Thursday’s ad is for Schlitz, from the 1943. In this ad, showing four very diverse citizens at the ballot box, claims “America Votes For No Bitterness.” Maybe in 1943, but not in 2016, where bitterness reigns supreme, both in our IPAs and also in our elections. I actually had to unfriend someone on Facebook today for the first time ever for going full wacko on me over politics. There’s only a dozen days until the election, and I for one can’t wait until it’s all over.
There’s an interesting development going on in Venezuela. Empresas Polar, the country’s largest brewer — with an 80% market share — completely shut down their operations in April, apparently because of “supply problems of its main raw materials.” The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, according to the drinks business, “has now threatened to take over the closed breweries, saying that the business owners risk being ‘put in handcuffs.'”
The country has been hit by a dire economic downturn over the last several years, and the president has not exactly been helping. John Oliver has covered the situation there hilariously at least twice, first in early May 2015 and then again last Sunday. In that report he mentioned that Marcos was threatening to jail owners of closed factories and have the government seize the buildings and take them over. And apparently one of those businesses he’s targeting is Polar. Here’s the rest of the story from the drinks beverage:
He said he was also ordering action “to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie”.
Meanwhile, Polar said it could no longer access the US currency needed to import the malted barley for beer production, and had to close the last of its breweries. Access to foreign exchange is currently under the control of the country’s government.
The beer shortage has had a big impact, as Venezuelans really like their beer. The tropical country has the highest per capita consumption rates of any nation in South America, and ongoing economic woes have to some extent been softened so far by the affordable luxury of a cold beer.
It’s the latest chapter in a long-running set of shortages and supply problems for beer and other food in Venezuela.
Polar’s billionaire owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, has been a vocal opponent of the President, with Maduro accusing him of waging an “economic war” on his government. Over the past year, Polar has been embroiled in a strike by brewery workers, conflict with the trade unions, and has seen its distribution centre occupied by the military.
My friend Paul Marshall sent me this delightful little story about the state of the Prohibition Party in 2016. And yes, that Prohibition Party. Believe it or not it’s the oldest independent third-party still active, and they field a presidential candidate every four years. The party was founded in 1869, and its single defining platform was that they were, and still are, “opposed [to] the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages.” I knew they were still around, hoping to convince people that Prohibition was really a good idea, and we should try it again, despite all evidence to the contrary. But what I didn’t know was just how small they’ve become.
In their heyday, before the 18th Amendment passed, they were active in American politics and contributed to the discussion, and even after Prohibition was enacted, continued to agitate for even stricter controls until they faded into obscurity. How obscure? In the 2012 national election for President of the United States, the Prohibition Party candidate, Jack Fellure of West Virginia, received 518 votes. But that’s not even the low point. One of their 2004 candidates, Earl Dodge of Colorado (there were two that election due to a split in the party), got 140 votes. At their peak, in 1892, John Bidwell of California received 270,770, which represented only a little bit less than half a percent of the roughly 63 million people then in the U.S. Seven times they cracked the 200,000 vote line, though not since 1916. The last time they hit over 100,000 votes was 1948, and 1976 was the last time they garnered more than 10,000. In the last three elections, less then 1,000 people voted for the party candidate.
2008 Prohibition Party presidential candidate Gene Amondson of Washington state, the last year for which they’re selling buttons on the party’s website store. When I say store, it’s actually a Cafe Press store, and the party website itself was created for free using Wix.com. The party coffers are apparently not very full.
According to the Guardian article by Adam Gabbatt, A sobering alternative? Prohibition party back on the ticket this election, revealed that this year’s candidate is Jim Hedges of Pennsylvania, and his running mate is Bill Bayes of Mississippi. Hedges is actually the only known member of the Prohibition Party to have held any elected office — local, state or national — in the 21st Century, when he was the Tax Assessor for Thompson Township, Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2007.
Gabbatt went to Pennsylvania to interview the candidates, and it’s a fascinating read. It’s interesting to hear him talk so matter-of-factly about such an anachronistic idea that most people have moved past, with the obvious exception of the anti-alcohol groups that still exist. But even they seemed to have abandoned trying to get Prohibition going again (even though they’d certainly be in favor of it). Instead, they’ve been slinging mud and trying to disrupt the manufacture and sale (though especially access and advertising) of alcohol pretty much since before the ink was dry on the 21st Amendment.
