Today is the 54th birthday of John Hansell, publisher of Malt Advocate, the whisky magazine in America, which also puts on WhiskyFest in several cities, including San Francisco. John’s a terrific person I don’t see nearly often enough. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.