Prohibitionists Picking On Past Their Primers

What is it with Alcohol Justice insulting people recently? A few days ago they called people around the world “idiotic,” and now they’re referring to the elderly as “geezers?” What happened to being an organization holding the alcohol industry to impossibly high standards? Or don’t those apply in the first person, only in the third person? Sadly, that’s probably the answer as whatever they do is championed as correct and everything — and I do mean everything — that alcohol companies and anyone who might choose to drink alcohol are doing is considered wrong.

So — sigh — what is it this time? AJ tweeted out the following this morning:


“Some geezers are hitting the hootch too hard Better wake-up before it’s too late!”

The link takes you to an article posted on the BBC‘s health website, with the far more gentle title, Elderly people warned over alcohol consumption. So why exactly is AJ calling the elderly “geezers?” According to Wikipedia, “Geezer is a slang term for a man. In the UK, it can carry the connotation of either age or eccentricity. In the US, the term typically refers to a cranky old man.” In AJ’s tweet, of course, they show three elderly women sipping what looks like wine, champagne and a cocktail, not “hootch,” or even it’s more common spelling “hooch” (oh, AJ how many mistakes can you pack into one tweet?). Yes, hooch can mean any “alcoholic liquor,” but it usually refers to “inferior or illicit whiskey,” not the good stuff. So calling these three women geezers drinking hooch doesn’t really work, does it?

The BBC article itself, naturally, is problematic, as well. The headline is that they found that “one in five people over 65 who drink” (so only 20% and only 20% of the elderly population that are not teetotalers, meaning less than 20%) is drinking their “hooch” at “unsafe levels.”

First of all, those levels they’re talking about in the UK are arbitrary and were simply made up, as was revealed in 2007, twenty years after the guidelines for the UK had been set in stone in 1987. One committee member who’d worked on the guidelines remembered that they were simply “plucked out of the air” and had “no basis in science” whatsoever, which I detailed at the time in Target: Alcohol. So it’s pretty hard to get worked up about elderly people, and a minority of them at that, who are not following capricious, arbitrary guidelines that were simply made up.

But the kicker, for me, is that final admonishment in AJ’s tweet: “Better wake-up before it’s too late!” To which my first through was exactly the same as the nearly 300 commenters to the BBC article. “Or what?” After working my entire lifetime, and finally reaching retirement age, finally able to do the things I want to do, the last thing I want to hear is “go easy, darling, mustn’t have too much to drink” from … well, from anybody. Seriously, unless I’m falling down, incoherently drunk every single day at age 70, it’s nobody’s business but my own and Alcohol Justice and their ilk can go f*@k themselves. I’m going to enjoy my twilight years, if I can, and if I make it that far on my own, I think I can manage without their unwanted intrusion and advice. They don’t care about my health, they care about controlling people and telling them what’s good for them because they know better than you and me. It’s the true national pastime.

But what I’m still unclear about is why they’ve chosen to begin attacking people with insults and epithets, people who’ve done nothing more than live their lives as they see fit, but apparently differently from how AJ believes they should live. That’s certainly not how you win people over to your way of thinking. It just pisses them off.

Patent No. 6284244B1: Mediating The Effects Of Alcohol Consumption By Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast

Today in 2001, US Patent 6284244 B1 was issued, an invention of Joseph L. Owades, for his “Mediating the Effects of Alcohol Consumption by Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast.” Here’s the Abstract:

Mediating the effects of alcohol consumption by orally administering an active dry yeast containing alcohol dehydrogenase to a person prior to or simultaneously with consumption of an alcohol-containing beverage to oxidize a portion of the alcohol while it is still in the stomach of the person is described.

This is roughly the same patent, Patent No. 2452476A1: Mediating The Effects Of Alcohol Consumption By Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast, that Owades applied for a patent on and received two years later, in 2003. You can read all about the background of it there.

NYC Gives Bad Advice During Heatwave

So right now many places are going through a heatwave, even where I am in Sonoma County has had some very unseasonably hot days. But apparently New York City is having a particularly bad time, with temperatures close to 100° F. On Monday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to assuage New Yorker’s fears and offer suggestions on how to stay safe during the heatwave. Also on hand at the event with the Mayor was the commissioner of the Department of Health, Mary Bassett, who “told New Yorkers not to crack open a frosty lager or pour themselves a crisp ale in a chilled glass” during the heatwave, warning them about “the perils of alcohol and caffeine, both dehydrating diuretics, for those who must labor in the sun.” She’s quoted in the Observer.

“Water is the best beverage for staying hydrated. Beer is not,” she said.

Unfortunately, at least as long as ago as 2007, studies have shown that not to be the case. As I reported in late 2007, in Forget Gatorade, Drink Beer, a Spanish study has concluded that the best thing you can drink after playing vigorous sports is not Gatorade, but beer. Specifically, the study found that for the dehydrated person, beer helps retain liquid better than water.

What would you rather down after sweating yourself silly either in a soccer match, mowing your lawn or simply enduring a blazing sun heatwave, Gatorade, water or this?

The main reason is that water doesn’t replenish electrolytes or other chemicals that the body loses when sweating. Water’s great, don’t get me wrong, it is up to 95% of what makes beer. For example, the UK’s NHS cautions against using just plain water, saying dehydrated persons “shouldn’t be given water as the main replacement fluid because it can further dilute the minerals in their body and make the problem worse.”

When you’re dehydrated, you lose sugar and salts, as well as water. Drinking a rehydration solution will enable you to re-establish the right balance of body fluids. The solution should contain a mixture of potassium and sodium salts, as well as glucose or starch.

Even Gatorade would probably be a little better than just water for severe dehydration that’s associated with a heatwave, although the Spanish study found that beer is even better.

For the study, Garzon asked a group of students to perform strenuous exercise in temperatures of around 104ºF. Half the subjects were given a pint of beer after the workout, the other half the same quantity of plain water. Garzon said the hydration effect in those who drank the beer was “slightly better.”

Juan Antonio Corbalán, a cardiologist who formerly worked with Real Madrid soccer players and Spain’s national basketball team, insists that beer has the “perfect profile” for a rehydrating beverage after sports. Corbalán adds that he has long advocated the drinking of barley-based beverages by professional athletes.

Of course, beer being a diuretic means you’ll lose some liquid through urination, and there aren’t any appreciable electrolytes in beer. But then there aren’t any in water, either, so advising just water seems like poor advice at best. Even critics to the Spanish study, like James Betts, an expert on nutrition and metabolism at Bath University in England, admits that “a moderate amount of beer might be as effective as water at helping the body with liquid retention.” So again, NYC’s position that people should lay off a cold beer and stick to only water seems pretty out to lunch.

Apparently, a C. Johnson, who’s a Theoretical Physicist has come up with Gator Beer, a beer that would apparently include electrolytes and other chemicals lost during perspiration such as sodium (already in beer), potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Sadly, no one is currently making Gator Beer.

I’m sure Mary Bassett is a lovely person, but you wouldn’t know it from this photo of her supplied by the mayor’s office, where she looks exactly like the sort of person who would say “no” to a beer.

Why Greasy Food Tastes So Good When You’re Hungover

There’s nothing quite so tasty the next morning after a session of drinking that wakes you up with a pounding headache as greasy food. For me, greasy food is perfect for any meal, but it’s especially fitting after a night of overindulgence. I’ve often wondered why that is, or if it was anything more than the grease sopping up the leftover alcohol coursing through my veins. According to a short article in Popular Science a few years back that I just stumbled on entitled FYI: Why Do We Crave Greasy Food When We’re Hung Over?, the answer is, at least in part, because “we’re really just going back to our caveman roots.”

“All mammals gravitate to eating the most energy-dense foods,” David Levitsky, professor of human ecology and nutritional sciences at Cornell University, says. “Fat is the most energy-dense food available.” It’s just that sober, you won’t usually give in to those cravings. But after a night of boozy indulgence, you lose such learned inhibitions as disciplined eating, Levitsky says.

Or it might be galanin, a “brain chemical.”

William Gruchow, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has studied and written about galanin and its effects on various neurotransmitters. “Galanin increases appetite for fats, and consumption of fat causes more galanin to be produced,” Gruchow said. “Alcohol intake also results in increased galanin production.”

The thinking goes:

By consuming large quantities of high-fat foods and alcohol, you increase your triglycerides possibly stimulating galanin production. That, in turn, makes you crave that calorific Denny’s breakfast you’d never touch otherwise. “The bottom line here is that alcohol intake increases one’s appetite for fat, and fat intake does the same. This is a double whammy for drinkers who eat fatty foods while drinking,” Gruchow says.

And here I just thought it tasted good.


Thinking About Beer Color

I’ve always been fascinated by color, even as a child, and naturally, more recently, beer color. I understand how the color numbering systems came about, and their obvious utility, but I’m more interested in thinking about beer color, by which I mean how we describe a beer’s color using names for colors in the same way that we have more or less standardized descriptors for flavors and aromas. When it comes to the descriptors for beer’s aroma and flavors, we understand and acknowledge the importance of vocabulary, of having a standardized series of words to express what we’re tasting. Several years ago, my friend Fal Allen (who’s the brewmaster at Anderson Valley Brewing) started a list of Beer Tasting Terms that I expanded on which includes most of the more common descriptors and other terms used when tasting beer. Having everyone using and understanding the same language makes talking about those much, much easier. That’s why in the 1970s Morton Meilgaard created the Beer Flavor Wheel which has since been updated and maintained by the American Society of Brewing Chemists.
But that brings us back to color. Color is generally expressed by numbers, first using the Lovibond scale (or Degrees Lovibond / °L) which has been mostly replaced by the SRM (Standard Reference Method) and the EBC (European Brewery Convention). SRM is the one most commonly used in the U.S., and it expresses beer color using a numbering system of 1-40, with the lower the number, the lighter the beer, and vice versa.


