Just in time for the World Beer Cup this May, the Brewers Association today released their annual style guidelines for judging. According to the press release, this year’s guidelines include 140 separate categories, including one new one: “Indigenous Beer Category.” Curiously, the World Beer Cup website lists 95 on their 2012 Beer Styles Menu and the descriptions, too. You can download a pdf of the guidelines here.
Amid recent rumors, the Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft-and-import division MillerCoors created last year, announced today that they’re purchasing Crispin Cider, which includes both the Crispin and Fox Barrel hard cider brands.
From the press release:
Minneapolis-based Crispin sold its first cases on St. Crispin’s Day, October 25, 2008. The company grew approximately 200 percent in 2011, outpacing the overall cider category’s 26 percent growth during the same period, and is already the No. 3 producer of cider in the U.S.
“Our vision is to accelerate our portfolio expansion within the world’s most exciting beer market. With cider’s explosion in the U.S., we were looking at the best way to participate in that growth,” said Tenth and Blake President and CEO Tom Cardella. “As we explored the category, Crispin stood out, not only because they were the most progressive and innovative producer, but also because we shared great personal chemistry. In addition to the best cider portfolio in the business, we love their energy, creativity and unsurpassed innovation capability. They make us an even better company right away.”
The deal includes Crispin’s affiliate, Fox Barrel Cider Company.
“We’re thrilled to be part of the Tenth and Blake family,” said Joe Heron, Crispin’s CEO. “We’ve always had very ambitious plans, and we’re proud of what we’re achieving with great products and an unrivaled creativity that mirrors the inspirational American craft-beer ethos. Tenth and Blake provides us the capability to scale up at the same pace as our increasingly accelerating demand in the U.S. and beyond.”
Crispin Cider Company produces European-style natural hard apple ciders using fermented unpasteurized fresh-pressed apple juice in Original, Light and Brut varietals, as well as additional unfiltered Artisanal Reserves — Honey Crisp, Lansdowne, The Saint and Cho-tokkyu, and also imports a classic English Dry Cider, Crispin Browns Lane.
Crispin affiliate, Fox Barrel Cider Company, is dedicated to the production of superior pure pear ciders, using fermented unpasteurized fresh-pressed pear juice. Available in Pacific Pear, Blackberry Pear and Apricot Pear varietals and additional unfiltered Cidery Reserves — Ginger & Blackcurrant and Rhubarb & Elderberry.
Crispin will be run as an independent division of Tenth and Blake.
In addition to these two cider brands, Tenth and Blake also controls the following brands: “Blue Moon Brewing Co. at the Sandlot in Denver, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis., 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee, AC Golden in Golden, Colorado, Birra Peroni in Rome and Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Tenth and Blake beers include Blue Moon Belgian White, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, George Killian’s Irish Red, Batch 19, Henry Weinhard’s IPA, Colorado Native, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Grolsch.”
You probably knew that each state has some form of an ABC, an alcohol control organization that after Prohibition was created to administer their state’s laws regarding alcohol. Not surprisingly, they also have an organization where the professionals in these state organizations can get together and share information, how they do things, and generally learn from and help one another be better at their jobs. It’s called the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, or NCSLA. Their stated purpose is:
The purposes of the Association shall be to promote the enactment of the most effective and equitable types of state alcoholic beverage control laws; to devise and promote the use of methods which provide the best enforcement of the particular alcoholic beverage control laws in each state; to work for the adoption of uniform laws insofar as they may be practicable; to promote harmony with the federal government in its administration of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act; and to strive for harmony in the administration of the alcoholic beverage control laws among the several states.
They have an annual convention where they get together, along with other events throughout the year. Also, in addition to the obvious members, it’s also open to distributors, suppliers, retailers, law firms, health organizations and anyone else with an interest in the administration of alcohol at the state and federal level.
