You Think We Have A Lot Of Breweries?

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There’s been a fair amount of talk lately about the number of U.S. breweries hitting a milestone number, and that there are now more breweries in America that at anytime in our history. And that’s great and all, but as Jeff Alworth recently suggested, we should Quit Counting Breweries. And although he meant as the only way to measure growth and improvement in the state of beer, it’s a fair point, although it does, I believe, offer some idea of the bigger picture. Plus, I think we’re all just a little bit fascinated with numbers — things we can quantify — so I doubt anyone will ditch the metric of number of breweries anytime soon.

But if you think we have a lot of breweries, Europe is even more on fire. Sure, they had a head start, and didn’t have that pesky prohibition to slow them down (except in a few places). And while they may have been slower to the movement, or whatever it should be called, of new, usually smaller, breweries opening it’s well and truly now a global phenomenon. As of 2015, according to The Brewers of Europe Beer Statistics, there are over 7,000 breweries in Europe.

The comparison to the U.S. number is helped along by the fact that they’re pretty close in area: 3.931 million square miles for Europe and the U.S. with 3.806 million square miles. Though in terms of people, Europe has more than twice the population of America, 742.5 million vs. 318.9 million in the U.S. But here’s the number of breweries in Europe, broken down by country.

Number of Active Breweries (2009-2014)

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Most of the countries have seen big growth, although a few are close to static, meaning they either stayed exactly the same or have shown only modest growth. Very few have dropped below their 2009 number. Really, it’s only Turkey although Poland was rising steadily, only to dip a little in 2014 over 2013.

Last week, Ron Pattinson at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins looked at this data (h/t to him for bringing it to my attention) and noticed a few other patterns.

The one exception? Germany. The number of breweries hasn’t changed significantly in the last few years. Which has left it lagging far behind. For the first time since the 19th century, it doesn’t have the most breweries in Europe. The UK caught up in 2012 and has since powered ahead. If you’d told me 10 years ago that there would be over 1,500 breweries in the UK, I’d have felt your bumps.

The effect has been to drastically reduce Germany’s share of the breweries in Europe. From over a third in 2009 it fell to less than a quarter in 2014. While the UK’s share has risen for just under 20% to almost 25%.

Paricularly striking is the growth in countries that aren’t traditionally beer drinking. In Italy, France and Greece the number of breweries doubled. While in Portugal the increase is fivefold. In Spain almost sevenfold.

Earlier today, Ron posted a new analysis that he put together, assembling another table that showed the changes in the number of European breweries by nation from 1956-2014. He used a dozen sources, plus his own, to compile it. Here’s what he found:

Only four countries had fewer breweries in 2014 than in 1956: Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Luxemburg. For Denmark it’s a tiny difference – just five breweries – and Luxemburg is an odd case, being so small. Which leaves just Belgium and Germany, both of which have about a third of the breweries they did 60 years ago. I have to admit, it makes the situation in Germany look much worse than the 2009 to 2014 figures.

And here’s that list:

Number_of_breweries_in_Europe_1956_2014

I can’t help but come back to the population vs. brewery number ratio. It’s seems that per capita may have to more to do with how many breweries can be supported by a population after all. I’m sure it’s more complicated, of course, with history, culture and other factors playing a role, as well. Looking at the ratios, there’s a European brewery for every 104,710 people whereas in the U.S. there’s a brewery for every 77,171 people. So currently, we’re slightly more concentrated in these terms. Who’s got numbers on the rest of the world?

American Cities Drinking the Most Craft Beer

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Usually, when they break down craft sales, it’s by state, so it’s interesting to see it done by city. Vinepair based their map, Cities That Drink the Most Craft Beer, on Nielsen dollar share data, so while that means it’s only mainstream data from major chains and traditional retail channels, it is still interesting to see how it shakes out. All of the top five cities are on the West Coast, while Washington D.C. leads the East. Of the five not in the West, three are in the Midwest, one is in the Northeast and the other is D.C. And it would appear there’s a large swath in the middle that has some catching up to do.

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Click here to see the map full size.

California Reaches 600 Breweries

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On the heels of yesterday’s news that the number of breweries in America has reached a historic high point, today the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) released the news that the number of breweries in the state of California reached 600. The next closest state, Oregon, has less than half of that. Congratulations to all 600!

