsylvania’s alcohol trade and get rid of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, or PLCB, always seem to stall, and nothing ever seems to change. Watching from afar that seems as true today as it did when I still lived there. Everybody I know hates the system the way it is, but no one’s been able to change that due to what I can only assume are powerful forces who want to keep the status quo the way it is. But over the last few years, momentum appears to be building again to bend the state’s laws toward the will of the people and privatize the sale of beer, wine and spirits.

And they must be making some progress, because a few days ago I saw this:

It’s easily one of the most obnoxious, dishonest and insulting pieces of propaganda I’ve ever seen. Right out of the gate they insult every other state where alcohol is sold in grocery stores and other places where people already do their shopping, a.k.a. the civilized world, when they state that it “would be so dangerous for kids.” Hey lady (scriptwriter, really), I’ve got news for you. We can buy beer in all manner of stores throughout California, and my kids are just fine, thank you very much. There’s so much dishonesty in the ad that it’s almost not worth going through it point by point. But the capper is how they end it, by saying “it’s about greed, pure and simple.”

What’s so dishonest about that is that the ad is indeed about greed, but the greed of the people who made the ad who want to keep the status quo, and the money flowing to them. The ad was created by the UFCW PA Wine & Spirits Council (a front organization) and the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1776 (UFCW 1776) (and was produced by Strategic Communications). As I’ve written many times before, one of the most pernicious tactics of these campaigns is invoking “it’s for the children,” when it’s really not about that at all. But this one takes it to a new low with their new catch phrase: “It only takes a little bit of greed to kill a child.”

You might ask what kind of a person would come up with something like that? It’s most likely UCFW 1776′s “president for life” Wendell W. Young IV, who apparently has made a career out of this sort of thing, as detailed nicely by my friend and colleague Lew Bryson in Wendell Young lies and I can prove it on his blog all about Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished.

As he points out, the ad is so ham-fisted and absurd that it’s made the state a laughingstock, with news reports lambasting the ad from Forbes to the National Memo, which declared it the “craziest political ad of 2014.” Also, the Commonwealth Foundation points out how the statistic about North Carolina’s children dying at a rate of one per week is false. The Foundation also has a good overview of the Principles of Liquor Privatization.

But it’s another example in the ongoing sad saga of just how far people will go to push their self-serving agendas, something anti-alcohol groups are amazingly good at doing. At some point, the creators of this, the sponsors and people paying the bill all looked at this ad before airing it to the public and never once concluded it went too far, might be over the top or played fast and loose with the truth. And that, I think, tells you everything you need to know about the hearts and minds of the UCFW 1776. It really does only take a little bit of greed, doesn’t it?

Beer Birthday: Bill Covaleski

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Today is the 51st birthday of Bill Covaleski, a co-founder of Victory Brewing Co., along with his childhood friend Ron Barchet. I first met Bill at the brewery doing an article on Pennsylvania breweries for the Celebrator nearly a decade ago. It’s been great seeing his brewery rack up victory after victory as they’ve grown and become one of Pennsylvania’s best, biggest and brightest. Join me in wishing Bill a very happy birthday.

Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk with Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski & Greg Koch
During an event at Philly Beer Week 2009: Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk with Sam Calagione, Bill & Greg Koch.

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Bill with a big bottle of beer.

Later night at Jim's Steaks Bill Covaleski showcases our cheesesteaks as James Watt looks on & Greg Koch tries to hide his face
A late night cheesesteak at Jim’s with Bill showcasing our sandwiches while James Watt and Greg Koch look on bemused.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione
Toasting the Brewer’s Class of ’96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione.

Beer Birthday: Mark Edelson

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Today is the 50th birthday of Mark Edelson, a co-founder and the managing partner of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, a small brewpub chain that operates ten brewpubs in the tri-state area of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mark’s been a vocal and active member of the brewing community, especially around his mid-Atlantic home but also through the BA, too. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione
Toasting the Class of ’96: Greg Koch, Mark, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione at the “Older Bud No Weiser” event during Philly Beer Week several years ago.

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Carol and Ed Stoudt with Mark at the opening event for the first Philly Beer Week.

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Mark on stage with Bob Barrar and Charlie Papazaian at the 2007 GABF.

A Good Night For Mark Edelson, from Iron Hill
A great night For Mark during GABF week in the basement of the Falling Rock near the end of a very good evening.

Beer Birthday: Lew Bryson

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Today is my friend and fellow beer writer Lew Bryson’s 55th birthday. You can read his writings at his website, lewbryson.com, and these days more often his blog, Seen Through a Glass. Then there’s also his Session Beer Project and his political Why the PLCB Should Be Abolished. Lew is my favorite big galoot and the brother I never had. More recently he’s left the beer world behind, professionally at least, to become the managing editor of Whiskey Advocate. Join me is raising a glass and wishing Lew a very happy birthday.