And that works fairly well, especially for reviews or judging since it’s reasonably easy to determine if a beer hits its range for a particular style. So I have nothing against it, except that it’s not very elegant or poetic. I realize it doesn’t have to be, but I make my living writing. I love language. Words excite me. I love to linger at the paint chips and marvel at the imaginative names that people give to different shades of colors. Even as a child I remember being intrigued by the names on crayons, especially those with such descriptive names as “burnt sienna,” “midnight blue” or “atomic tangerine.” They’re so much more evocative than brown, blue or orange.

So when writing a beer review, I struggle to avoid using the same semi-standard color names over and over again, none of which have been set in stone, at least not to my knowledge. The most common four colors that one sees are Yellow, Amber, Brown and Black. And while that does express the range of beer color, it’s a bit too vague. Other scales include Straw, Yellow, Gold, Amber, Copper, Brown and Black with many more using modifiers to those like Light, Dark, Deep and occasionally Medium or Ruby.

In Randy Mosher’s latest book, Mastering Homebrew, he includes a chart with some basic beer color nomenclature.


And that’s obviously better than just four colors, or even seven; although like taste, you probably don’t want too many. And keeping them fairly standardized makes sense since it helps communicate the colors more effectively, but I still can’t help but think that in terms of describing the beer that it’s too limiting. For example, I like to use “mahogany” to describe a beer that’s primarily brown but with some red in it, too. And while I think that does communicate the actual color better, it’s not clear to me where on the scale it would fall.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that like aroma and taste, none of us perceive color in exactly the same way. Some people are color blind, and while some see only black and white, in most cases it means that they see color differently than typical people do. My stepfather couldn’t see red, for example and when driving was fine with normal traffic lights but would often get tripped up if the lights were horizontal rather than vertical. Color blindness overwhelmingly effects men, with as many as 8% of the male population having some form of it, while only about 0.4% of women are color blind (at least for people of Northern European ancestry).

But for the rest of us, colors are something we learn very early in life and we can more or less agree on the basic colors, if not the more nuanced shades of colors. So where do the names for colors come from? We all can agree on the primary colors, the rainbow’s ROYGBIV. But it gets trickier when you start looking at the shades, say grass green, apple green, olive or avocado. Most people started noticing colors, like me, with crayons. A list of Crayola crayons reveals more than 200 named colors over the years, although a collector’s website lists 1,629 different colors. Wikipedia has their own list of colors, and also has a list of X11 colors. Then there are internet or web colors, with 6-digit hex codes, though many of them also have color names, and there’s another list of over 500 web colors. There are also alphabetical color lists like this one.

One of the most popular color systems is the commercial Pantone Matching System, which unfortunately primarily uses a numbering system to organize the majority of their colors, although names are assigned to some of them. I find them hard to use because of that, and because within Pantone there are so many ways they’re divided into collections and other ways of being displayed. Just take a look at a few third-party lists of their colors to get a feel for how many there are, and how unwieldy they are to use. There’s the Pantone® Matching System Color Chart, All Pantone C colors with HEX and RGB codes, a Pantone Color Table, and PANTONE® Colours. These are the ones used by a number of different professions and professional designers, but they can also be expensive.

What got me thinking about this was a post entitled The Color Thesaurus by new novelist Ingrid Sundberg on her blog. She writes that “[o]ne of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow. Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.”

So she created a color thesaurus of colors, shades and their names. I’ve included the six of them that involve beer colors, but you can see the rest of them here. Not all of them are strictly beerish in their nomenclature, but perhaps it’s worth exploring to come up with a list that is.


Here’s another hilarious list of 16 Creative Paint Color Names We Haven’t Seen — Yet that includes such colorful names as “Grandma’s Upholstery” and “Beer Belly.”

Fallout Shelter Brewing (which I think is a homebrewer’s personal site) has a very helpful chart of the HTML color codes for SRM Colors that includes 0 through 60, with halftones of .5 in between each, along with the codes for three different constrained path lengths, which he believes would show the beer as seen through a carboy, a pint glass or a tasting glass, respectively. Using the codes for the taster glass, primarily because they seemed to show a greater range of colors from lightest to darkest, I created a Beer Color Nomeclature Chart, which is below.

I then took the main range of colors, including the halftones only between 0 and 13 because after that as they become darker, differences become harder to make out or even notice. I then listed the SRM value and display a swatch of the color corresponding to the SRM number. The third column lists the common name known for that SRM number, if there is one, though having looked at numerous sources, you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that they rarely agree. So I made some choices, and also included some non-standard names there, but used italics to differentiate those.

In the final column, in order to make it more useful or understandable, I included a number of pieces of data, including:

  • BJCP beginning and ending colors for each listed style.
  • Cicerone beginning and ending colors for each listed style.
  • GABF beginning and ending colors for each listed style.
  • Beginning and ending colors for each listed style in Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer.
  • Specific examples of beers where I was able to find their SRM, though I can’t be certain how correct the information is. In fact, I’ve found multiple sources for some beers that do not agree, for example I’ve found references to Pilsner Urquell having an SRM of 4.2 and 6. I think a lot of the differences stem from the fact that what the SRM numbers are is dependent upon how that color was calculated. I will gladly correct any if I can be shown some proof from a more reliable source or how the more correct number was arrived upon. There’s actually not a lot of information listing the exact SRM for many beers, at least not that I could find. If you know of any resources listing exact SRM for common and/or popular beers, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Thanks.

                         Beer Color Nomenclature Chart

Name Key: Plain Text = traditional name / Italics = non-traditional but used by someone on a list that I found researching this.
BJCP Key: b = range begins / e = range ends / Numbers correspond to BJCP styles.
Styles Key: Cicerone program: Range begins = Plain Text w/© / Range ends = Italics w/© (© for Cicerone) / Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher: Range begins = Plain Text w/® / Range ends = Italics w/® (® for Randy) / Brewers Association GABF 2014 Beer Style Guidelines: Range begins = Plain Text w/ß / Range ends = Italics w/ß (ß for BA) / No code = found on a list researching this.
Abbreviations: Amer. = American / Amer-Belgo = American-Belgo-Style / APA = American Pale Ale / A-S = American-Style / B-S = Belgian-Style / E-S = English-Style / EU-S = European Style / F-S = French Style / G-S = German-Style / No. = North / So. = South