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For me the biggest takeaway is how rapid the number of California breweries doubled. Fritz Maytag bought the Anchor Brewery in 1965, but the first new brewery opened over a decade later, in 1978. That was New Albion. It took until 2012, or 34 years, to reach 300 breweries. Three years later, this month in 2015, there are 600. That means half of the breweries in California are less than three years old, which seems remarkable.

Here’s the press release:

The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) today announced another milestone in the growth of local brewing, with more than 600 craft breweries in operation across the state. More breweries call California home than any other state in the nation.

“We continue to celebrate the success of craft beer in California,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the CCBA. “The Golden State is the birthplace of the American craft beer movement and continues to lead the nation with its committed fans and creative brewers. We have seen a remarkable and growing demand for neighborhood-supported craft breweries and handcrafted, locally produced beers. It’s an exciting time to be a craft beer drinker in California and even more exciting to be a craft brewer.”

The 18 percent increase in operating breweries over that past year represents a return to the localization of beer production. In 2014, an average of two breweries opened every week in California.

Industries associated with craft beer also continue to expand, with additional investment in California-grown ingredients. Breweries throughout the state are planting hops and barley and looking to local farms to source ingredients.

“California’s craft beer drinkers are looking to their neighborhood breweries for local, sustainable, hand-grown, hand-produced, hand-crafted beers,” said Jacob Pressey, owner and brewmaster for Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm and CCBA member. “We are the first California brewery since Prohibition to brew a 100 percent house-grown and malted beer, a milestone we’ve been focused on for the past three years. Across the state we see hop growers, grain growers and craft maltsters set the stage for a sustainable, local-focused industry.”

As the number of craft breweries has increased, so has national recognition for creative styles and classic West Coast IPAs brewed in California. In 2015, California breweries received the largest number of awards at the Great American Beer Festival, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state’s economy and donated approximately $11,050,000 to support local and statewide charities, including fundraisers for nonprofits and charitable causes.

“California is the growth epicenter of the craft beer industry,” said Brook Taylor, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “More than 600 California craft breweries generate $6.5 billion in annual revenue, employ thousands of people and contribute to the state’s nation leading job growth. The craft beer industry is emblematic of California – innovative people, creating innovative products and providing new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.”

Spinning Statistics … Again

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A few days ago, I wrote that in my mind, Alcohol Justice, as much as any prohibitionist group, had achieved the status of a cult, given their by-any-means-necessary tactics and casual relationship with the truth. Today presented a perfect example of that, in which they took another “study” and bent it and remolded it into the shape they wanted it to be in order to advance their agenda. This morning they tweeted the following:

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And there’s certainly some scary claims in that tweet. “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” which is apparently linked to “alcohol” and also “drug misuse.” Or is that misuse of both drugs and alcohol? It could be read either way, and since you rarely here “alcohol misuse” as a term — it’s almost always “alcohol abuse” — I suspect that it was chosen on purpose to give the impression that it was simply drinking alcohol that leads to this “stunning death rate.” But what does the actual “study” claim? The tweet includes a link, which takes you to an article from November 2 in the New York Times, Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. But that title is similarly misleading, because once you actually read it, you’ll discover that it’s not all middle-age white men whose risk is increasing, but a specific subgroup within that cohort. That group is increasing overall, but only because the steepest rise is almost entirely coming from less educated men in that group.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

I guess that’s statistically significant, but it’s an increase of 0.134%, which doesn’t sound as bad as they’re making it out to be. Later in the article, they say that “[i]n that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.” Of course, I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics, as one of the people who conducted the study does, which the article makes a particular point of pointing out. Despite those honors, they’re as flummoxed by the results as apparently everyone else who’s found it’s such a growing problem for “the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites.” adding. “In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans” and this has been “puzzling demographers in recent years.” Seriously? Let me take a stab at it. The middle class has been eroding for decades, real wages have been stagnating almost as long, people are losing their pension plans, unions are under attack and our government has been co-opted by business interests who have been doing everything possible to keep tax breaks for the wealthy, allow our elections to won by whoever has the most money, and generally make life miserable for every worker below the executive level, the people in the 90%. And which group would you expect that to most affect? I would suggest it’s people in the lower paying jobs, the ones requiring less education, which would go a long way toward explaining why these are the same people drinking themselves into an early grave.