Not surprisingly, the makeup of the membership skews to an older demographic, and according to Hedges “the current members are over 50, many in their 70s and 80s, and many are ultra-conservative.” But one of the most surprising reveals in the article is just how small the Prohibition Party of today really is. Hedges said that there are “currently about three dozen fee-paying members, who each contribute $10 a year.” So that’s $360 the party receives in dues for the year, plus there was a trust set up in the 1930s that provides additional funds. In most elections recently, that’s allowed them to be on the ballot in just one state, though this year Hedges is hoping to make it onto the ballot in six states, with an ultimate goal of getting 1,000 votes in each. But he’s realistic about his changes of becoming president, which he states are simply. “Zero. None whatsoever.” Still, despite the great divide between his party’s platform, and my own politics, I still think he’d make a better president than Donald Trump. If only there were a button available.
I really hope this isn’t an April Fool’s Day prank. But even though I just saw it today, it was originally posted March 22, and it’s by a brewery that actually went through with making a beer using goat’s brains in an homage to zombies for a Walking Dead-themed beer, which in my mind increases its chances of being legitimate. Anyway, Dock Street Brewery of Philadelphia announced that they’re launching a new line of political beers to be known as the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Drumpf” series. First up will be Short-Fingered Stout, which is described as “a bitter and delusional stout with an airy, light-colored head atop a so-so body.” Sadly there’s no timetable yet for its release. With many beer folks converging on the City of Brotherly Beer early next month, we can only hope it will be available to coincide with the Craft Brewers Conference, so we can all have a chance to “Make American Beer Drumpf Again.”
Here’s Dock Street’s press release:
Is it just us, or does this particular celebridential candidate always sound like he’s had a few too many? In his (dis)honor, Dock Street Brewery is brewing up a series of quaffable reminders to exercise your suffrage, and just dump Drumpf.
Beer has always, throughout history, been a key ingredient in the recipe for revolutionary ideas. In that spirit, we’re brewing this series to declare our disdain for Drumpf, and to extend a little nod of solidarity to our friends, fans and neighbors that also believe the country deserves better representation – on a national and international platform – in the race to be Commander in Chief. We just can’t wrap our well-coiffed heads around a candidate who encourages his supporters to attack protesters at his rallies, wants to limit access to the U.S. based on religion, and flagrantly manipulates facts and data. Oh yeah, and that ridiculous wall idea? Come on.
The first in the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Drumpf” series will be Short-Fingered Stout, a bitter and delusional stout with an airy, light-colored head atop a so-so body. Don’t worry, its bark is worse than its bite; this big baby comes in at a somewhat conservative 4.5% ABV.
Release date will be announced soon, during which we’ll host a meeting of the minds and palates at our brewpub where guests are encouraged to debate, discuss, and toast to free speech and democracy.
All are invited and welcomed, no matter what your political views are. Except one person…
Go home man, you’re Drumpf.
Artwork: Alexis Anne Grant for Dock Street Brewery
For the 103rd Session, our host will be Natasha Godard, who writes MetaCookBook. For her topic, she’s asking us to look around and acknowledge the elephant or elephants in the room, whichever one you’ve finally noticed, or as she explains it in her announcement for the September Session, “The Hard Stuff:”
“Beer” is its own subculture at this point. There’s an expected “look” and expected desires. Beer festivals are everywhere. Beer blogs flourish; indeed at this point there’s reasonable sub categories for them. New breweries are popping up at record pace; the US alone has more than 3,000. Big breweries are getting bigger, some are being purchased, some are saying that’s bullshit.
But we’re still fairly monolithic as a group. And there are a number of problems related to that tendency toward sameness. Not all problems related are personal, for example trademark disputes are becoming more commonplace as we all have the same “clever thought”.
We have such a good time with our libation of choice that sometimes we fear bringing up the issues we see.
Well, stop that. Air your concerns, bring up those issues. Show us what we’re not talking about and should be, and tell us why.
Pour us a liberal amount of The Hard Stuff.
So start noticing the things that are right in front of you, but aren’t acknowledged or talked about in polite beer society, and let us know what you think is the hard stuff that we should bring up and face. Maybe we’ve been looking in the other direction and just didn’t see it, or maybe it’s staring us in the face and we just chose to ignore it. Either way, to participate in the September Session, leave a comment to the original announcement, on or before Friday, September 4.
This is kind of fun. A few years ago, the California state senate declared that February was California Beer Month using language I helped draft. Other states have followed suit, as well. But now the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a national resolution, S. Res. 188 recognizing the efforts of small breweries nationwide and American Craft Beer Week in particular.
Here’s the BA’s press release:
The weeklong celebration honoring the country’s small and independent craft brewery renaissance during the 10th American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) continues, as Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a resolution, S. Res. 188, expressing the Senate’s appreciation of the goals of the week and commending the craft brewers of the United States. The U.S. Senate passed S. Res. 188 by unanimous consent.