SRM Color Beer Name Common Beer Style Ranges & Examples
White Water, Miller Clear
None Zima
Very Light Specialty Beerß/Specialty Honey Beerß; Carib Shandy Lager
None A-S Light (Low-Calorie)ß
Pale Straw b:1ABC/2A/15A/16A/17A/American Lager©ß/A-S Cream Aleß/A-S Ice Lagerß/Australasian, Latin American or Tropical-Style Light Lagerß/Berliner Weisseß/EU Low-Alcohol Lagerß/German Pilsner©/Leichtß/Light Amer. Wheat Beer w/o Yeastß/Malt Liquorß/Pilsner®/ Weissbier©/Witbier®©ß; Asahi Dry, Coors Light, Little King’s, Miller Lite
None b:6A/Cream Ale©; Beck’s, Budweiser, Heineken
Straw b:1D/2C/6BD/17DEF/18D/A-S Pilsenerß/American Wheat©/Belgian Golden Strong©/Blonde©ß/Bohemian Pilsnerß/G-S Kölschß/G-S Oktoberfestß/G-S Pilsenerß/ Goldenß/Goseß/Grodziskieß/ Helles©/Int’l-S Pilsenerß/Lambic©/So. G-S Hefeweizenß/So. G-S Kristal Weizenß; e:1A/17A; Bud Light, Hoegaarden, St. Pauli Girl, Tsingtao
None b:2B/6C/B-S Pale Strongß/Bohemian Pilsner©/Dortmunderß/G-S Leichtes Weizenß; Asahi Super Dry, Jever Pils, Labatt’s 50, Pyramid Wheat, Saison Dupont, Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, Wittekerke
Pale Gold b:1E/8A/18A/A-S Märzen&Oktoberfestß/Bamberg-Style Helles Rauchbierß/Bamberg-Style Märzen Rauchbierß/Bamberg-Style Weiss Rauchbierß/Belgian Blond©ß/B-S Tripelß/Bitter©/Coffee-Flavored Beerß/E-S Summerß/F&B-S Saisonß/G-S Heller Bockß/G-S Märzenß/Golden®/Japanese Sake-Yeast Beerß/Light Amer. Wheat Beer with Yeastß/Maibock®/Münchner Hellesß/Oktoberfest®/ Roggenbierß/Weizen®; e:1B/16A/American Lager©/A-S Amber Lager (Low-Calorie)ß/A-S Light (Low-Calorie)ß/Berliner Weisseß/Belgian Strong®/EU Low-Alcohol Lagerß/Int’l-S Pilsenerß/G-S Pilsenerß/Leichtß/Witbier®©ß; Berliner Kindl Weiss, Foster’s Lager, San Miguel
Deep Straw So. G-S Weizenbockß/Tripel©; e:18C; Paulaner Premium Pils, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Tugboat Rye Ale
None b:10A/16C/APA©/A-S Wheat Wineß/Australian Paleß/B-S Table Beerß/Best Bitter©/E-S Paleß/Field Beerß/Fruit Beerß/Herb and Spice Beerß/Imperial IPAß/IPA®/Int’l Paleß/Kuitß/Ordinary Bitterß/Pale Amer-Belgoß/Pumpkin Beerß/Saison©;
e:1D/2A/6ABC/8B/A-S Cream Aleß/Australasian, Latin American or Tropical-Style Light Lagerß/Cream Ale©/German Pilsner©/G-S Oktoberfestß/Helles©/Malt Liquorß; Full Sail Golden, Gaffel Kölsch, Duvel
None Bamberg-Style Helles Rauchbierß/Münchner Hellesß; Kingfisher Premium Lager, Westmalle Tripel
Deep Gold b:5AC/8C/16D/18D/APA®ß/A-S Amber Lagerß/A-S Strong Paleß/Amer. IPA©ß/B-S Gueuze Lambicß/B-S Lambicß/B-S Paleß/Best Bitterß/Bière de Garde®/Doppelbock©/E-S IPAß/E-S Pale Mildß/ESB©/Maibock©/Helles Bock©Scottish-Style Lightß; e:1C/1E/2BC/6D/A-S Lagerß/A-S Pilsenerß/American Wheat©/Belgian Golden Strong©/Blonde©/Bohemian Pilsner©/Dortmunderß/G-S Kölschß/Grodziskieß; Pilsner Urquell
None Cooper’s Sparkling Ale, Double Enghien Blonde Ale, Fraoch Heather Ale
Light Amber b:3B/14B/Belgian Strong®/F-S Bière de Gardeß/Märzen®©/Vienna Lager®; e:17DEF/18AC/Belgian Blond©ß/Bohemian Pilsnerß/E-S Summerß/Lambic©/Pilsner®/Tripel©; Barbar Belgian Honey Ale, Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
None Ithaca Apricot Wheat, Leffe Blonde
None b:14AC/16B/19B/Belgian Pale©/B-S Quadß/California Commonß/English IPA©/ESB®ß/Imperial IPA©/Saison/Scottish-Style HeavyßStrong Aleß; e:15A/A-S Ice Lagerß/Golden®/Weissbier©; Abita Purple Haze, Petrus Tripel
None Brains Traditional Welsh Ale, Paulaner Oktoberfest
Pale Amber b:9ABCD/B-S Dark Strongß/Dark Amer. Wheat Beer with Yeastß/Dark Amer. Wheat Beer w/o Yeastß/Dunkel Weizen®/Scottish Ale©/Scottish-Style Exportß/So. G-S Bernsteinfarbenes Weizenß; B-S Tripelß/E-S Pale Mildß/G-S Heller Bockß/Goseß/So. G-S Hefeweizenß/So. G-S Kristal Weizenß; Harpoon IPA, Worthington’s White Shield
None Bass Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager
None b:3A/7B/10B/17B/18B/19AC/Amber©/California Common©/Dubbel/Imperial Redß/So. G-S Dunkel Weizenß; e:17DEF/18AC;/B-S Pale Strongß/Light Amer. Wheat Beer with Yeastß/Light Amer. Wheat Beer w/o Yeastß/Maibock®/Weizen®; Edelweiss Dunkel Weissbier, Jenlain, Orval
None Boskeun, Shepherd Neame IPA
Red-Brown b:7C;e:5A; Amber®ß/A-S Barley Wineß/G-S Altbierß/Irish-Style Redß; Helles Bock©/IPA®/Maibock©; Whitbread Pale Ale
None Anchor Liberty Ale
Med. Amber b:11AC/15C/18E/22A/Belgian Dark Strong©/B-S Flanders Oud Bruinß/Brown&#174ß/G-S Doppelbockß/Mild©/No. Eng. Brown&#169/Old Aleß/Vienna Lagerß; A-S Amber Lager (Low-Calorie)ß/B-S Paleß/E-S Paleß/Oktoberfest®/Ordinary Bitterß/So. G-S Bernsteinfarbenesß; Grant’s Spice Ale
None Dutch-Style Kuitß
None b:7A; Bière de Garde®/B-S Gueuze Lambicß/B-S Lambicß/Dunkel Weizen®; Magic Hat #9, Noche Buena, Red Hook ESB, Smithwick’s Export
Light Brown b:4AB/5B/9E/15BD/A-S Dark Lagerß/British-Style Barley Wineß/Dunkel©/Scotch Ale©; e:3B/7B/8A/10A/14A/16BC/APA®©ß/A-S Amber Lagerß/A-S IPAß/A-S Strong Paleß/Australian Paleß/Belgian Pale©/Best Bitterß/Bitter©/California Common©/English IPA©ß/ESB®ß/Int’l Paleß/Märzen©/Saison©/Vienna Lager®; Affligem Tripel, Fuller’s London Pride, Spitfire Premium Ale
Deep Amber b:17C/Adambierß/A-S Brownß/Chocolate or Cocoa-Flavored Beerß; Bamberg-Style Märzen Rauchbierß/EU-S Darkß/Münchner Dunkelß/Scotch Aleß; e:14BC/Amer. IPA©/A-S Märzen&Oktoberfestß/A-S Wheat Wineß/Bock®/California Commonß/G-S Leichtes Weizenß/Imperial IPA©/Märzen®ß/Pale Amer-Belgoß/Scottish-Style Lightß; Kwak Pauwel, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
None B-S Dubbelß/Dark Amer-Belgoß; e:3A/8BC/17B/Best Bitter©/F-S Bière de Gardeß/Imperial IPAß; Anchor Steam, George Killian’s Irish Red, Wexford Irish Cream Ale
Chestnut b:4C/12C/Baltic Porter®/E-S Dark Mildß; e:7C/9ABC/10B/18B/Amber©/Dubbel©/Imperial Redß/Scottish Ale©; Aventinus Wheat-Doppelbock, Samuel Adams Boston Stock Ale
Dark Red-Orange b:5D/10C/Amer. Brown©/G-S Eisbockß; e:9D/Amber®ß/A-S Barley Wineß/Bamberg-Style Weiss Rauchbierß/British-Style Barley Wineß/ESB©/F&B-S Saisonß/Irish-Style Redß; Chimay Red, Dos Equis, Michelob Dark, Old Speckled Hen
None b:11B;e:7A/15D/16D/19C/G-S Altbierß/Scottish-Style Exportß/Scottish-Style Heavyß; Einbecker Ur-Bock, McEwan’s Export IPA, Negra Modelo
Brown b:12A/Bamberg-Style Bock Rauchbierß/British-Style Imperial Stoutß/Brown Porter©ß/Porter®/Oatmeal Stoutß/Smoke Porterß/Traditional G-S Bockß; B-S Quadß/EU-S Darkß/Japanese Sake-Yeast Beerß/Münchner Dunkelß; Alsopp Burton Ale 1879, Scaldis Noel
None Strong Aleß; Gulden Draak, Otter Creek Copper Ale, Paulaner Salvator, Samiclaus, St. Louis Framboise
None b:12B/13C/Robust Porter©; e:4A/5B/11C/17C/18E/19AB/22A/Belgian Dark Strong©/Brown&#174/Dark Amer. Wheat Beer with Yeastß/Dark Amer. Wheat Beer w/o Yeastß/No. Eng. Brown©; EKU Kulminator, Kentucky Common 1907, Lindeman’s Framboise, Red Nectar, Skull Splitter
None e:15B; Newcastle Brown Ale, Wild Goose Amber
Ruby Brown Geary’s Pale Ale, Hobgoblin Dark English Ale, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Thomas Hardy Ale
None b:13A/Dry Irish Stout©/G-S Schwarzbierß/Oatmeal Stout®
e:5C/9E/11A/15C/A-S Dark Lagerß/B-S Flanders Oud Bruinß/Doppelbock©/E-S Brownß/Mild©/Scotch Ale©/So. G-S DunkelWeizenß/Roggenbierß, Traquair House Ale
None A-S Brownß/Vienna Lagerß
None Beck’s Dark, Pete’s Wicked Ale
None e:4B/Dunkel©; Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Widmer Alt
None Newcastle Brown
Deep Brown b:13B/13DEF/Amer. Stout©/Foreign Stout®©/Imperial Stout©/Robust Porterß; e:4C/5D/12AC; Bamberg-Style Bock Rauchbierß/Bock®/Brown Porter©/G-S Doppelbockß/G-S Schwarzbierß/Old Aleß/Scotch Aleß/So. G-S Weizenbockß/Traditional G-S Bockß; Saku Estonian Porter, Schlenkerla Rauchbier
None Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
None Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale
None Gouden Carolus
None E-S Dark Mildß; BridgePort Old Knucklehead
None A-S Blackß; e:10C/11B/12B/Adambierß/Amer. Brown©/B-S Dark Strongß/E-S Imperial Stoutß/Brown Porterß/Robust Porter©; Anchor Porter, Theakston’s Old Peculiar
None B-S Dubbelß; George Gale Prize Old Ale, Rogue Old Crustacean Barley Wine
None Tilburgs Dutch Brown Ale
None Sierra Nevada Porter, St. Sixtus Abbey Ale
None Sapporo Black Beer
Black A-S Imperial Porterß/A-S Imperial Stoutß/A-S Stoutß/Baltic-Style Porterß/Cream or Sweet Stoutß/Foreign-Style Stoutß/Irish-Style Dry Stoutß; e:13ABCDEF/Amer. Stout©/Baltic Porter®/Dry Irish Stout©/
Foreign Stout©/Imperial Stout©/Oatmeal Stout®/Porter®
Black Imperial Stout®; B-S Table Beerß/Chocolate or Cocoa-Flavored Beerß/Coffee-Flavored Beerß/Field Beerß/Fruit Beerß/G-S Eisbockß/Herb and Spice Beerß/Pumpkin Beerß; Guinness Draft, Reichelbräu Eisbock
Black Foreign Stout®; ABC Extra Stout
Black A-S Blackß/A-S Imperial Porterß/A-S Imperial Stoutß/A-S Stoutß/Baltic-Style Porterß/Cream or Sweet Stoutß/Dark Amer-Belgoß/Foreign-Style Stoutß/Imperial Stout®/Irish-Style Dry Stoutß/Oatmeal Stoutß/Robust Porterß/Smoke Porterß/Specialty Beerß/Specialty Honey Beerß; Bell’s Expedition Stout,
Mendocino Black Hawk Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin

And here’s a more thorough list of words for the basic beer colors that I cobbled together from a variety of sources. White is included not because beer is white, but because the very light colors of some beers fall into the range of off-white, colors like light straw veer between yellow and white, as do other very pale hues. I tried to avoid colors that would never be found in beer, but as many, if not most, would, it’s still a pretty broad list. Some might never work, whereas others maybe only for a very few beers. But the goal is to start a conversation about color, and to inspire a sense of playful poetry when it comes to describing it, as we do in enjoying it. So I wanted to include as much as possible rather than try to be too exclusive.