They do finally make some mention of this, but apparently don’t think it was significant enough to “fully account for the effect,” when they earlier cited that middle-aged white men with only a high school diploma have “a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures.” But doesn’t it seem like one of those “well, duh” moments?

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation-adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

But that can’t be it, they seem to conclude. That wouldn’t cause them to become depressed, which might lead them to drink excessively or take more drugs, is what they’re saying. Why do we continue to go out of our way to insist that the alcohol or drugs, in and of themselves, are the problem, but not the underlying problem or problems that make people reach for them? Remember, the message from Alcohol Justice was that “alcohol and drug misuse” were the link to a “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” but that’s not what the study found, or is even the focus of the article, despite the fact that misleading headline could make you think that was the case, if you didn’t bother to read it. What this study of metadata from the CDC found was that there’s an increase for such men with less education and who abused alcohol, which is very different from what AJ is peddling. And this spin is doubly reinforced by the photo they chose to use with the tweet. It shows two older couples, well-dressed and sipping on champagne. That’s practically the polar opposite of the image one would expect for which group is showing an increase in their risk of death found by the study they’re referring to. And it’s the photo you see first, before you read either the tweet or click on the article. Before you have any facts whatsoever, you’re confronted by this misleading image of well-heeled bubbly revelers.

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But that image holds another secret, and one Alcohol Justice probably doesn’t want you to know about, especially as they’ve started tweeting for donations at this, the giving time of the year. The image is actually taken from an article in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, from early September of this year. That piece, entitled Drinkers ‘subsidising’ non-drinkers by £6.5 billion a year, flies right in the face of one of AJ’s most-cherished propaganda lies, the idea of alcohol harm, that people drinking are a drain on the economy, forcing teetotalers to pay for their excesses and strain public resources. It’s one of AJ’s most common arguments for raising taxes on alcohol, under the notion of a “charge for harm” that they’re so fond of insisting. But the subtitle of the Telegraph article is: “A drain on taxpayers? Drinkers pay their dues three times over, new study claims.”

Far from being a financial burden on taxpayers, people who enjoy alcohol pay the cost of dealing with drink-related social problems almost three times over in tax every year, the analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think-tank, argues.

The paper calculates that the NHS, police, the criminal justice and welfare systems in England collectively spend £3.9 billion a year dealing with the fallout from excessive alcohol consumption.

But that figure is eclipsed by the £10.4 billion a year it says the Treasury gains in alcohol duty in England.
It argues that taxes on drink could be halved and still leave the Government firmly in profit.

They continue:

Christopher Snowdon, author of the report, said: “It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

“Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

“The economic evidence is very clear on this – 40 per cent of the EU’s entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six and a half billion pounds a year.”

So that’s where the photo came from that Alcohol Justice used to accompany a misleading tweet about misstated statistics, linking to a somewhat misleadingly titled article. And this is from the organization that claims to be the “industry watchdog,” forcing me to ask, yet again, who’s watching the watchdog? Because left to their own devices, they obviously aren’t terribly concerned with honesty or truthiness. And that makes it increasingly difficult to have any meaningful discussions with them about alcohol policy or indeed believe anything they say or claim.

Craft Beer Product Segmentation 2015: A Tale Of Two Charts

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It was the best of charts, it was the worst of charts. So begins every great story. This made me laugh like the Dickens this morning, as fellow beer writer Bryan Roth tweeted a chart showing “Craft Production in the U.S.” apparently as of August 2015.

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The data comes from IBISWorld, a company that identifies themselves as “one of the world’s leading publishers of business intelligence, specializing in Industry research and Procurement research.” Their website shows that they have offices in Los Angeles, New York, Melbourne, London and Beijing, although the chart claims they’re “Chicago-based.” The report is entitled “Craft Beer Production in the US: Market Research Report,” and was published in August of this year. If you want to buy yourself a copy, it costs between $925 and $1,595, depending on which purchase option you choose.