Well. Earlier this week, Alcohol Justice posted a press release entitled Big Alcohol Dominates Alcohol Regulator Meeting, which touted an article in the new edition of the journal Addiction that they claim “Documents Unhealthy Influence of Alcohol Industry over State Regulators.” Not surprisingly, the author of the article, Sarah M. Mart, is the Director of Research for Alcohol Justice. So they created the propaganda, then promote it is as if it’s news and/or impartial information and it’s not surprising that it just happens to support their agenda. Is the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy lost on them?
In this case, the article, Top priorities for alcohol regulators in the United States: protecting public health or the alcohol industry?, purports to examine the “NCSLA Annual Meeting [that] took place 20–24 June 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.” Smart claims as a “finding” that “[m]ore than two-thirds (72.2%) of the 187 conference attendees were from alcohol producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers or their attorneys. Nearly two-thirds (65.0%) of the 40 panelists were from the alcohol industry. The author of this paper was the only attendee, and the only panelist, representing public health policy.”
In the press release, Alcohol Justice spins it this way.
In a peer-reviewed article in the February 2012 issue of Addiction, Sarah Mart, director of research at Alcohol Justice, has documented the alcohol industry’s excessive involvement in a 2010 annual conference of state liquor administrators.
“With alcohol use being the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S, you would think state regulator meetings would focus on the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce alcohol-related harm,” stated Mart. “But this event was really about the industry’s agenda.”
Mart’s article details her experience at the annual National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA), which took place in June 2010. More than two-thirds (72%) of the 187 meeting attendees, and 65% of the panelists, were from the alcohol industry. The rest represented state alcohol control systems and federal government agencies. Mart was the only participant representing public health policy.
“The NCSLA is dominated by the global companies that produce, import, distribute and sell alcohol,” said Mart. “Not surprisingly, the Association’s liquor control agenda lacks public health considerations.”
On average, 79,000 deaths annually are attributed to alcohol consumption. In 2005, there were over 1.6 million hospitalizations and 4 million emergency room visits for alcohol-related causes. Alcohol-related costs to state budgets are staggering, yet this trade organization of state regulators, which could play an important role in reducing the harm, has no stated position supporting public health.
“Big Alcohol panelists actually sent regulators a warning message: Be industry-friendly. Don’t rock the boat of commerce with public health concerns, or your job may be on the line,” reported Mart. “The Federal officials that were present also spoke about supporting the industry, instead of protecting public safety. That was a disappointment.”
Sounds bad, right? Well, the NCSLA sees it a different way. They’ve now responded with their own press release telling the other side of this story.
NCSLA, The Inclusive Crucible Of Alcohol Policy Issues, Dismayed By Inaccuracies Of “Sour Grapes”
When requested to comment on the recent press release from an entity named “Alcohol Justice”(formerly known as The Marin Institute), NCSLA President William A. Kelley, Jr. today said,
“The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (“NCSLA”) has for decades been the only organization of the 50 states with the sole clear, transparent and inclusive purpose of effectively controlling alcoholic beverages. That purpose cannot be effective without input from all interested parties. Indeed since this Nation was founded, the fundamental principle of American government has been to make decisions with the consent of the governed. That requires substantive communication with and consideration of the concerns and competing interests of those who would be subject to regulatory action by the federal and state government. This is the hallmark of a real democracy.
The NCSLA is dismayed at the conduct of any organization which has chosen to re-brand itself and seeks to create relevance for its new brand by pandering for headlines, while taking no real, affirmative action to support and defend the federal and state beverage alcohol regulators in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of state and federal government. These federal and state regulators stand alone as they fulfill their lawful obligations to strike a balance between the protection of the common good and the service of the public demand for the different sorts of alcoholic beverages made available by this legitimate, responsible industry.