Alabaster, Antique White, Arctic White, Ashen White, Beige, Birch Biscuit White, Bisque, Blanched Almond, Bleached White, Bone White, Buff, Canvas Beige, Chalk White, Champagne, Coconut White, Cotton White, Cream, Deep Peach, Dove White, Dutch White, Ecru, Eggshell, Flax, Flour White, Fog White, French Beige, Ghost White, Ivory White, Lace White, Light tan, Lily White, Linen, Marshmallow, Milk White, Mother-of-Pearl, Mushroom, Nude, Oat, Oatmeal, Off-White, Old Lace, Opal, Oyster, Paper White, Parchment, Peach, Pearl, Polar White, Porcelain, Powder White, Pure White, Sand, Sandstone, Seashell, Sheep White, Smoky Beige, Snow White, Sugar, Tan, Toothpaste White, Vanilla, Whey, White, White Smoke Banana, Bee Yellow, Bleached Blond, Blonde, Brass, Buff, Bumblebee, Butter, Buttercup, Buttermilk, Butternut Squash, Butterscotch, Canary, Champagne, Chardonnay, Citrine, Corn, Cornsilk, Cream, Custard, Dandelion, Dijon, Egg Nog, Egg Yolk, Flax, French Fry Gold, Gamboge, Gold, Golden Bronze, Golden Brown, Golden Yellow, Goldenrod, Honey, Lemon, Lion, Maize, Macaroni and Cheese, Macaroon, Marigold, Medallion, Mimosa, Mustard, Ochre, Old Gold, Pale Yellow, Papaya, Parmesan, Pineapple, Saffron, Squash, Stil de Grain Yellow, Straw, Sunglow, Sunset, Sunshine, Topaz, Tuscan Sun, Wheat, Xanthic, Yellow Amber, Apricot, Atomic Tangerine, Blood Orange, Bourbon, Burnt Orange, Candlelight, Candy Corn, Cantaloupe, Carnelian, Carotene, Carrot, Cheddar Orange, Cider, Construction Cone Orange, Copper, Copper Penny, Dark Orange, Fall Leaves Orange, Ginger, Golden Orange, Goldfish, Light Orange, Mandarin Orange, Mango, Marmalade, Melon, Orange, Orange Gold, Orange Juice, Orange Peel, Orange Soda, Orange-Red, Papaya, Peach, Peach-Orange, Persimmon, Pumpkin, Red Fox, Russet, Rust, Salmon, Sedona, Shocking Orange, Squash, Sunrise Orange, Tangelo, Tangerine, Tiger Orange, Yam
Amaranth, Apple Red, Auburn, Autumn Leaf Red, Barn Red, Beet Red, Berry, Blood Red, Blush, Bordeaux, Brick, Burgundy, Cardinal Red, Carmine, Carnelian, Cerise, Cherry, Chestnut Red, Chili Pepper Red, Cinnabar, Claret, Copper, Crab Red, Cranberry, Crimson, Currant, Dark Cerise, Dark Red, Devil Red, Faded Rose, Fire Red, Flame, Garnet, Geranium, Grapefruit, Hibiscus Red, Indian Red, Ketchup, Ladybug Red, Lobster, Magenta, Maroon, Merlot, Orange-Red, Paprika, Pepperoni Red, Plum, Pomegranate, Poppy Red, Radish, Rare Steak Red, Raspberry, Red, Red Apple, Red Berry, Red Licorice, Red Pepper, Red Rose, Red Velvet, Redwood, Rose, Rosewood, Ruby, Ruddy, Russet, Rust Red, Sangria, Sanguine, Scarlet, Strawberry, Tawny Port Red, Tawny Red, Terra Cotta, Tomato Bisque, Tomato Red, Tuscan Red, Tyrian Purple, Vermillion, Watermelon, Wine Red Acorn Brown, Auburn, Autumn Leaf, Barbecue Sauce Brown, Bark, Biscuit, Biscotti, Black Bean, Branch Brown, Brass, Bronze, Brown, Brown Sugar, Brunette, Burly Wood, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Butterscotch, Cafe au Lait, Camel Brown, Cappuccino, Carob, Caramel, Cardboard, Chestnut, Chocolate, Cider, Cinnamon, Clay, Cocoa, Coffee Bean, Coffee, Cookie Brown, Copper, Dark Chocolate, Deer Brown, Deep Brown, Desert Sand, Dirt, Dun, Earth Brown, Earthenware, Fawn, Gingerbread, Golden Brown, Hazel, Henna, Hickory, Khaki, Latte, Leather, Liver Brown, Mahogany, Maple, Maple Sugar Brown, Meatball Brown, Milk Chocolate, Mink, Moccasin, Mocha, Mud, Nougat, Nut Brown, Nutmeg, Oak Brown, October Brown, Pancake Brown, Peanut, Peanut Butter, Peanut Shell, Pecan, Potato Brown, Pretzel, Raisin, Red Dirt, Redwood, Rich Earth, Root Beer, Rosewood, Ruddy Brown, Russet Brown, Rust, Saddle Brown, Sand, Sandy Brown, Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Sepia, Sienna, Sorrel, Spice, Steak Brown, Syrup, Tan, Tawny, Toast, Tortilla, Tweed, Umber, Walnut, Wheat, Whiskey Brown, Wood Black, Black Coffee, Black Cow, Black Licorice, Black Olive, Black Pearl, Black Pepper, Black Tar, Carbon Black, Caviar Black, Charcoal Black, Coal Black, Crow, Ebony, Eclipse Black, Fig, Grease, Ink Black, Iridium, Jet Black, Kettle Black, Licorice, Mica, Midnight Black, Mocha, Night, Obsidian, Oil, Onyx, Pitch Black, Raven Black, Sable, Slate, Smoky Black, Soot Black, Tar, Taupe, Tuxedo Black

So that’s a lot of different shades of colors in a few different families. It was just an exercise to see what were the more common names used for those colors. There are many, many more I did not include, though I did look at quite a few different sources.

Finally, below is a Color Nomenclature Chart, a list of the same beer colors as the first chart, but with the html hex codes for each along with the color’s name, if known, or if there even is one. If not, I tried to find the closest match. I looked through numerous color websites and databases to find the names for the colors below based upon their web hex code. A few were easy, but most were not easy to find. With 8-bit (2^8=256 colors), 16-bit (2^16=65,536 colors), and 24-bit (2^24=16,777,216 colors) having so many available colors, it’s not terribly surprising that no one has given them all names. It would be like naming every star. The last column then is color names that were close to the code for the one shown, and may provide better names.

Since the colors themselves are not perfect, and many systems exist for displaying them, being exact isn’t really necessary so the goal is to find descriptive names that most people will recognize and understand which describe the color of the beer. Maybe the best approach to use the most iconic or classic beer as the name. For example, perhaps if Orval is SRM 10, then SRM 10’s color should be called Orval. There are a number of ways we could go, and below is one idea, that there are already some names for most colors that exist, and here are some of them.

                         Color Nomenclature Chart

Code Key: The six-digit code is the HEX code data to display a color using the internet.
Color Key: Recognized name or the closest recognized name I could find.
Alternate Names Key: These color names have codes very close to the listed code. If there’s no parenthetical name, then the color name was also an exact match for the code. If there is a parenthetical name, then it was not an exact match, and I’ve listed the company that makes that named color.