Hopefully, the chart was not created by IBISWorld, because besides mis-identifying where the company is located, as Roth points out, “the graphic designer who created alternating sized circles not dependent on their % share is bad at their job.” It’s a terrible chart, on so many levels. First, why use “stencil” as the font for the title in the red center circle? Why are the outer circles different shades of blue, for no apparent rhyme or reason. There’s no discernible pattern to that decision. Bock is the lightest color, at 3.9%, followed by Amber Ale at 10.9%, so you might be tempted to think the color is dependent on market share, lighter for lower and darker for higher percentages. But no, fruit beer is the lowest, at 3.5%, and is medium blue, while Lager, at only 8.6%, is the darkest blue on the chart.

Why are the black lines not emanating from the center of the middle? Instead, it looks like one of the webs from the 1980s video game “Tempest.” They all meet in an outer ring, too, except for Bock and Wheat Beer, which are curiously left hanging. But most egregious, the size of the circles are not even close to being proportional to the percentages expressed in them. The sizes appear to be nothing more than random, just like the color choices. So at first glance, it makes no sense and is, at best, confusing. At worst, it looks like it was designed by a five-year old, and frankly that may be overly insulting to toddlers.

Carla Jean Lauter, better known by her nom nom de plume, The Beer Babe, was similarly bothered by the chart, but decided to do something about it. She “fixed” it, making the bubbles proportional to their market share so the chart is easier to read and better represents the reality it’s trying to convey. She also chose the colors of the bubbles to be representative of the beer color of each style, even choosing pumpkin color for seasonal. As Lauter tweeted when she posted her version of the chart, “I feel better now.” Weirdly, so do I. It’s so much better.

craft-beer-product-segmentation-2015-B

World Beer Market: Opportunities & Forecasts 2014 – 2020

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Allied Market Research, an international research company with seven offices around the world, has started selling their latest report, the World Beer Market – Opportunities and Forecasts, 2014 – 2020. If you want to buy the report it will set you back anywhere from $4,515 to $10,680, for a global user. While here at the Bulletin we’re not sufficiently well-heeled to buy our own copy, there is some information revealed to entice potential buyers on the report’s website.

For example, this chart gives several data points from the report.

Global Beer Market

And here’s the “Report Overview:”

Beer is a yeast – fermented alcoholic drink prepared from malt, and flavored by adding hops. Popular in Neolithic Europe, its production dates backs to as far as 2050 BC. By, 7th century AD the alcoholic drink was being produced and marketed by several monasteries in Europe. This drink is majorly brewed from ingredients such as yeast, water, hops and malted barley, although many fermentable carbohydrate sources or natural additives may be included. Likewise, fermentable carbohydrates like wheat, rice and maize are added to produce different styles as well as flavors. Beer style categorizes this alcoholic beverage by factors including flavor, production technique, ingredients, color, and origin etc., of which ale and lager are the two commercially popular types. Ales use top fermenting yeast at a room temperature, on the contrary lagers are made with bottom – fermenting yeast below 10 Celsius. The global beer market is expected to generate about $688.4 billion in sales by 2020. Besides this, the aforementioned industry is likely to register a CAGR of 6 percent during the forecast period 2015 to 2020. A significant increase in the consumption volume is believed to fuel the market growth in developing regions.

Worldwide, sales is following an upward trend. Many brands are now experiencing tremendous success due to a sudden rise in the disposable income and changing lifestyle. Exploiting a niche segment, matured markets are also witnessing a dramatic shift in the high calorie beer market and have developed a taste for low –calorie brew. Likewise, continuous popularity of craft brew has paved a path for a new generation of producers. It is phenomenon, that right from their debut to their annual sales the strong and light brews occupy majority of the market share in the beer industry. Alternatives to glass such as PET, makers are using durable yet ductile, affordable and sustainable packaging solutions like cans or draught. Consumption statistics also disclose a rapid growth in the number of female drinkers.

Beer Market Analysis by Type

World’s largest brands have uncorked and positioned their wide portfolio of strong and light brew in the domestic and international market, which now occupies a major chunk of the total business. The market for strong brew is expected to garner about $464 billion in sales by 2020. Besides this, the strong industry is likely to register a CAGR of 6.5 percent during the period 2015 to 2020. Many developed countries have been biased to stronger brew, a liking that has become highly accentuated with the brand image associated with such drinks. In the West, taste and refinement are the prime factors for drinkers. Thus many prefer strong brews due to their high alcoholic content. In close completion are the light brews that have low calorie count and other nutritional contents. Light brew have exploited the desire of the health conscious drinkers to stay healthy.