The agenda of self-promotion by “Alcohol Justice” is obvious and unavailing. The telling fact is that the now re-branded entity formerly known Marin Institute has repeatedly chosen not to become a member of the NCSLA despite the numerous invitations that have been extended to them and the years of courtesies from the NCSLA they have enjoyed in the form of expense-paid attendance at NCSLA conferences and participation on NCSLA panels. It is equally telling that this statement comes when further special treatment has been denied this re-branded entity while at the same time it was directly invited and encouraged to join the NCSLA, take a seat at the proverbial table, but on the same terms as those long met by other public health and public advocacy groups. It is disheartening when any entity with substantial financial resources, yet without the economic hardships endured for years by state beverage alcohol regulators, appears content to do nothing.
The silence of this re-branded entity is deafening in the national dialogue that continues as Congress, The President of the United States, the people of the state of Washington and the representatives of the people in all the 50 states grapple with the modern issues of beverage alcohol control. This struggle is the American legacy of that failed experiment named “Prohibition.”
I look forward to the honor of leading the NCSLA when it convenes in Washington D.C. to continue its efforts in fostering principles and techniques of balanced alcoholic beverages control. Unfortunately it appears that this re-branded entity chooses to continue to sit on the sidelines in its complacency, fermenting in its sour grapes. Perhaps sometime soon the reality will be recognized that much is expected from those who are given much.”
Nicely said, Mr. Kelley. Nicely said.
After scouting numerous sites in North Carolina and neighboring states, Sierra Nevada Brewing announced today they have selected a location near Asheville, North Carolina to build a new brewery to supply their beer throughout the east coast.
From the press release:
The site, approximately 90 acres in the Henderson County town of Mills River — along the French Broad River, 12 miles south of Asheville — will be home to the new production facility, as well as a proposed restaurant and gift shop.
“We are thrilled to have found an ideal location in western North Carolina for our second brewery,” says Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada. “The beer culture, water quality and quality of life are excellent. We feel lucky to be a part of this community.”
The new facility will add much needed capacity for Sierra Nevada, and will allow for the quick shipment of brewery-fresh beer to consumers in the east. The East Coast brewery will start with a capacity around 300,000 barrels, with room to grow. The added barrelage will accommodate wider production of the myriad of seasonal beers and bottled specialties Sierra Nevada has produced in recent years, as well as an expansion of the brewery’s well-known flagship product: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Sierra Nevada began the search for a new location several years ago. The brewery looked at hundreds of potential sites, eventually narrowing the search down to a handful of locations. The list of criteria was long and included quantifiable factors such as ease of shipping and water quality, as well as quality of life issues for its employees. Sierra Nevada has a reputation for a laid-back brewery culture and a love of the outdoors, and the new facility will retain this same tone. The Asheville area offers Sierra Nevada Brewing the perfect confluence of community, recreation and craft beer culture.
Sierra Nevada’s eastern brewery site is expected to employ approximately 90 workers, with additional staff in the restaurant to follow. The brewery anticipates being operational by early 2014.
That’s one more great reason to visit Asheville. I took a family vacation there a couple of years ago and it’s one of the best places I’ve been to for beer, food and culture. They have an amazing beer community. I’m sure not everyone will be thrilled by the news, but it’s been my experience that Sierra Nevada has been a good steward to the beer community as a whole, and has acted honorably in every instance I’m aware of, and I wouldn’t expect that to change as they expand their operations.
UPDATE: Asheville’s Mountain Xpress had photos and a report of the ceremony today at the site of the brewery that included North Carolina governor Bev Perdue and Ken and Brian Grossman, from Sierra Nevada.
The readers of Zymurgy magazine were asked to send in a list of their 20 favorite commercially available beers. With a record number of votes in the poll’s third year, 1,306 different beers from 433 breweries made the full list. The results were not exactly shocking, and most of the beers and breweries that got the most votes were what you’d expect, I think, but it’s an interesting list all the same. The results are also printed in the latest issue.
Top Rated Beers
(T indicates tie)
Six of the top ten are California beers, with sixteen making the list.
