Your Favorite Beer State By State

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Here’s another interesting map of the U.S., supposedly showing the most popular beer for each state. I have no idea how the data was compiled as the creator of the map, and presumably the data behind it, CubeYou, all day yesterday presented you with the following error message when you click on State by State Favorite Beer: “Error establishing a database connection.” And you get that same message even trying to visit their home page so either they’ve been inundated with visitors today (doubtful) or something’s going on with their website (but whatever it is has been going on for several hours). This morning it was finally back up, but we’re no closer to understanding their methodology. They state that “the Beer Map below illustrates the beer brands that have the highest popularity in each state. Popularity indicates how popular a beer is in each state compared with the national distribution.” But that really doesn’t tell us much. And not having any information about who’s in second, third, etc. also makes it difficult to rely on their data.

There are a lot of local favorites, and of course the big boys hold sway in a number of states (10 for ABI beers and 2 apiece for Coors, Miller and Pabst). A few I can’t quite make out because of the size of the map so my own analysis may be off accordingly. Lagunitas owns both California and Illinois, where they have breweries. Heineken’s got Nevada and Hawaii (damn tourists) and imports rule in a few more states, sadly. A few more curious spots: Coors in Washington, and more surprising, Alaskan Brewing in Oregon. Given how fiercely loyal the state is toward their beer, that surprises me most of all, but maybe it has to do with how many strong brands their are in Oregon and that causes them to cancel one another out (or maybe it’s just wrong).

UPDATE: Now that I’m able to see the map larger and make out all of the name on it, even more problems emerge. In Minnesota and Tennessee, Midwest Supplies is listed as those states’ most popular beer, even though it’s a homebrew supply store. Arkansas and Montana have listed “Craft Beer On Tap,” a generic logo and not a brand at all as far as I can tell. Ceres, the Danish beer, in Florida seems questionable and as a reader pointed out, Yuengling is not even distributed in the state of Maine so it’s hard to see how it could be the most popular beer there. And as another reader mentioned, Dogfish Head not being the most popular in their home state of Delaware stretches credulity, as well, and all of these issues in total are making this exercise veer toward farce or chicanery. Whatever CubeYou’s actual methodology might have been, it’s hard to see that they produced any legitimate results. I had wished once their website was back up that there would be more transparency about how the data was collected and perhaps even a way to peek into the raw data itself. Unfortunately, if anything, they seem to have gone out of their way to obfuscate how they arrived upon the results.

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The Most Distinctive Causes Of Death By State

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This is somewhat interesting, though it was little to do with beer. The CDC released the results of an analysis of the “most distinctive cause of death for each state and the District of Columbia, 2001–2010.” I never realized this, but it makes sense. The CDC uses a standardized List of 113 Selected Causes of Death, based on the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision. This is to help the data collected be more useful, and allows comparisons to be drawn if the data is not affected by local bias or custom. Then the data used was “age-adjusted state-specific death rate for each cause of death relative to the national age-adjusted death rate for each cause of death, equivalent to a location quotient.”

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The analysis that went into creating the map was done by Francis Boscoe, who’s a researcher at the New York State Cancer Registry. Here’s the main findings, from the CDC website:

The resulting map depicts a variety of distinctive causes of death based on a wide range of number of deaths, from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana. The largest number of deaths mapped were the 37,292 deaths in Michigan from “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described”; the fewest, the 11 deaths in Montana from “acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome.” The state-specific percentage of total deaths mapped ranged from 1.8% (Delaware; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described) to 0.0005% (Illinois, other disorders of kidney).

Some of the findings make intuitive sense (influenza in some northern states, pneumoconioses in coal-mining states, air and water accidents in Alaska and Idaho), while the explanations for others are less immediately apparent (septicemia in New Jersey, deaths by legal intervention in 3 Western states). The highly variable use of codes beginning with “other” between states is also apparent. For example, Oklahoma accounted for 24% of the deaths attributable to “other acute ischemic heart diseases” in the country despite having only slightly more than 1% of the population, resulting in a standardized mortality rate ratio of 19.4 for this cause of death, the highest on the map. The highest standardized mortality rate ratio after Oklahoma was 12.4 for pneumoconioses in West Virginia.

A limitation of this map is that it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. All of these were significantly higher than the national rate, but there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped. The map is also predisposed to showing rare causes of death — for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. Using broader cause-of-death categories or requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths would result in a different map. These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries.

Notice that despite prohibitionists claiming that alcohol is the “3rd-Leading Preventable Cause Of Death,” it’s actually not even on the list. It’s not even on the list of 113, apart from the more specific “Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Also, cancer isn’t among any of the top cause for any individual state, which is surprising given that it’s usually listed as the number two cause overall. Some of the stranger ones include Oregon and Nevada, whose leading cause is “legal intervention.” Then there’s Alabama and Tennessee with “accidental discharge of firearms,” while in Arizona and Arkansas it’s “discharge of firearms, undetermined intent.” Is anyone else bothered by the fact that in four states you’re most likely to die by being shot, whatever the reason?

Economic Impact Of California Beer

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The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) recently commissioned an economic impact study of the state’s brewing industry for last year. And the news is pretty great. Here’s some of the highlights:

Economic Impact: In 2014 craft beer contributed more than $6.5 billion to the economy of California. That’s up 18% from 2013. That’s a fairly conservative number and they’ll have a more accurate and most likely higher numbers in June when the full report is finished. The craft beer industry in California has a higher economic impact than any other state in the US.

Employment: In 2014 Craft Brewers employed more than 48,000 Californians.