From May 11-17, all 50 states witnessed over 2,000 registered ACBW events, including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers and more, to honor the ever-advancing craft beer culture and unite tens of thousands of beer lovers nationwide. CraftBeer.com also created an interactive graphic featuring fun facts to commemorate each state and its respective commitment to craft brewing.
“American Craft Beer Week is about supporting and celebrating small and independent brewers,” said Julia Herz, publisher of CraftBeer.com and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “We are thrilled to see the U.S. Senate recognize the week and commend the accomplishments of small brewery businesses, each of whom are a driving economic force and cultural bright spot for this country.”
In addition to expressing gratitude for the goals of ACBW, the resolution recognizes the significant contributions of the craft brewers of the United States to the economy and to the communities which the craft brewers are located. The resolution also commends craft brewers for providing jobs, supporting agriculture, improving balance of trade—particularly by producing many sought-after new and unique styles ranging from smoked porters to pumpkin peach ales—and educating the country and beer lovers around the world about the history and culture of beer, while promoting legal and responsible appreciation.
Today is the birthday of Diocletian, who was born in the year 244 C.E. He was a Roman Emperor, whose reign lasted from 284 to 305. During his time in charge and before, runaway inflation was a growing problem, which caused him to put a cap on prices in 301 C.E. Known as the “Ēdictum Dē Pretiīs Rērum Vēnālium” or Edict on Maximum Prices or occasionally the Edict of Diocletian, it set the maximum prices allowed on a variety of commodities, goods and services.
For example, a sextarius (roughly 500 ml, or about a pint) of Egyptian Beer had a maximum price of 2 Denarii. A Denarius was a common coin in Ancient Rome, beginning around 211 B.C. E. during the Second Punic War, becoming “the most common coin produced for circulation. The word denarius is derived from the Latin dēnī “containing ten”, as its value was 10 asses (later “retarrifed at sixteen asses”). It is the origin of several modern words such as the currency name dinar and the Italian common noun for money: denaro.”
Prsumably because it was better, the same amount of Gallic or Pannonian Beer had a maximum price set of 4 Denarii. Pannonia was a Roman province in the northern part of the empire, and was located in “present-day western Hungary, eastern Austria, northern Croatia, north-western Serbia, northern Slovenia, western Slovakia and northern Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Gaul was the area that is modern-day France.
Egyptian beer was sometimes translated as “Zythus” and at least another translation lists the Gallic or Pannonian Beer as “beer called Camus.” These other translations also list something called “Barley wine of Attica” with a hefty maximum price of 24 Denarii. Attica was the area around and including Athens in Greece. I have no idea if that was anything like our modern barley wine, and I can find no other mention of it in a quick search.
Another translation done in 1876 by an Edward Young, entitled “Labor in Europe and America: A Special Report on the Rates of Wages, the Cost of Subsistence and the Condition of the Working Classes” converted the Denarii prices to the then nearest American equivalent, which the author supposed was one-half cent to the Denarius. Using that scheme, the Egyptian beer would have been 7 cents, the Zythus, or Gallic or Pannonian Beer would have been 14 cents, and the barley wine of Attica 84 cents. Adjusting for inflation 138 years, in 2014 prices the maximum prices for a pint of our three beers would be $1.56, $3.11 and $18.67, which would be pretty expensive, even for 16 oz. of barley wine. But overall, those prices seem pretty decent. Salutaria!
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.
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. Sounds 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.
While I don’t often opine about America’s idiotic minimum drinking age, one of the oldest in the civilized world, I do believe it should be 18 for a variety of reasons. Author Camille Paglia, in the current issue of Time magazine, had a rather forceful, nicely angry piece on why she believes It’s Time to Let Teenagers Drink Again, which is the title in print. Online it’s called The Drinking Age Is Past Its Prime.
She’s pulling no punches, and believes it should be “repealed,” if indeed that’s even the right way to change it. She writes: “It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.” I don’t necessarily agree with everything she has to say, but enough. Plus it’s great to see such an unabashed argument in favor of relaxing that particular law in so mainstream a media outlet.
But my favorite line is the way she characterizes alcohol’s positive attributes. “Alcohol relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas and promotes humor and hilarity.” She concludes.
Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation, magically interconnected yet strangely isolated by social media. Clumsy hardcore sexting has sadly supplanted simple hanging out over a beer at a buzzing dive. By undermining the art of conversation, the age-21 law has also had a disastrous effect on our arts and letters, with their increasing dullness and mediocrity. This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!
Here, here. Few things in society are better than the simple pleasure of sharing a beer with friends. I didn’t realize it was improving our nation’s “arts and letters,” but hey, I’ll go with it.