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
T3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
T3. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
5. Bell’s Hopslam
6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
7. Sierra Nevada Celebration
T8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo
T8. Stone Ruination
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
11. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
13. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
T14. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
T14. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
T16. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
T16. New Glarus Belgian Red
18. North Coast Old Rasputin
19. Bell’s Expedition Stout
T20. Deschutes The Abyss
T20. Left Hand Milk Stout
T20. Odell IPA
T20. Samuel Adams Noble Pils
T20. Surly Furious
T20. Troegs Nugget Nectar
T26. Rogue Dead Guy Ale
T26. Samuel Adams Boston Lager
28. Anchor Steam
T29. Bear Republic Racer 5
T29. Ommegang Three Philosophers
T29. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
T29. Three Floyds Alpha King
T29. Three Floyds Dark Lord
T34. Avery Maharaja
T34. Dogfish Head Indian Brown
T34. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
T34. Three Floyds Gumballhead
T38. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
T38. Lost Abbey Angel’s Share
T38. New Belgium La Folie
T38. New Belgium Ranger
T38. Oskar Blues Old Chub
T43. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
T43. Great Divide Yeti
T43. New Belgium 1554
T43. Russian River Blind Pig
T43. Ska Modus Hoperandi
T48. Alesmith Speedway Stout
T48. Dark Horse Crooked Tree
T48. Green Flash West Coast IPA
T48. Summit EPA
T48. Victory Prima Pils
Based on the total number of votes a beer from the same brewery received, the following list is of the top 50 breweries based on the voting. Seven California breweries made the list, with six from Colorado, and two apiece from Michigan and Oregon.
1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
2. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, Calif.
4. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
5. Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, Calif.
6. Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
7. New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.
8. Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams), Boston, Mass.
9. Three Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, Ind.
10. Oskar Blues Brewing Co., Longmont, Colo.
11. Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, Ill.
T12. Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, Calif.
T12. New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, Wis.
14. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
15. Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, Ohio
16. Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.
17. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, Colo.
18. Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, Colo.
19. Victory Brewing Co., Downington, Pa.
20. Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis, Minn.
21. Rogue Ales, Newport, Ore.
22. Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, Calif.
T23. Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
T23. North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, Calif.
T24. Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg, Calif.
T24. Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, Colo.
They also determined which breweries got the most votes for different beers that they produce, and called that list “best portfolio.” The number following their name is how many of their beers got at least one vote.
1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, 28 beers
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., 23 beers
T3. Avery Brewing Co., 18 beers
T3. Goose Island Beer Co., 18 beers
T3. Lagunitas Brewing Co., 18 beers
T3. Boston Beer Co./Samuel Adams, 18 beers
7. Bell’s Brewery, 17 beers
T8. Founders Brewing Co., 15 beers
T8. Great Divide Brewing Co., 15 beers
T8. Southern Tier Brewing Co., 15 beers
T11. Brooklyn Brewery, 14 beers
T11. Odell Brewing Co., 14 beers
T11. Rogue Ales, 14 beers
T14. New Belgium Brewing Co., 13 beers
T14. Russian River Brewing Co., 13 beers
T14. Stone Brewing Co., 13 beers
T17. Deschutes Brewery, 12 beers
T17. Three Floyds Brewing Co., 12 beers
T19. Boulevard Brewing Co., 11 beers
T19. Dark Horse Brewing Co., 11 beers
T19. New Glarus Brewing Co., 11 beers
T22. Alpine Beer Co., 10 beers
T22. AleSmith Brewing Co., 10 beers
T22. Great Lakes Brewing Co., 10 beers
T25. Cigar City Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Firestone Walker Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Flying Dog Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Harpoon Brewery, 9 beers
T25. The Lost Abbey, 9 beers
T25. Shorts Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Ska Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Sprecher Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. Summit Brewing Co., 9 beers
T25. The Bruery, 9 beers
With a lot of ties, a few imports also received votes as readers’ favorite beers.