Growth: During 2014 the number of operating breweries grew by over 24% giving us a total of 520 operating breweries in California.

Taxes: In 2014 California craft brewers paid over $56 million in State and federal excise taxes and paid more than $1.3 billion in income and other local, state and federal taxes ($880 million in state and local income taxes and $465 in federal income taxes).

Production Volume: 3.5 Million Barrels

Exports: 1.3 million barrels. (That’s still higher than the total production of all but two other states (PA and CO)).

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Parenting Lessons From The Prohibitionists

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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 preictable.

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New Data: Letting Kids Sip Booze Makes It More Appealing http://bit.ly/1G5gFcr 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 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.

Top 50 Craft Breweries Infographic

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This is pretty cool. Vinepair took the list the BA released on Tuesday, the Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2014, and created an infographic showing where the top fifty are located. It’s interesting to see the pockets where there are only smaller breweries, those ranked 51-3000+. It does appear that the top 50 are concentrated in a few broad areas.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

USDA Dietary Guidelines Under Fire Again From Prohibitionists

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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.

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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]:

THE PROPOSED CHANGE:

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.]

THE PROBLEM:

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.

The Top 50 Annotated 2014

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This is my eighth annual annotated list of the Top 50, skipping last year because the BA provided that information then, so here again you can see who moved up and down, who was new to the list and who dropped off. So here is this year’s list again annotated with how they changed compared to last year.

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev; #1 nine years, no surprise
  2. MillerCoors; ditto for #2
  3. Pabst Brewing; ditto for #3
  4. D. G. Yuengling and Son; Same as last year
  5. Boston Beer Co.; Same as last year
  6. North American Breweries; 5th year on the list, same position as last year
  7. Sierra Nevada Brewing; Same as last year
  8. New Belgium Brewing; Same as last year
  9. Craft Brewers Alliance; Same as last year
  10. Gambrinus Company; Same as last year
  11. Lagunitas Brewing; Same as last year
  12. Bell’s Brewery; Up 1 from #13 last year
  13. Deschutes Brewery; Down 1 from #12 last year
  14. Stone Brewing; Up 3 from #17 last year
  15. Sleeman Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  16. Minhas Craft Brewery; Down 1 from #15 last year
  17. Brooklyn Brewery; Down 1 from #26 last year
  18. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing/Ommegang); Down 4 from #14 last year
  19. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Up 1 from #20 last year
  20. Matt Brewing; Down 2 from #18 last year
  21. Harpoon Brewery; Down 2 from #19 last year
  22. Firestone Walker Brewing; Up 1 from #23 last year
  23. Founders Brewing; Jumped Up 12 from #35 last year
  24. SweetWater Brewing; Up 2 from #26 last year
  25. New Glarus Brewing; Same as last year
  26. Alaskan Brewing; Down 2 from #24 last year
  27. Abita Brewing; Down 5 from #22 last year
  28. Anchor Brewing; Up 1 from #29 last year
  29. Great Lakes Brewing; Down 2 from #27 last year
  30. Oskar Blues Brewing; Up 3 from #33
  31. Shipyard Brewing; Down 10 from #21 last year
  32. Stevens Point Brewery; Up 13 from #45 last year
  33. August Schell Brewing; Down 5 from #33 last year
  34. Summit Brewing; Down 2 from #32 last year
  35. Victory Brewing; Down 2 from #37 last year
  36. Long Trail Brewing; Down 5 from #31 last year
  37. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; Up 1 from #38 last year
  38. Rogue Ales Brewery; Down 2 from #36 last year
  39. Full Sail Brewing; Down 5 from #34 last year
  40. Odell Brewing; Up 4 from #44 last year
  41. Southern Tier Brewing; Down 1 from #40 last year
  42. Ninkasi Brewing; Down 3 from #39 last year
  43. World Brew/Winery Exchange; Down 13 from #30 last year
  44. Flying Dog Brewery; Down 1 from #43 last year
  45. Pittsburgh Brewing (fka Iron City); Down 2 from #47 last year
  46. Uinta Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  47. Bear Republic Brewing; Down 1 from #46 last year
  48. Left Hand Brewing; Up 2 from #50 last year
  49. 21st Amendment Brewery; Not in Top 50 last year, though they were on the list in 2012
  50. Allagash Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year

Not too much movement this year, except for a few small shufflings. Only four new breweries made the list; Sleeman Brewing, Uinta Brewing, 21st Amendment Brewery and Allagash Brewing.

Off the list was Blue Point Brewing, Cold Spring Brewing, CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants (Gordon Biersch/Rock Bottom), Karl Strauss Breweries, Lost Coast Brewery, and Mendocino Brewing.

If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2014

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The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2014, which is listed below here. For the seventh year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. Here is this year’s craft brewery list:
2015_Top_50-craft

Seven breweries are new to this year’s Top 50 Craft Breweries list; Yuengling (due to a change in the definition), Breckenridge, Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries, Green Flash, Minhas Craft Brewery, Narragansett and Troeg’s. Here is this year’s press release. For the past seven years, I’ve also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year. Last year, the BA thoughtfully has already done that, saving me a lot of time and math, but they haven’t done it again this year, so I’ll have that again later today.

Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much

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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.

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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.

One.

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.

Medical_studies-3

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.

Medical_studies-1

A good example of this is a recent tweet from Alcohol Justice, questioning that “Alcohol good for your heart? Evidence is evaporating http://usat.ly/1JkkEny Don’t believe industry-sponsored science.”

AJ-tweet-15-03-24

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?