Beer Industry Market Analysis by Production

Breweries are categorized into macro-breweries and micro-breweries based on the production volume or size. Officially the war between them is on, with craft brew companies increasing their production capability. Macro breweries are offering quality and quantity across greater distances. At the same time microbreweries are benefitting too. Likewise, emergence of breweries in less saturated locales worldwide too is a welcome news. Recent changes in drinking preferences have considerably increased the demand for micro-breweries, which is anticipated to register a CAGR of 9.3 percent during the period of 2015 to 2020. Larger number of discerning consumers are shifting to locally produced drinks, enabling the ale industry to revive. So, with varieties of flavor as well as alcohol content, microbreweries are increasing today because distributors spotted a huge demand and took risk on imports of major microbrew brands.

Industry by Category

Better sales of even the more expensive premium, super premium and draught have shrugged off all doubts about the dip in the consumption volume. Consumers today are increasingly desirous to experiment with locally produced premium and international varieties. Many brewers now recognize that the premium brews industry would stay the most attractive new segment. Some brewers have just hyped their portfolio as premium in many countries because they are international. Producers are putting greater focus on how they should brand these premium labels. Premunization, is significant and an innovation, that aims at targeting the high–spending customers including highly trendy brews for tier -1 mavericks. The premium industry is anticipated to register a CAGR of 6.4 percent during the period of 2015 to 2020, when compared to the super premium and normal brew segment. Besides this, the super-premium brews are observing a rapid growth in the business and would grow three folds. Few major consumer behavior pattern have also given the super-premium sales a push. The grocery outlets today make up a major part of alcohol sales in terms of value. This presents a greater opportunity for the super – premium brews to grow via channel expansion. Moreover, the normal brews occupy a largest division of about 43 percent of the total industry.

Industry by Packaging

The packaging plays a vital role when it comes to influencing the customer buying pattern. Available in bottles, cans or draught these drinks are delivered with care and consideration. In line with the growing sales of brews like ales, new and flavored drinks in bottles are making waves. However with acceleration, canned brew are giving an intense competition to their bottled and draught peers. Likewise, cans are becoming more and more famous and idiosyncrasy in it contributes to the shift in the buying pattern or attitude. There is a rising demand for canned that can be easily stored as well as transported. Further, what makes canned the first choice is the fact that it protect the content from external heat. Alongside this, range of already –established draught brews are continuing to expand in the competitive business environment.

Industry by Geography

Over the 300 years that ale existed in North America, customer demands has constantly pushed the segment forward with rapid and steady growth. Next, introduction to the craft brewing technique created immense opportunity and a greater population responded to it with further support. Similarly, Europe also has an emerging market for hop lovers. Region’s relaxed brewing mandates have stabilized the consumption volume, which fell significantly in the past two years. Emerging economies are also becoming significantly important to the major international brands, as sales in some matured region still lags. Increased sales in Latin America and Asia has empowered producers to economize out complete sales growth. The Asia – Pacific market is expected to garner about $202.4 billion in sales by 2020. Besides this, the market is expected to register a CAGR of 7.3 percent during the period 2015 – 2020.

Beer Industry Competitive Analysis

To acquire a major chunk of the market, brew producers are seen expanding their distribution channels even for their less popular breeds. Merger and acquisition, rumors have hovered over the brew sector for years, with many domestic and international brewers considering tie – up at some point, inescapable. Likewise, multinational producers continue to make huge investments to grow their reach and trump up collaboration with domestic operators, to help consumers keen in exploring the local and international varieties buy them. To tap demand for expensive brews, a product segment where companies have more rivals brands decide to compete directly and launch new products.

And here’s a short “Analyst’s Review:”

The Global Beer Market would witness a steady growth in the coming years. Europe accounts for the highest revenue generating region in the global beer market followed by Asia-Pacific and North America. The growth in the North American and European region would be at a moderate pace in the future due to increasing health consciousness and legal regulations in the region. However, there has been a significant increase in the demand of beer in the developing countries of Asia-Pacific region. International brewing companies like SABMiller, Heineken have introduced especially brewed beer for the Asian market catering to the distinct taste buds of the consumers. The global beer market is primarily driven by the increasing disposable incomes and changing lifestyles. The growing adoption of craft beer and the rising number of restaurants and bars would further accelerate the growth of the beer market.