SRM Code Color Alternate Color Names
White Bright White, Pure Brilliant White
Champagne Barely Dawn (Kelly-Moore), Grapefruit (Taubmans)
Candleglow Sandwisp, Butter Up (Sherman Williams)
Broadway Lights Yellow (Chrysler), Sunbonnet (ICI), Katydid (Taubmans)
Cream Can Firefly (Benjamin Moore)
Casablanca Ronchi, Yellow Coneflower (Pittsburgh)
Tulip Tree Dried Mustard (Cloverdale)
Fire Bush Ocker (Caparol)
Buttercup Amberger (Caparol), Pencil Yellow (Devoe)
Zest Dixie, Golden Bark (Dulux), Butterscotch Tempest (Devoe)
Golden Bell Gamboge, Desert Sunset (GM)
Meteor Amber 65 (Caparol)
Dark Goldenrod Ochre
Indochine Red Stage, Sticky Toffee (Plascon)
Alloy Orange Oxidrot 7s (Caparol)
Tawny Oxidrot 8s (Caparol)
Rose of Sharon Burnt Orange (Marston & Langinger)
Ruddy Brown PMS167 (Pantone), Mahogany
Mahogany Rust
Fire Rust
Orange Terra Warmth (Dutch Boy)
Dark Orange India O (Caparol)
Chinese Red Rotor Bolus (Caparol)
Quora Rotor Bolus (Caparol)
Sangria Rufous
Dark Orange-Red A7 (Trumatch)
Totem Pole Oregon, Dark Red, Schwedenro/Schwedenrot (Caparol)
Peru Tan Dark Red, Kobe, Rotbraun (Caparol)
Red Beech Sienna, Grand Canyon Brown (GM)
Maroon Kenyan Copper
Pueblo Oxidrot+Feuerrot 1/1 (Caparol)
Cedar Wood Amber Fire (Chrysler), Kardinal Braun (Caparol)
Barn Red Oxidrot Dunkel (Caparol)
Rosewood Oxidrot (Caparol), Red (Ford, Chrysler)
Dark Red Oxidrot (Caparol)
Red Oxide Prune, Persian Plum, Burgundy (Ford)
Rustic Red Bulgarian Rose, Murano (Caparol), Mohawk Maroon (Ford)
Burnt Maroon Indian Tan, Grenadin 35 (Caparol), Crimson Red (Chrysler)
Pheasant Red Dark Diamond Bright Red (Ford), Pimento Red (Chrysler)
Brown Pod Medium Rosewood (Ford), Cordovan Brown (Chrysler)
Temptress Regis Red (Ford), Dark Beech Firemist (Chrysler)
Dark Sienna Chestnut (Ford)
Black Bean Dark Cordovan (Ford)
Dark Bronze Dark Champagne (Ford), Piedmont Maroon (Chrysler)
Chocolate Carmine, Seal Brown, Maroon (Ford)
Autumn Maple Imperial Maroon (Chrysler), Sunset Maroon (AMC)
Dark Cabernet Dark Maroon (Ford)
Titian Maroon Victoria Plum (GM)
Sepia Black Tyrian Purple, Brown (Ford)
Dark Gold Wing Coppertone (Ford)
Zinnwaldite Brown Midnight Wine (Ford)
Diesel Maroon Deep (AMC), Amarone (Alcro)
Licorice Dark Vivid Red (AMC)
Black Morocco Red, Oporto Maroon (GM)
Smoky Black Black Magic (Homebase), Velvet Maroon (Ford)
Coal Black Black Diamond (GM), Granada Black (GM)
Moonlight Black Ebony, Jet Black (RAL), Panther Black (Ford)

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this or what the ultimate goal might be. This started a couple of weeks ago as what I thought would be a short post about some beer color names, but grew and grew until it became the bloated colossus you see before you. It ended up being more of an exploration of color in general and beer color more specifically. There’s no doubt that the SRM and other numbering systems for color and their ranges work pretty well. But I think it’s always worth contemplating if anything can be made better and, if so, how. My bias obviously is for more descriptive words instead of numbers, and there’s no doubt that bias is personal. But I also can’t believe I’m the only one who prefers poetry to mathematics.

What happens next is entirely dependent upon how much interest this generates, which will reveal if my geekery about beer color is a solitary quirk, or whether any other like-minded color nerds are out there. Just making it this far and reading this sentence will undoubtedly mean you’re probably one of us, as I suspect the rest will have jumped ship after the first few colorful passages. This paragraph is like the teaser after the credits that many movies show after most of the audience has left the theatre. I always stay to the end of the credits of every movie I see, and that should tell you quite a bit about me. But if you’re reading this, then you’re most likely ready to take the next step with me. Drop me a note or comment here and we’ll see what happens. Chromanerds unite!

UPDATE: Here’s another beer-related color that I recently came across on a listical entitled 17 Of The Most Beautiful Colors You Never Knew Existed. #3 is Drunk Tank Pink, and is accompanied by this description. “This particular shade of pink has been used to calm people after it was tested and proven in psych studies to achieve some degree of tranquility.”


How To Spot Bad Science

Longtime readers of the Bulletin know that I’m constantly examining and finding fault with questionable studies used by the modern prohibitionist groups using them to promote their agenda. I’m often amazed at some of the studies that make it into peer-reviewed journals. Apparently I’m not the only one. A British chemistry teacher, Andy Brunning, in his spare time, writes a great blog entitled “Compound Interest,” in which he “aims to take a closer look at the chemical compounds we come across on a day-to-day basis.” He created A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science, inspired by scientific research he looked at “which drew questionable conclusions from their results.” It “looks at the different factors that can contribute towards ‘bad’ science.”

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. Personally, I think it’s therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.

It’s nice to see an overview of a dozen of the more common ways in which studies are misused and the results are misrepresented. Sad to say, I see these all the time, so much so that I’ve started to question the way journals operate and how they select and accept articles. There are so many journals nowadays that they either are desperate for content and thus have lower standards than they used to, or the journals themselves have an agenda they’re promoting instead of simply providing a forum for progress in science. But this should give you a good start at figuring out why the next story you see about a study doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Click here to see the infographic full size.

Brains & Beer

There was an interesting article this March on the Huffington Post by a neuroscience Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, with a BA in Behavioral Biology from Johns Hopkins University, Lisa Qu, entitled Why Brain Science and Beer Go Hand-In-Hand. In it, she observes that in her field of study, which she describes as olfaction, beer and neuroscience “can be tightly intertwined.” It’s something we all know, but it’s great to see that science is taking it more seriously, and that it’s being talked about in mainstream media, too.


Parenting Lessons From The Prohibitionists

I’m always amazed about how people feel there’s nothing with wrong with telling me how to live, what to believe or how to raise my children. Advice is fine, even if it’s often unbidden, but so much of our culture revolves around believing we know what’s best for everybody else. And even that would be just fine if people smugly thought they were better than other people (not that there aren’t of plenty of people who do fit that description) if they didn’t take the next step of trying to force their point of view on the rest of us.

Parenting is certainly not the only place this phenomenon manifests itself, but it is one of the most pervasive. I recently saw a story that illustrates this perfectly. A suburban couple let their two kids (I think ages 7 and 9) walk their neighborhood alone as long as they stayed together. The parents also taught them to hold hands when crossing the street and other sensible safety tips. But authorities saw them walking down a street, picked them up (frightening them in the process), and charged the parents with child endangerment, citing some forgotten law about kids having to be supervised at all times. I can’t tell you how often I was out of my parents watchful gaze as a kid, but it was a lot. And not just me, but literally every kid I knew. I know “times have changed” and all that but have we really become a police state? There was a similar story about a kid in New York City whose mother was teaching her to take the subway by herself, and the police tried to arrest her, too. This is getting seriously out of hand. We may as well just lock up this generation and not let them out of their prisons (homes, I mean homes) until they turn 18 (or 21 lest they discover the illicit pleasure of alcohol while off fighting our next war to protect our way of life).

But what will such a sheltered generation do, having faced no dangers, no frightening situations where there was no parent to swoop in and save the day? They’ll probably fall apart, that’s what. Raising a child is teaching them how to be on their own, to become self-reliant adults. How can we possibly do that by never allowing them to ever be unsupervised? How can we teach them to trust anyone if we never trust them to be on their own? It’s baffling that we’re doing this to our children. I’m not saying ship them off to the inner city to fend for themselves, but slowly, little by little, teach them to be responsible for themselves. Give them small tasks to complete, unsupervised jobs where we let them figure out how to accomplish a goal or even let them fail once in awhile. It’s how we learn. A speaker at my class Wednesday night was reminding my students that not only should you not worry about failing once in a while in your business, but if you don’t, you’ll never learn anything. He remarked that you only learn from your mistakes, taking very little from your victories. So as parents, if we never let our kids learn how to compete, let them fail or put them in situations that test them, they’ll never become full-fledged individuals capable of surviving in the wild. Is that why so many kids are still living at home with their parents after they’re adults? I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but it seems like it has to be a factor. Helicopter parenting has to be part of the answer.

But regardless of how any of us decide we want to raise our children, why do we feel that however we do it is the right way, often the only way, and proceed to do whatever we can to shame anyone with a different idea. I confess, I’m guilty of this, too, from time to time. Every time I’m in a movie theatre with kids who’ve never been taught to shut up, I’m guilty of wanting to shout at their parents, who blissfully keep answering their inane questions — still using their outside voice — with nary a care for the rest of the audience. That’s maddening, to me, especially since it wasn’t that difficult to teach our own kids to be quiet watching a film. But on the larger questions, why do so many people think they should be able to push their ideals on everyone else?

Nowhere is this more in the open as when it comes to alcohol. The very idea that we lowered the drinking age from the nearly worldwide standard of 18 to 21, while still allowing our 18-20 years olds to fight and die for us, is indicative of the “we know better than you” school of parenting. The latest example of this to get me fired up is a link sent to me by Brian Yaeger, who’s recently moved back to Portland from Amsterdam. (Thanks, Brian. I’ll get you for this!) The link he sent me was from a CNN article, Kids allowed sips of alcohol are more likely to drink in high school, study says. WebMD also tackled the same underlying study with Letting Kids Sip Alcohol May ‘Send Wrong Message’.

Alcohol Justice’s reaction was swift and predictable.


New Data: Letting Kids Sip Booze Makes It More Appealing Duh!! @AlcoholJustice

Their tweet linked to the WebMD’s take, which is how I subsequently saw that one. I love that they still haven’t quite figured out this Twitter thing, even though they tweet something like two dozen times a a day, often sending the same tweets over and over again for weeks on end. But copying your own Twitter handle in your own message, in effect letting yourself know about the tweet you just sent? What’s that all about? What did they think they were doing? But I’m also happy to see the kid holding a glass of wine, it’s more often beer that they’re overtly targeting.