1. Rodenbach Grand Cru, Belgium
T2. Fullers ESB, England
T2. Guinness, Ireland
T2. Rochefort 10, Belgium
T5. Duvel, Belgium
T5. Saison Dupont, Belgium
T5. St. Bernardus Abt 12, Belgium
T8. Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Germany
T8. Cantillon Gueuze, Belgium
T8. Chimay Grande Reserve, Belgium
T8. Orval, Belgium
T8. Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown, England
T8. Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Canada
Spirit of Homebrew
And finally, the “Spirit of Homebrew” list is compiled by taking the number of votes a brewery received and dividing it by their annual production. The idea is to reward smaller breweries for having big reach. I was amazed to see that four of the five are from California. Congratulations to Pat, from Alpine, for being the biggest little guy.
1. Alpine Beer Co., Alpine, Calif
2. Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, Calif.
3. AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, Calif.
4. The Bruery, Placentia, Calif.
5. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, Mich.
The Brewers Association just announced the statistics of craft beer sales in 2010, and the news is great. Craft beer saw volume growth of 11% over 2009, and in terms of dollars the increase was 12%, equating to roughly an additional one million barrels, or 14 million cases.
From the press release:
“Beer lovers increased their appreciation for American craft brewers and their beers in 2010,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association. “Craft brewers’ stories resonate with Americans who are choosing small, independent companies making delicious beers in more than 100 different styles.”
The Association also reported a growth in the number of U.S. breweries, with eight percent more breweries than the previous year. In 2010, there were 1,759 operating breweries. Craft brewers produced 9,951,956 barrels, up from an adjusted3 8,934,446 barrels in 2009.
“Prohibition caused a dramatic decline in the number of breweries in the United States, but the number of breweries is now at an all-time high,” added Gatza. “With well over 100 new brewery openings in 2010, plus 618 breweries in planning stages, all signs point to continued growth for the industry.”
In 2010, craft brewers represented 4.9 percent of volume and 7.6 percent of retail dollars of the total U.S. beer category. The Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2010 was $7.6 billion, up from $7 billion in 2009.
Overall, the U.S. beer industry represented an estimated retail dollar value of $101 billion. U.S. beer sales were down approximately one percent, or 2 million barrels, in 2010 compared to being down 2.2 percent in 2009. Total beer industry barrels dropped to 203.6 million, down from 205.7 million barrels in 2009. Imports were up five percent in 2010, compared to being down 9.8 percent in 2009. (Note: the Brewers Association does not count flavored malt beverages as beer.)
Gatza added, “We also found that three percent of craft brewer barrels, by volume, are distributed in cans, confirming a growing trend.”
It’s always great to have confirmed what we see in the street, that most, if not all, craft brewers are doing well. Another great year of craft beer growth. Congratulations to everybody.
I think I’ve mentioned before that my wife is a political news junkie. She just sent me this link from one of the most popular political websites, Politico, entitled Craft beer bridges partisan divide in Senate. It’s nice to see beer getting some mainstream attention.
The Politico article is all about the introduction Wednesday of BEER, “Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief Act,” which would cut taxes for microbreweries and on the production of smaller quantities of beer barrels, among other things. It was introduced in the Senate by Republican Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Democratic Senator John Kerry (Massachusetts).
Although Senator Kerry misstates that the “craft beer revolution started right here in Massachusetts,” I think we can forgive him for that one, having obviously been talking with Jim Koch for many months about this bill.
Here’s Crapo’s Press Release about the introduction of the BEER Act:
Small Brewery Tax Bill Would Create Jobs, Open Markets
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Washington, D.C. — Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) today introduced legislation to reduce the beer excise tax for America’s small brewers. The Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief (BEER) Act will help create jobs at more than 1,600 small breweries nationwide, which collectively employ nearly 100,000 people. Idaho and Massachusetts are home to dozens of small breweries.