Conventionally, the male population has been the major consumer segment. However, with evolving cultural changes and modernization, there has been a significant rise in the count of females drinking beer. Women in the age group of 21 to 30 consume more beer than other age groups. Women generally prefer light beer with low alcohol content. Many vendors in the market are focusing on drinks especially made for women to increase their customer base and serve a wider audience. There has also been a rise in the adoption of craft beer as consumers want to explore different beer flavors. Craft beers include traditional brewing methods with exotic ingredients which add distinct flavor to the beer. Craft beer is widely adopted in the European and North American countries while Asian countries are still in the growing phase. Growing health consciousness, heavy taxation, and legal regulation limit the growth of the market. Stiff competition from substitutes including wine and other spirits also restrict its adoption.

You can buy the full report https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/beer-markethere, and if you want to share it with me, I wouldn’t say no.

American Brewery Count Reaches 4,000 Milestone

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The Brewers Association announced this morning that the American Beer Industry has hit another milestone: there are now over 4,000 active breweries in the U.S. It also appears likely that the previous high of 4,131, which was achieved in 1873, will likely be broken if not by the end of this year, then certainly sometime in 2016.

Here’s the press release from the BA’s economist, Bart Watson:

Much of the beer world’s attention in the past week was focused on the Great American Beer Festival. However, the week also brought another milestone in the resurgence of local American brewing, with the Brewers Association database passing 4,000 active breweries. Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is almost certainly the first time the United States has crossed the 4,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s.

Van Wieren (1995) notes that the Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873. Given the strong pace of openings (approximately two openings/day with a net increase of 1.9/day factoring in closings), it is likely that later in 2015, or early in 2016, there will be more active breweries in the United States than at any point in our nation’s history. This is a remarkable achievement that would have been unthinkable in late 1970s, when the number of American breweries dipped below 100.

More recently, it seems only a short while ago that I was writing about passing the 3,000 brewery mark, and many of the same thoughts still apply: the continued return to a localization of beer production and the potential for future growth balanced by ever increasing competition and future challenges for breweries to differentiate themselves. I’ll also repeat what I said then:

“What it does not mean is that we’ve reached a saturation point. Most of the new entrants continue to be small and local, operating in neighborhoods or towns. What it means to be a brewery is shifting, back toward an era when breweries were largely local, and operated as a neighborhood bar or restaurant. How many neighborhoods in the country could still stand to gain from a high-quality brewpub or micro taproom? While a return to the per capita ratio of 1873 seems unlikely (that would mean more than 30,000 breweries), the resurgence of American brewing is far from over.”

The past 15+ months have borne out that statement as the map of U.S. brewing has continued to diversify. There are now breweries in more than 2,000 unique cities across all 50 states. At the same time, there are also nearly 1,000 cities with a population of more than 10,000 that don’t have a local brewery yet, and numerous neighborhoods in larger cities without a local brewpub or taproom. As America’s beer culture continues to deepen and spread, there are still ample opportunities for well-differentiated, high-quality entrants. So, to all the hard-working brewers/brewery staff that have made 4,000 breweries a reality, and to the next wave of innovative entrants to follow, cheers!

Bountiful Breweries

Blaming Overeating On Drinking

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You know what makes you fat? It’s not food. It’s drinking alcohol. Wait, what? Yup, according to a study financed by the NIH, conducted by the Indiana Alcohol Research Center, and published earlier this year in the journal Obesity, researchers claim that what they’ve dubbed “the apéritif phenomenon” may be causing our obesity epidemic. Except that they’re not.

The self-described “internationally recognized news website” Inquisitr, under the category “Celebrity Health,” published an article entitled “Alcohol Sensitizes Brain’s Response To Food Aromas, Say Scientists — Is Liquor Responsible For Rising Obesity?” Naturally, Alcohol Justice gleefully tweeted the bad news as “new evidence points to alcohol’s role in U.S. obesity epidemic.” Except that, as I mentioned, the evidence does nothing of the kind.