But I especially find the single word “Duh!!!” to be telling. It’s basically an insulting “fuck you” to most of the rest of the world, whose culture and long-standing traditions see nothing wrong with a world in which children are exposed to alcohol in the home as an ordinary part of life. It’s only in recent years that Belgian schools stopped serving table beer to students. Watered-down wine on the table in Italy or France is just part of a normal Friday. But we know better, and we’re happy to tell not just you, but the rest of the world how to live, too.

All the fuss is over a “new” study entitled The Prospective Association Between Sipping Alcohol by the Sixth Grade and Later Substance Use in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Uncharacteristically, the full text is available online.

As you can see from the headlines, parents beware. You better not be giving your kids a sip of alcohol, or you’ll be setting them down the path to ruin. The study apparently shows “that children who had sipped alcohol by the sixth grade were about five times more likely to have a full drink by the time they were in high school and four times more likely to binge drink or get drunk.” Uh oh. CNN reports:

The study involved surveys of 561 middle school students in Rhode Island over a three-year period. A little under a third of the students said they had sipped alcohol by the start of middle school, with most of those saying they got the alcohol from their parents at a party or on a special occasion.

Even when factoring out issues that could encourage problem drinking down the road, such as how much their parents drink, a history of alcoholism in their family or having a risk-taking personality, the children who sipped were more likely to be drinking in high school, said [Kristina] Jackson[, one of the co-authors of the study].

Twenty-six percent of the kids who had sipped alcohol said they had a full drink by the ninth grade versus under 6% for the kids who never sipped alcohol, the survey found. Nine percent said they had binged on alcohol (had five or more drinks at one time) or gotten drunk versus under 2% for the non-sippers.

Nothing more scientific than giving kids a survey and then factoring out a host of things that may or may not have any influence on whether or not they’ll drink later in life. They make drinking in high school sound like it’s a Satanic orgy, but it’s a pretty normal rite of passage for most people. If you didn’t have a few drinks at some point during your high school years, there’s probably something wrong with you that this study definitely didn’t factor in.

The WebMD version of the story notes that 3 out of ten students told them “they’d had at least one sip of alcohol” and that “[i]n most cases, those sips were provided by parents, often at parties or special occasions.” And because of that “[b]y ninth grade, 26 percent of those who’d had sips of alcohol at a younger age said they’d had at least one full alcoholic drink, compared with less than 6 percent of those who didn’t get sips of alcohol when younger.” Even with their vague controls, I still don’t see any clear causation. 6% vs. 26% and 9% vs. 2% don’t seem like an earth-shattering differences, with less than 600 people in one geographic area. I can think of dozens of reasons that might account for why this occurs, and the lead researcher even says as much, but of course that doesn’t make it into the headline. Jackson said. “The findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking” and “[w]e’re not trying to say whether it’s ‘OK’ or ‘not OK’ for parents to allow this.” So what are you saying, if not just that? Why isn’t the headline that the “findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking?”

WebMD continues. “She noted that some parents believe that introducing children to alcohol at home teaches them about responsible drinking and reduces the appeal of alcohol. ‘Our study provides evidence to the contrary,’ Jackson said,” contradicting her previous statement. But this is the problem I talked about a few days ago in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, which made a compelling argument that studies in isolation, out of context and on their own are almost meaningless. This is especially true, because of course there are studies that show just the opposite. For example, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Heath “found that children who drank with their parents were about half as likely to say they had alcohol in the past month and about one third as likely to admit to binge drinking (having five or more drinks in a row) in the previous two weeks.”

But here’s where I think the judgmental parenting advice kicks in, despite her insisting that is not the intention. Jackson states near the end of the article that “giving sips of alcohol to young children may send them a ‘mixed message.'” Sure, but you don’t have any idea of the context of the circumstances sufficient to make that claim, do you? If you assume that a parent just handed their son or daughter a drink, let them sip it, and then walked away, maybe she could make such a claim. But that scenario is pretty hard to imagine. There would undoubtedly be a discussion. There would be context, a talk about what was taking place, questions and answers, learning might even be part of it, which is why drawing conclusions about 561 such events without any context makes it so difficult to say those incidents caused future behavior in such a demonstrative way or were the proximate cause of it.

She finished with this sage bit of wisdom. “At that age, some kids may have difficulty understanding the difference between a sip of wine and having a full beer.” Only if parents let that be the case. Only if no discussion takes place. Only if the parents are complete idiots. Only if she thinks kids are really, really stupid. The most common age for the first sip was 10, with 26% of those surveyed. That’s my daughter’s age. She definitely knows the difference between a sip and a full pint glass. And frankly, I think she could make out the difference between 16 ounces of liquid and a teaspoon’s worth when she was much, much younger than that.

In the discussion section of the “study” the message turns from reporting to advice, and to telling me how I should approach my parenting:

Our findings underscore the importance of advising parents to provide clear, consistent messages about the unacceptability of alcohol consumption for youth. Offering even a sip of alcohol may undermine such messages, particularly among younger children who tend to have more concrete thinking and may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip and drinking several drinks. In addition, parents should be encouraged to secure and monitor alcohol in the home, and given our reports of accidental consumption, parents should monitor their own beverages—children may intentionally or, as our data show, inadvertently take a sip. Of note, children who report having been asked by adults in the home to fetch or pour alcohol are shown to have greater odds of sipping alcohol. Messages to parents about keeping their children from sipping alcohol may need to be provided via preventive intervention or community education, particularly because some parents report feeling pressured by other adults to allow their children to have sips of alcohol at social events.

She’s basically telling parents to make sure to keep a wall up separating children from interacting with anything found in the adult world. It’s a frequent position taken by prohibitionists, that children should never see their parents drinking alcohol, should never see alcohol of any kind, whether ads for it or even walking by it in grocery stores, so convinced are they that one peek will alter their behavior and forever corrupt their futures and turn them into alcoholics. You may recall Alcohol Justice’s recent temper tantrum that children could be exposed to as many as four minutes of beer advertising during the four-hour Super Bowl spectacle, and what a disaster that would cause.

It’s hard to not bring up the fact that the study was part of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Their “mission is to promote the identification, prevention, and effective treatment of alcohol and other drug use problems in our society through research, education, training, and policy advocacy.” So it’s not to find out if there are problems, identify what positives and negatives exist, but they set out with the premise that only problems exist and what can they do about it. That’s what prohibitionists do. That is not science. It’s advocacy. Also, the study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who similarly starts with the premise of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. It’s right there in their title. They owe their existence to Richard Nixon, who “signed the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 on December 31, 1970.” It had been spearheaded by “Senator Harold Hughes, a recovering alcoholic who championed the cause of alcoholism research.” There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it does show that what they’re interested in studying is not health or any balanced study of alcohol, but are focused on “abuse and alcoholism.” It’s what they’re interested in and are looking for. When you set out to find problems, you’ll find them. It’s in your charter and self-preservation will help you along the way. It’s the same as when prohibitionists claim that any study undertaken by someone with ties to the alcohol industry is tainted or biases their findings. This is exactly the same, but curiously that fact is conveniently ignored when it suits their agenda.

But whether stated or not, the reason for the study seems to be embedded in how it’s being used, by both the media and the researchers who created it, to create another tool to stop people from drinking, starting with the children. Even though the author clearly states that the “findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking,” she’s still willing to dole out all sorts of advice on how parents should do their job, even offering this soothing balm lest what you just read started you panicking. “‘I don’t think parents need to feel that their child is doomed, ‘Kristina Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study, said of parents who already let their kids have sips of alcohol.” Whew, that’s a relief. After spending countless hours creating a study and analyzing its results, using headlines that suggest one sip and little Johnny or Susie are destined for the life of an alcoholic, which ultimately found no causation, they’re still talking to the press about how to keep your loved ones from drinking in high school and telling me and every other parent how to raise our children. It’s a little bit insulting.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that children know when drinking alcohol is acceptable and when it is not,” said Jackson.” That’s her final takeaway at the bottom of the CNN piece. Her advice is I should make sure my kids know when it’s okay to drink and when they shouldn’t, I guess under the assumption that before this I didn’t know that. My house, and everybody else’s apparently, were a free for all, because I didn’t know my ten-year old and my newly minted teenager aren’t supposed to drink alcohol just yet. Thanks for that. I don’t know what I would have done without this study. Because if after all that, “the most important thing” my kids need to know is they’re not allowed to drink, they sure wasted an awful lot of time and money. My kids know that. I’m willing to bet yours do to.

But the very last thing she says is this howler. “One theory is that some of these children are getting a message that drinking is okay, especially when it is offered by the parent,” she said. Hilarious. I’m sorry to be the one to tell her this, because maybe she doesn’t know, but drinking is okay. My kids know drinking is okay. They watch my wife and I drink all the time. They also know that they aren’t allowed to drink themselves until they’re 21. And they can’t drive until they’re 16. And they can’t join the military until they’re 18. They know all these things, and much more. Is that because they’re budding geniuses or my wife and I are amazing parents? Well, I don’t like to brag … but no, it has nothing to do with any of that. Our kids do well in school but are fairly typical, and I see us as similarly run of the mill parents, trying our best to raise ’em up right. I have a personal theory that each of us deeply remember the wounds inflicted upon us by our own parents and everybody’s approach to parenting is a determination to not make the same mistakes that our parents did, because there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. In the process, each of us makes all new mistakes, that our kids in turn will be sure not to do my grandchildren. It’s the cycle of parenting mistakes. I think the most any parent can hope for is do their best, and try to teach their children how to be their own person; a productive, self-reliant member of society. And there’s definitely no one right way to accomplish that. But I sure wish the prohibitionists and so many other self-professed do-gooders would stop telling to me how to be a parent. It really is getting out of hand. I’d like to ask my son Porter to fetch me a beer, but I’m afraid child services might intervene because I’m putting him at risk for becoming a drinking high schooler since seeing a beer, and especially me enjoying it, might give him the idea that drinking a beer is okay.