“Like any private business, craft brewing is all about supply and demand,” said Crapo. “In touring Idaho last year, I met with many craft brewers who are seeking to expand their business because they are seeing increased demand for their product. In addition, this legislation will expand the ready markets for our barley, wheat and hops producers in Idaho. I remain optimistic this bill will pass this year to create new jobs and new markets.”
“The craft beer revolution started right here in Massachusetts and they’ve been going toe to toe with multi-national beer companies ever since,” said Kerry. “This bill will help ensure that these small businesses keep people on the payroll and create jobs even during tight economic times.”
Because of differences in economies of scale, small brewers have higher costs for production, raw materials, packaging and market entry than larger, well-established multi-national competitors. The BEER Act also helps states that produce barley, hops and other ingredients used by these small brewers. In addition to Senators Crapo and Kerry, the legislation is co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of 16 additional Senators.
Currently, a small brewer that produces less than two million barrels of beer per year is eligible to pay $7.00 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels produced each year. This legislation will reduce this rate to $3.50 per barrel, giving our nation’s smallest brewers approximately $19.9 million per year to expand and generate jobs. This change helps approximately 1,525 breweries nationwide.
Currently, once production exceeds 60,000 barrels, a small brewer must pay the same $18 per barrel excise tax rate that the largest brewer pays while producing more than 100 million barrels. This legislation will lower the tax rate to $16 per barrel on beer production above 60,000 barrels, up to two million barrels, providing small brewers with an additional $27.1 million per year that can be used to support significant long-term investments and create jobs by growing their businesses on a regional or national scale.
The small brewer tax rate was established in 1976 and has never been updated. This legislation would update the ceiling defining small breweries by increasing it from two million barrels to six million barrels. Raising the ceiling to six million barrels more accurately reflects the intent of the original differentiation between large and small brewers in the U.S.
The count is at 1,701 operating breweries in the U.S. There are 9 percent more breweries in the U.S. than a year ago. As I blow the dust off the historical records, it appears that there were 1,751 breweries in 1900 and 1,498 in 1910. So we have more breweries than we have since around 1905. My resource for these data points is The Register of United States Breweries 1876-1976 (compilers Friedrich and Bull). There certainly are a lot more diverse brewing styles being offered today, particularly by craft brewers, and I’m betting quality is far greater now than then.
That’s great news. Two months ago when I needed a firm number for an article I was writing, the number was 1,677 so that’s nearly 25 brewery openings in less than sixty days. How cool is that?
A couple of weeks ago, All About Beer magazine conducted a contest, to win a trip to the “Brew Your Cask Off” beer festival hosted by Georgia’s SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia on March 5, 2011.
The winner had to write an essay explaining what type of cask they’d brew, in 300 words or less. The winner, Matt Robinson, from Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote a poem which won him and a friend a trip to SweetWater Brewery’s cask festival.
From the press release:
Matt will also be a honorary judge for the cask ale competition and be a server for a cask made from his hilarious and precise poem.
Without a doubt one of the most unusual, and clever beer events, SweetWater Brewery’s Brew Your Cask Off features 80 different cask ales made by a full range of celebrities and not so celebrities, including dignitaries from the beer media, non-profits and retailers from the metro Atlanta beer community. All About Beer Magazine publisher Daniel Bradford participated in making a cask named Adam’s All About Beer Ale, after the SweetWater brewer who guided the actual cask ale production. The cask ale festival features a judging of all the casks with the winner getting serious bragging rights, including being brewed by SweetWater Brewery, and the loser getting the much coveted, and highly decorated golden toilet seat.
Matt Robinson will join a collection of very talented palates as a honorary judge helping chose the best cask of the festival. During the festival itself, Matt will have the pleasure of presenting a cask made from the numerous clues he provided in his winning poem.
Runners up included second place finisher Steve Forbes who wrote a passionate sensory entry. Third place went to Michael Iris who described how his hound found an unusual cache of berries that would have made a wonderful cask. Both of these entries and the other finishers can be found at All About Beer.