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Award-winning beer writer Lew with Pete Slosberg at GABF a couple of years ago.

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

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Birthday boy Lew (middle) flanked by fellow Pennsylvanians Don Russell (a.k.a. Joe Sixpack) and Jack Curtin. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, too. What is it about the Commonwealth and beer writers?

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Me and Lew at Triple Rock three years ago.

The Brewhog Saw His Shadow, 6 More Weeks Of Winter Beers

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Over in Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the Groundhog — a.k.a. Brewhog — raised up his head this morning and looked around, and this year saw his shadow everywhere he looked. You know what that means. It’s six more weeks of drinking winter beers this year. Or something about a late spring, I can’t keep it straight. You can see a video of Punxsutawney Phil here. And there’s more information about Groundhog Day at the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

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Beer Birthday: Jaime Jurado

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Today is the birthday of Jaime Jurado, who for many years was the Director of Brewing Operations for the Gambrinus Company, which included several beer brands and breweries, such as Shiner, BridgePort, Pete’s Wicked and Trumer. A couple of years ago, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he was the brewmaster at Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, but at the beginning of this year he moved once again, this time to Louisiana, to become Director of Brewing Operations at Abita Brewing. He’s an incredibly talented brewer. More importantly, Jaime is one of the nicest people I know in the business. Join me wishing Jaime a very happy birthday.

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A blushing Jamie at OBF in 2006.

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Jamie with Lars Larson, brewmaster of Trumer Brauerei, at the Celebrator 18th anniversary party.

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Jamie (far left) with some NBWA luminaries at the 2008 NBWA welcome reception. From left, Jamie, Lucy Saunders (the Beer Cook), Charlie Papazian (President of the Brewers Association), Kim Jordan (from New Belgium Brewing) and Tom Dalldorf (from the Celebrator Beer News).

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Jamie with Todd and Jason Alström, founder of Beer Advocate, at the 2008 GABF.

Beer Birthday: Marc Worona

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Today is the 46th birthday of fellow Pennsylvania transplant Marc Worona. Marc used to be the brewer at Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, Pennsylvania but several years ago moved to California and currently works with Brewers Supply Group. Join me in wishing Marc a very happy birthday.

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Marc goofing around at the CBC beer and chocolate event at TCHO chocolate that he co-sponsored.

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Marc with Marin brewer Arne Johnson at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2007.

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Marc (center) with Brendan Moylan and Denise Jones getting the top prize in the Chocolate Beer competition sponsored by Brewers Supply Group and TCHO chocolate company during CBC in San Francisco a few years ago.

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Out in front of the Bistro at the Double IPA Festival in 2008. Rodger Davis’ wife Claudia (who nworks at 21st Amendment), brewster Melissa Myers (working on opening her own brewpub), Shane Aldridge (brewer at Marin & Moylan’s) and Marc.

Beer Birthday: Don Russell

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Today is fellow beer writer Don Russell’s 58th birthday. Don writes a beer column for the Philadelphia Daily News under the nom de plume Joe Sixpack. He also writes a blog online, Beer Radar, and is the Executive Director of Philly Beer Week. His most recent book, What the Hell Am I Drinking?, was published last year and can still be ordered directly from the author. Don is a fellow Pennsylvanian, a crack card player, and one of my very favorite people to share a beer and discuss the issues of the day with. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don (center) with me and Lisa Morrison at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich during a press junket to Bavaria a few years ago.

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Don, with fellow Pennsylvanians Lew Bryson and Jack Curtin at GABF.

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Me and Don at the kick-off for the first Philly Beer Week in 2008.

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Don with Pete Slosberg, signing books at GABF a couple of years ago.

Beer Birthday: Jack Curtin

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Today is fellow Pennsylvania beer writer Jack Curtin’s birthday. You can read his writings and rantings on a variety of subjects at his Liquid Diet Online, Curtin’s Corner, I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing and The Great Disconnect. If you think I don’t know when to stop, check out Jack’s voluminous output. Plus Jack is one of my favorite people to kvetch about politics with, over a pint, of course. Join me wishing Jack a very happy birthday.

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Jack, at right, with fellow Pennsylvanians Don Russell (a.k.a. Joe Sixpack) and Lew Bryson. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, too. What is it about the Commonwealth and beer writers?

Upstairs at Nodding Head with Jack Curtin
Jack and me at Nodding Head during Philly Beer Week a few years back.

Tomme Arthur & Jack Curtin
Tomme Arthur and Jack.

Jack Curtin, Sam Calagione, Ed Friedland and Curt's assistant brewer
Jack with Sam Calagione, Ed Friedland and Nodding Head’s assistant brewer.