USDA Dietary Guidelines Under Fire Again From Prohibitionists

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, updates its quinquennial Dietary Guidelines. They’re described as providing “authoritative advice for Americans ages 2 and older about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.” Since the last guidelines were published in 2010, it’s time for the new ones, and they’ve been proposed and are are now open for comments before being finalized.

In the 2010 Guidelines, a change was made to the structure of the recommended amounts of alcohol people should consume, if they’re going to enjoy drinking alcohol and are, of course, of legal age. At the time, the government took the radical view, to prohibitionists, that:

The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol. Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

I may not agree with some of the characterizations in the last sentence, but it does serve to demonstrate how conservative the guidelines are, and that they’re not cavalierly telling people to start drinking. Plus, unlike some anti-alcohol groups, I’m not trying to willfully mislead people about what they say. They also have a handy chart of key definitions.


So what that second definition means is that if you’re a woman, you can enjoy 3 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as you don’t have more than 7 during the same week, and you’ll be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. A man, however, may enjoy 4 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as he doesn’t have more than 14 during the same week, and he’ll likewise be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. That, in effect, relaxed the “1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men” axiom that had been in place for a long while. When those changes made the rounds five years ago, the prohibitionists threw a temper tantrum and accused the government of all manner of bias and corruption, which is almost funny given how conservative they really are.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for 2015, are now going through the comment period, and once again the prohibitionists are apoplectic. Alcohol Justice, for example, whines that the government “proposes a risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking, and promotes drinking as a healthy dietary behavior. It suggests that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe, and that questionable claims of health benefits outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.”

So how honest is that statement? Let’s take a look. First, what is the “risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking” from 2010 to 2015? The “new” language is on Page 105 of 107, constituting the proposed guidelines for 2015.

2015 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption — Average daily consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, with no more than three drinks in any single day for women and no more than four drinks in any single day for men.

And here’s the old language below. Notice the difference? No? That’s because there really isn’t any. There are a few of the words that are different, numbers replaced by the word written out, some different punctuation, but that’s about it. The meaning is entirely the same.

2010 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

There is no shift. If anything, this version of the guidelines merely confirms changes made to the 2010 Guidelines. “Regarding alcohol, the Committee confirmed several conclusions of the 2010 DGAC, including that moderate alcohol intake can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern, and that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation and only by adults. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.”

AJ says the “Dietary Guidelines should recommend ways to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm, not increase it,” but of course that’s not at all what they say. That’s just more whining because they don’t like what the USDA is proposing. They didn’t like it five years ago, and they don’t like it now. They go on to claim that with “current and growing evidence regarding risk of disease and harm from drinking even low levels of alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines should include recommendations for Americans to drink less alcohol – not more.” Of course, that’s another misleading statement. They can, and often do, cite single studies that say what they want, but as detailed in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, most are not worth the paper they’re printed on, but they keep hammering on them because it makes for effective propaganda, especially in the school of “if you repeat a lie often enough ….”

AJ further believes that the proposed guidelines say “that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe.” But this mythical increase is just that, a fantasy. The 2010 guidelines said the same thing. There’s no proposed increase, just a confirmation of the last version. And guess what happened with the 2010 change? Nothing, that’s what. The country did not fall to ruin from people suddenly drinking too much because they believe the guidelines told people they should, or could.

Then they accuse the guidelines are based on “questionable claims of health benefits [which] outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.” What utter bullshit. Do you know what constitutes a “questionable claims of health benefits?” Anything that AJ doesn’t agree with. And how they define “known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption?” That’s easy, it’s one they like that agrees with their skewed world view. As shown, this is absolutely NOT “a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines,” but is virtually identical to the 2010 version. And their statement that there is not “sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift” is laughable because they’ll never except any scientific evidence that disagrees with or contradicts their dogma. Here’s how the USDA explains how they arrived at the alcohol guidelines.

As alcohol is a unique aspect of the diet, the DGAC considered evidence from several sources to inform recommendations. As noted above, moderate alcohol intake among adults was identified as a component of a healthy dietary pattern associated with some health outcomes, which reaffirms conclusions related to moderate alcohol consumption by the 2010 DGAC.

No matter how you slice it, there is nothing new regarding the alcohol guidelines in the proposed dietary guidelines for 2015. But to hear Alcohol Justice tell it, this is “a radical change,” despite being almost exactly the same as five years ago. This is their action plan for the faithful sheep that follow them, [with my rebuttal in brackets]:


Without providing any explanation or evidence for a radical change [they do explain the reasons, citing that there’s evidence supporting their decision], the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee proposes to increase limits used to define “moderate” drinking. [No, they don’t. All they do is confirm the changes made five years ago.]

The current (2010) U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men (daily limits) [that’s not all they say, they also cite the weekly allowances]. In contrast, the proposed change would base these 1/2 limits on average rather than daily consumption and suggests it is safe for women to drink up to 3 drinks in a day and men up to 4 drinks in a day so long as the averages are not exceeded [exactly as they did in 2010]. This effectively triples (the daily limit for women and doubles (the daily limit for men). [Not this time, it doesn’t.]

Furthermore, the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle: “the U.S. population should be encouraged to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables …; moderate in low and non fat dairy and alcohol (adults).” [Oh, no! The horror. Frankly, what’s more surprising is that, given their findings that total mortality is improved with the moderate consumption of alcohol, they’re so conservative in their suggestions. But it makes sense in the context of anti-alcohol groups that throw tantrums any time their world view is challenged. But their statement that “the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle” is complete and utter nonsense, and could even be called grandstanding because the language of the proposed 2015 guidelines also includes this: “However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.” So it’s pretty crystal clear that the USDA is not recommending people start drinking “as part of a healthy lifestyle.” AJ just made that up.]


Since most adult drinkers in the U.S. don’t drink every day, the proposed change effectively encourages consumption right up to binge drinking levels, thus increasing health risk. [That identifies the problem with the definition of binge drinking, as I’ve written about numerous times. That’s the problem here, not encouraging people to drink moderately. After all, if they did, they might live longer. We wouldn’t want people to know that, would we?]

Binge drinking (4 or more drinks per occasion for women; 5 or more drinks per occasion for men) causes more than half of all alcohol related deaths each year in the U.S., and impairment and increased risk begin below those levels. The proposed changes are, therefore, dangerous for public health. [Again, that’s a problem with the definition of bingeing, which used to be more vague, making it hard to quantify. So it’s been narrowed over the years, and made easier to quantify, bringing more and more people into the specter of binge drinkers, artificially inflating statistics about its dangers.]

There are no randomized studies showing any health benefits from any level of alcohol consumption as well as no evidence that moderate drinking promotes a healthy lifestyle. [Poppycock. They’re hanging their hat here, one presumes, on “randomized” studies, but it’s unlikely even that’s true. The USDA itself in 2010, looked at meta-analysis of a wide range of studies, concluding just the opposite of AJ’s position. But AJ keeps ignoring that “evidence” because they don’t like it. It’s easier to just keep saying what they want to be true.]

It’s hard to know what to make of so dishonest a piece of propaganda as this is, raising unfounded fears, not to mention being littered with just out and out misinformation. It’s one thing to be in favor of promoting “evidence-based public health policies and organiz[ing] campaigns with diverse communities and youth against the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” but quite another to watch how that plays out in reality. “Evidence-based” seems to really mean anything they agree with and “the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” includes literally every single thing we do. I wish that was hyperbole, but I’ve never seen any action taken by an alcohol company that AJ didn’t find fault with, from donating cans of water to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there to their “‘charge-for-harm’ approach, which is based on the assumption that anyone who drinks deserves to be punished.” And another similar group stated at a 2013 conference that “they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue steered toward their organization.”

This is getting seriously out of hand. as anti-alcohol groups get bolder and more obviously prohibitionist, their divisiveness makes any meaningful discussion increasingly impossible. And unlike these prohibitionists, most people I know in the beer world, and the real world for that matter, recognize that while moderate drinking of alcohol is a good thing for a majority of adults, it’s not for everybody. Some people can’t handle it, and they often ruin it for the rest of us. Because those are the people that anti-alcohol folks always use to represent everyone who drinks, ignoring that they’re minority and that most of us can have a few drinks and not plunge the world into turmoil. But as long as they keep painting us as all the same, they’ll never be able to admit anything but an absolutist view of drinking, no matter how ridiculous that is, and no matter how ridiculous it makes them seem. When you start accusing the conservative USDA of ignoring science and encouraging people to start drinking, you’ve definitely jumped the shark.

Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much

If there’s one thing prohibitionists love to shout about, it’s a new study showing how terrible alcohol is, and how it supports what they’ve been proselytizing about all along. A growing trend has been anti-alcohol groups funding studies, having the “team” look for problems through phrasing the study’s goals and methodology with a particular outcome in mind, and then releasing the results as if it was impartial news. Sadly, with our media overworked and underpaid, many fall for it and report such a sham study’s results without ever critically examining it or even looking for a dissenting opinion to bring some fair and balanced perspective. Prohibitionists, knowing this, package their press releases into print-friendly versions so media outlets can simply cut and paste, passing it off as actual news. To be fair, it’s not just them. Almost everybody does it. It’s become a game, of sorts, one where most reasonable people’s wishes are ignored in favor of a more extreme agenda. Issues get polarized, and meaningful dialogue is becoming increasingly impossible with mud being slung in both directions, though I tend to think on the prohibitionist front that more mud comes our way, than vice versa.