The winning entry is below. Enjoy.
What Cask Should An American Brew? by Matt Robinson
What cask should an American Brew?
But nothing less than around 55 I-Be-Yous!
I would add subtle flavor with East Kents
Perhaps more for hop compliment
Throw in some fuggles and American C’s
Many will say it’s the knees of bees!
Powerful flavor will be most divine
Even with a gravity around one-thousand nine
The grain bill is full of Golden Promise Malt
This great American session cask has no fault
The hydrometer reading will need to state
Around 3.55% alcohol by weight
This may sound like an English creation
With bold American style is my summation
Lovibond sounds nice somewhere near ten
Many hours with our cask we will all spend!
Wyeast numbered Nineteen Forty-Five
Will make our cask come alive!
Gravity-fed like our English brethren
Cask beer please take hold for American beer drinking heaven
Deep in the south in town called Atlanta
Our cask brings so much joy we call it Santa!
All the people will come and stand
To sing play us a song you’re the piano man!
Daniel Defoe observed in 1726 that nothing was more certain than death and taxes, and sadly, that still holds true nearly three centuries later. It seems more likely that we’ll lick that immortality problem before taxes ever become a thing of the past. And few taxes are more certain to be under attack than alcohol taxes, a favorite target of the anti-alcohol groups, whose incessant calls for their increase have only grown louder as the economy is in free fall. Because what you want to do in a sinking economy is make it harder for one of the few industries doing well to keep people employed, paying taxes and in business.
But that’s never stopped them before and it’s not stopping them now, as the latest shot over the bow from my friends at the Marin Institute was a press release today, Twelve States Stuck at Bottom of Beer Tax Barrel. It announces their new interactive map of Neglected and Outdated State Beer Taxes.
Here’s the entirety of the press release:
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog, launched its Neglected & Outdated Beer Taxes Map today. This new interactive tool helps those who want to raise beer tax rates to balance state budgets or erase deficits.
“Just point your cursor at a state and you can see the your current beer tax rate, the year of your last tax increase, and the loss of revenue from inflation,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Marin Institute executive director and CEO. “We show the twelve states that have hit the bottom of the barrel in beer tax revenues and are the most overdue for an increase.”
The beer tax map quickly reveals states suffering the most from Big Beer’s influence. These are states that have beer taxes stuck at absurdly low rates set as long ago as the 1940s, and even the 1930s. “With almost every state struggling to find new dollars to fund critical programs, policymakers need to stop leaving beer tax revenue on the table,” said Sarah Mart, research and policy manager at Marin Institute.
The web site shows the twelve states with the “worst” beer tax rates in the nation, the “bottom of the beer barrel”: Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Six states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have not raised their beer tax in 50 years or more.
The worst state is Wyoming, which has the distinction of the lowest tax rate – $0.02 per gallon – set in 1935, during FDR’s first term. Factoring for inflation, the value of Wyoming’s beer tax has decreased 94%. A simple 5 cents per drink increase in the state’s beer tax would yield $7.75 million in new revenue. Considering that Wyoming’s annual budget shortfalls are projected to hit $5 million by 2013, a modest beer tax increase would erase all budget shortfalls in the state, reduce drinking, and increase health and safety a little.
The map shows that in 47 states, the decrease in real value of the beer tax due to inflation ranges from 25 percent to more than 75 percent. “This is such a lose-lose scenario for the states,” added Mart. “States are losing revenue and cutting essential programs, especially those which mitigate alcohol-related harm, while the beer companies reap higher and higher profits. It’s time for states to stop their race to the bottom and raise beer taxes.”
And here’s their colorful map of beer taxes and when they were last raised, minus the interactivity. The interactive version you can see on their website.