The study that the article is based on is entitled The apéritif effect: Alcohol’s effects on the brain’s response to food aromas in women. Here’s the abstract:

Objective
Consuming alcohol prior to a meal (an apéritif) increases food consumption. This greater food consumption may result from increased activity in brain regions that mediate reward and regulate feeding behavior. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we evaluated the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response to the food aromas of either roast beef or Italian meat sauce following pharmacokinetically controlled intravenous infusion of alcohol.

Methods
BOLD activation to food aromas in non-obese women (n = 35) was evaluated once during intravenous infusion of 6% v/v EtOH, clamped at a steady-state breath alcohol concentration of 50 mg%, and once during infusion of saline using matching pump rates. Ad libitum intake of roast beef with noodles or Italian meat sauce with pasta following imaging was recorded.

Results
BOLD activation to food relative to non-food odors in the hypothalamic area was increased during alcohol pre-load when compared to saline. Food consumption was significantly greater, and levels of ghrelin were reduced, following alcohol.

Conclusions
An alcohol pre-load increased food consumption and potentiated differences between food and non-food BOLD responses in the region of the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus may mediate the interplay of alcohol and responses to food cues, thus playing a role in the apéritif phenomenon.

The Indiana Alcohol Research Center “focuses on the elucidation of the biomedical and psychosocial factors that contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism,” which suggests to me they’re another group like the NIAAA, or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (whose grant created the IARC), is exclusively interested in exploring the negative aspects of alcohol. And just like the NIAAA, it’s right there in their charter.

Curiously, yesterday the full text of the article was also online, but today it’s restricted. They start with the premise that “consuming alcohol prior to a meal (their “apéritif phenomenon”) increases food consumption,” but of course that’s the point of an apéritif, or at least to enhance and make the experience of the food and/or the food and the drink better.

But as they conclude, this “pre-loading” of alcohol is what makes us want to eat more, which they believe that their study shows. When I briefly looked at the entire article, their longer discussion of the findings, as is quite common, suggested caution in drawing too many conclusions and suggesting further study was warranted. As the shorter conclusion states, these “food cues” play “a role in the apéritif phenomenon,” which is not exactly the same as saying “drinking is responsible for American obesity.”

But that didn’t stop author Alap Naik Desai from making such speculation, fueling the prohibitionist response that of course “Liquor [is] Responsible For [the] Rising Obesity” in the United States.

A research conducted by Indiana University indicated that exposure to alcohol enhanced the brain’s sensitivity and heightened its response to food aromas. In simpler words, food seemed much more appealing and appetizing, which, of course, led to extra consumption. Connecting the dots, one could also summarize that alcohol consumption was responsible for increased intake of food and hence a hidden cause of obesity.

I’m not sure which dots he’s referring to, since that’s a fairly absurd statement that isn’t contained in the study itself. But beyond that, the study involved just 35 female test subjects, no men at all. And it seems hard to extrapolate anything meaningful that could be applicable to the human population from so few people. Also, they claim that people “responded enthusiastically to food aromas after the body had been exposed to alcohol,” but not from drinking it, simply from having smelled it. Despite the lack of causation, or a robust sample size or even anything resembling reality, the lead author of the study, William Eiler, apparently told Desai that “this poses a major risk to those trying to keep their weight down.” Seriously, “a major risk” because 35 women seemed more hungry after sniffing alcohol? Desai continues. “With America weighing down under an obesity epidemic and two out of every three American adults consuming alcohol, there is an immediate need to find more connecting factors between the brain, food, and alcohol, advise the scientists.”

Except that this idea is easily demolished by one simple fact. Even in countries where alcohol consumption per capita exceeds the United States, which according to the World health Organization is 36 countries, the obesity rates do not follow the same pattern, which you’d expect if alcohol “pose[d] a major risk to those trying to keep their weight down.” According to WHO, Belarus, Andorra, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Grenada, Austria, Ireland, France, Saint Lucia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, the Bahamas, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Spain, Latvia, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Gabon, Romania, Nigeria, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Cyprus all consume more alcohol per capita than the U.S., based on data for fifteen years, from 1990-2010.

And as for the most obese countries, we’re number one according to several sources, including Business Insider, the Telegraph and NationMaster. Although there are some sources that claim in 2013, Mexico took the title from us, yet it, too, is conspicuously absent from the list of countries that drink more than we do, meaning they drink less but are more obese.