But I’ve spent the last decade or so taking a fairly critical look at study after study, taking issue with almost all of them in one way or another. For every study that says one thing, you can find another that says the complete opposite, which you’d think wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, be possible. But a lot of it has to do with the way studies are conducted, how rigorous the science is, and whether or not they started with a specific agenda or not. I’ve certainly crowed about studies that show alcohol in a positive light, though I’ve never financed any. But despite all the tamper tantrums from the prohibitionists, they’re the ones spending all the money creating a false record of harm, not to mention taking advantage of any others they can, part of their post-prohibition strategy to bring down alcohol by less obvious means in a slower, more patient approach, chipping away at public policy and the law brick by brick, so to speak.

As a result of seeing so many of these so-called “studies,” I’ve noticed a lot of tricks that they use to make them seem like the findings actually mean something, but they rarely do, and usually even the study’s authors, who presumably want to keep their status as impartial scientists despite taking money for funding, almost always issue cautions and calls for further testing and for no one to make too much of what they found, words invariably ignored by the people using their findings to promote an agenda. It’s made me question the entire medical, and to some extent the scientific, community because it’s so obviously been corrupted by money — like every other aspect of our society, sad to say — with so many willing to take money to help a fanatical group promote its agenda. And it seems like the shear number of such studies has ballooned in recent years, too. Just how many scientific journals can there be, and how many are truly scientific, if any?

But an article on Vox a few days ago addressed this very issue, with This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study. As the author wonders “whether there is any value in reporting very early research,” I’ve seen how it’s more often misused than anything else. As she writes. “Journals now publish their findings, and the public seizes on them, but this wasn’t always the case: journals were meant for peer-to-peer discussion, not mass consumption.” Because of this, the amount of studies being conducted has skyrocketed since their use is often now well beyond the original purpose of real study and furthering the science surrounding an issue. The actual number of so-called journal studies have seen an astounding 300% increase over the last quarter-century.


But as she points out, early reporting on these studies rarely leads to any meaningful breakthroughs, even though those initial findings become fixed in the public mind as fact. A recent example that springs to mind is about glutens. A study in Australia initially seemed to suggest that eating gluten-free could be healthier for even people who didn’t suffer from Celiac disease, but further work by the same scientist found that his initial results were incorrect, and that there were no appreciable health benefits to a gluten-free diet for most people. Despite this clear repudiation of the initial findings, gluten-free as a healthier lifestyle remains an idea many people not only still believe, but even follow, despite having been refuted years ago. This is not an isolated occurrence.

In 2003, researchers writing in the American Journal of Medicine discovered something that should change how you think about medical news. They looked at 101 studies published in top scientific journals between 1979 and 1983 that claimed a new therapy or medical technology was very promising. Only five, they found out, made it to market within a decade. Only one (ACE inhibitors, a pharmaceutical drug) was still extensively used at the time of their publication.


So that means 100 others proved to not pan out, their promise as originally reported proving to not stand up to further research or lead to any meaningful breakthrough. But the news cycle has already moved on, and the damage has been done, with the study reported and its inaccurate findings fixed into people’s minds. And this is just one of the reasons why immediately promoting the results of a study to the public is a bad idea. As the Vox article makes clear. “This cycle recurs again and again. An initial study promises a miracle. News stories hype the miracle. Researchers eventually disprove the miracle.”

“There’s a big, big, difference between how the media think about news and how scientists think about news,” Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor of the history of science, recently told [Vox’s Julia Bellus] in an interview. “For you, what makes it news is that it’s new — and that creates a bias in the media to look for brand new results. My view would be that brand new results would be the most likely to be wrong.”

In some cases, results are published too soon precisely to get attention for the study or the research in order to get more funding to carry on the research, or simply because of the pressure to “publish or perish” in academia or a career. Or, of course, it’s published specifically to promote an agenda or ideology.


More often than not, single studies contradict one another — such as the research on foods that cause or prevent cancer. The truth can be found somewhere in the totality of the research, but we report on every study in isolation underneath flip-flopping headlines. (Red wine will add years to your life one week, and kill you quicker the next.)

This is seen in beer, a lot, too. But as the graph below makes clear, it happens everywhere, all the time, with the main culprit being the media in general, and the prohibitionists more specifically, reporting on single studies that show one thing rather then treating the issue as a whole or continuum of understanding. In particular, Alcohol Justice frequently takes one study that shows something in line with their agenda and treats it as if it’s the final answer and no further study is necessary; they’re right, case closed. Which, as you can see, is never the case.


A good example of this is a recent tweet from Alcohol Justice, questioning that “Alcohol good for your heart? Evidence is evaporating Don’t believe industry-sponsored science.”


The link takes you to a USA Today story, entitled Alcohol good for your heart? Evidence is evaporating, which is where AJ got the witty language in the tweet. But the part about not believing “industry-sponsored science” is completely made up. The story never even addresses that as an issue. It’s pure propaganda. As you’ll see, the trail from the USA Today story leads not to “industry-sponsored science,” but to another anti-alcohol group.

The USA Today story itself is a hodgepodge of misinformation and innuendo, written in that most common style of the mainstream media that believes scaring people captures their attention and gets ratings, viewers or whatever metric they measure their success by. Early in the piece, the author sets out her premise.

But before you pour your next cocktail, beer or glass of wine, you should know this: the science suggesting a benefit has never been conclusive. And some experts believe the evidence is getting thinner all the time.

Almost no science is conclusive, or ever has been. That’s the point of continuously conducting research, to constantly learn more and to further our understanding of whatever’s being studied. But just as benefits may be inconclusive, the evils are similarly inconclusive. But she chose to frame the story in such a way as to emphasize the negative, despite the fact that the statement could be said almost any way and still be technically correct. And saying “some experts” reveals that not everyone agrees, even with so vague a premise. You can always find a person to disagree about anything, especially if they have some reason to do so.

To illustrate what I mean, take her reliance on an editorial written by “Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University in Australia.” He “writes that the once-touted benefits of moderate drinking ‘are now evaporating,'” providing the piece’s catch phrase and hook. But who is Mike Daube. Is he a doctor or scientist? Nope. Is he an impartial expert? Hardly, “Mike Daube, professor of health policy” is all that USA Today reports, and at the editorial she’s quoting from, the only author affiliation listed is “Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, WA 6845, Australia.”

But you don’t have to look too hard to find out that Mike is also co-chair of Australia’s National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, an organization who’s sole stated purpose is that is “has been formed with the goal of reducing alcohol-related harm.” So while he’s railing against “industry lobbying and promotion [being] rife and unchecked by governments, he’s pretending to be an impartial health professional, while also leading an organization who’s already convinced that alcohol has only a negative impact on society and is working to battle it, or get rid of it. That doesn’t seem particularly impartial to me. How utterly disingenuous and hypocritical. He’s using his background as a health policy professor to make it seem as if he has some expertise in medicine, but his area of study is public policy, with an emphasis on health, and you don’t need an advanced degree to understand those are two very different things.

And the editorial USA Today is relying on, Alcohol’s evaporating health benefits (they sure love a good turn of phrase, don’t they?), is published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). So essentially a policy expert — who in 2012 was “awarded [the] ‘Oscar’ of public health campaigning — is editorializing about science and medicine in a medical journal. It’s an editorial — an opinion. No matter how authoritative, he should carry about as much weight on scientific matters as I do. We have exactly the same number of doctoral degrees in medicine.

Even so, while lambasting alcohol over a new British study which forms the basis for his “evidence is evaporating” quip, he has to admit that the study did show a positive correlation for “women aged 65 or more” but dismisses that as “at best modest and likely to be explained by selection bias.” Which may true, but then again maybe not. Perhaps more study is necessary before making such sweeping pronouncements as the “evidence is evaporating.” Which is entirely the point. He’s looking at one study in a vacuum and choosing the outcome he favors, because of his own bias. So that’s not, or should not, be newsworthy. “Hey guess what? What I believed all along is what I still believe, and here’s this one study that partially agrees with me, so I must be right after all. Can I be in your scientific journal?” Is this really what passes for peer-reviewed science? What a load of bollocks.

The USA Today article is actually very short, but is padded out with a list of “what U.S. experts say you need to know for now.” Unfortunately, that list is entirely about the negative aspects of alcohol consumption and completely ignores any positive contributions to a person’s health, and it’s not like they’re hard to find.

But one study said something different, so I guess all those others are wrong, right? Yet this is the approach prohibitionist groups take time and time again. And as the Vox article makes clear, this approach can result in creating false hopes and leading researchers, scientists and even public policy-makers down the wrong path. As journalist Julia Belluz admits, it’s hard for the press to not jump at new study results, because their novelty is catnip to the management structure of both old and new media. But as the media blinders are understandable and even forgivable, at least to some extent, that’s not the case for the anti-alcohol groups who take that news and use it unscrupulously to advance their agenda. They’re the ones doing actual harm, because they’re creating a false narrative that is dishonest and knowingly wrong. I think they’ve forgotten that advancing a particular point of view doesn’t mean destroying the other side by any means possible, especially since they so often claim to own the moral high ground. But if their “ends justify the means” strategy reveals anything, it’s that they don’t own a mirror. They only judge our morals, attacking us frequently and accusing us of caring only about business, money and hurting children.

The Vox article concludes with some sage advice from “Harvard’s Oreskes, Stanford’s John Ioannidis, and many other respected researchers,” who insist “we need to look past the newest science to where knowledge has accumulated. There, we’ll find insights that will help us have healthier lives and societies.” Could somebody please tell the prohibitionists?