But there are so many things wrong with their arguments that it’s hard to know where to begin. So I’ll start by being petty. Look at the first two words of the press release: “SAN FRANCISCO.” The Marin Institute is NOT in San Francisco, but in San Rafael, which is just north of the city in Marin County, hence their name. I’m sure that they used the more familiar San Francisco because nationwide, and especially worldwide, no one’s heard of San Rafael, but I can’t help but ponder that if they can’t even be accurate about where they’re located, what does that say about their commitment to the truth in more substantive issues?
First, let’s assume everything they say is correct (it’s not, but just for the sake of argument). The amounts realized according to their table of the states with the lowest taxes if their state excise taxes were increased by “10 cents a drink” ranges from $15.3 to $333 million, or an average of about $123 million per state. But state deficits are in the billions, with a “b.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates around $350 billion. Even if you added up all twelve states, the additional taxes would be less than $1.5 billion, less than half a percent of the total (not a perfect number, but still indicative of the problem). The point is that raising the state excise taxes on alcohol comes no where close to doing anything meaningful about the budget shortfalls facing all but four or five of the states. All it does is punish and weaken one of the few functioning industries in a distressed economy.
Next, let’s talk about the idea that taxes should parallel inflation and be raised to match those levels. If that is indeed a public policy goal, shouldn’t it be applied across the board? If we accept that taxes should be raised every time inflation inches ever higher, then shouldn’t ALL taxes do likewise? Singling out the alcohol industry for such treatment is, again, just punishing one industry because one of their “watchdogs” doesn’t like them, despite all protestations to the contrary. I don’t want my taxes to go up anymore than I suspect you do, but if we need more money as a state, country and society, than I don’t see any other fair way to raise more money. Any scheme that falls disproportionally on any industry is de facto unfair to solve a problem that effects all of society. We should have done away with tax breaks for the rich, but that couldn’t even be talked about, much less implemented. Instead, let’s suggest the heavily regressive taxes on alcohol punish the poor even more than they already do.
The other unanswered question is how high to raise excise taxes and for how long? And while there’s no amount proposed at this time, since they’re merely providing the tools to sow discontent in individual states, I believe that’s because there’s really no amount too high for the anti-alcohol groups. Though unstated, it seems implicit in their rhetoric that no amount is enough and they’ll never be satisfied. I’ve never seen a discussion of what amount they might consider fair enough, or might balance the amount with their ability to stay in business (which is the only way companies could continue to actually pay their taxes). Is there an amount that might satisfy such organizations? If so, I’ve never seen it. Then, if fixing the economy is truly the aim of their proposals, should such taxes only be imposed as a temporary measure until the crisis is over? If you didn’t laugh when you read that, you don’t realize that taxes are almost never repealed, only imposed or increased. What I think this exposes is that this is simply a way to use current circumstances to harm the alcohol companies and make it harder for them to stay in business, falling especially hard on the small brewers.
What’s also conveniently left out of their argument, as always, is the current amount of taxes paid by alcohol producers. There’s more taxes paid on every bottle of beer than any other consumer good save tobacco. Those two products are the only remaining items that pay excise taxes, at both the federal and state level. And while I think most would agree that smoking offers no health benefits, beer (and alcohol more generally) in moderation most definitely does. If you drink one or two beers a day, the odds are you’ll live longer than either a teetotaler or a binge drinker.
How much does the brewing industry pay? As of 2008, business and personal taxes accounted for $35,283,148,850, consumption taxes account for another $11,172,946,867; or a total of $46,256,095,717 annually. The total economic impact of the beer industry alone pumps $198,152,918,964 into the national economy each year. And all those figures are not including wine and spirits which would push it significantly higher.
I think Defoe’s quote needs modifying to reflect modern society, adding that few things are more certain than anti-alcohol groups using a recession to further their own narrow agenda of making the alcohol industry pay for their perceived sins. I think I need one of Moonlight Brewing‘s tastiest beers, their black lager, Death & Taxes.