Of those 36 countries that the WHO data makes clear drink more per capita than we do, only half of them appear on the OECD list of the top obese nations, from their 2012 Obesity Update report. If alcohol was causing people to eat more, than it seems clear people who drink more should likewise be eating more, too, and we’d see a direct correlation between both sets of numbers.

The three sources other than the WHO list also include on their lists of the most obese nations; Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Tonga, Turkey, UAE, and Zimbabwe, of which only two — Nigeria and Spain — drink more than we do. Again, if any of this were true, it seems obvious that there would be an easily recognizable correlation between both alcohol consumption and the obesity rates, but there isn’t, strongly suggesting there isn’t one at all.

I suspect the researchers know this, but the journalist who took the study and twisted it to fit a narrative probably did not. He finishes with this conclusion. “With America weighing down under an obesity epidemic and two out of every three American adults consuming alcohol, there is an immediate need to find more connecting factors between the brain, food, and alcohol, advise the scientists.” But is that what they’re advising? Because the evidence doesn’t quite measure up to that scary headline. If this were true, wouldn’t doctors be prescribing alcohol for their patients who need to eat more. I’d also say his article seems irresponsible, since it promotes an idea that it doesn’t actually support, and misrepresents the facts to get more people clicking on the link. It’s so bad that only a prohibitionist would fall for it, because facts don’t matter in propaganda, only making alcohol look bad.

Prohibitionists Picking On Past Their Primers

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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:

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“Some geezers are hitting the hootch too hard bbc.in/1PQelb1 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.

Beer May Lessen Chronic Pain

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Here’s another study you won’t see reported by Alcohol Justice, because it goes against their propagandist mantra. A study conducted at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland essentially found that the moderate consumption of alcohol might lessen chronic pain, especially in people with fibromyalgia, defined as a “a syndrome characterized by fatigue and chronic pain in the muscles and in tissues surrounding the joints.”

Drinks Business summarized the findings:

In a study of over 2,000 sufferers of chronic widespread pain, those who often consumed above average amounts of alcohol had lower levels of disability than those who never or rarely drank.

The research into sufferers of fibromyalgia — a rheumatic condition that causes muscular pain and stiffness — surveyed patient’s eating and drinking habits to determine the effect of diet on their symptoms.

Of the 2,239 people surveyed, those who drank 21 to 35 units of alcohol per week were 67% less likely than to experience disability than those who didn’t drink.

The study itself was published on the July issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research under the title “Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk (and severity) of chronic widespread pain: Results from a UK population-based study.”

Aberdeen also put out a pdf with the basics of the study and here’s the Abstract:

Objectives: To determine whether reported level of alcohol consumption is associated with the likelihood of reporting chronic widespread pain (CWP) and, amongst persons with CWP, the associated disability.

Methods: A population-based study in two areas of the United Kingdom. Participants self-completed a postal questionnaire. They were classified according to whether they met the American College of Rheumatology definition of CWP and whether the pain was disabling (Chronic Pain Grade III or IV). They reported their usual level of alcohol consumption. Potential confounding factors on which information was available included age, gender, cigarette smoking, employment status, self-reported weight and height and level of deprivation.

Results: 13,574 persons participated (mean age 55 years; 57% female) of whom 2239 (16.5%) had CWP: 28% reported never regularly consuming alcohol, 28% consuming up to 5 units/wk, 20% 6-10 units/wk and 24% more than 10 units/wk. Amongst persons with CWP, disability was strongly linked to level of alcohol consumption. Prevalence of disability decreased with increasing alcohol consumption up to 35 unit/wk (Odds Ratio (OR)21-35 units alcohol/wk v. never drinkers 0.33 95% CI (0.19,0.58)) adjusted for confounders. A similar relationship was found between reporting CWP and level of alcohol consumption (adjOR21-35 units alcohol/wk v. regular drinkers 0.76 95% CI (0.61-0.94).

Conclusions: This study has demonstrated strong associations between level of alcohol consumption and CWP. However the available evidence does not allow us to conclude that the association is causal. The strength of the associations means that specific studies to examine this potential relationship are warranted.

So while the researchers believe more study is necessary to confirm a causal connection, they do believe there are “strong associations” between moderate drinking and chronic widespread pain, and that those are robust enough to warrant additional study.

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