Two years ago, two business entrepreneurs had an idea to get beer into the hands of more people, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They talked to Pilsner Urquell, who agreed to bankroll the pair. The idea was simple enough. Vending machines currently dispense almost every thing under the sun already, from a pack of gun to expensive iPods. Why not beer? And actually beer is already dispensed in vending machines in some places, Japan for example, as shown below. Notice they even dispense beer bottles, too.
And in other places in Europe, such as the train station in Brussels, where I snapped this picture in January. Along with a wide array of food and other beverages, for a few Euros you could get a can of Hoegaarden, Heineken or Grimbergen beer.
And when I was in the Army in the late 70s, stationed in New York City, we had a vending machine in our day room that dispensed cans of beer for a few coins, something like 50 or 75 cents. But that’s a relative rarity here in the U.S., where we’re completely out of step with the rest of the civilized world in our approach to alcohol. For example, we have no problem showing bloody scene after scene of violent murder and death on television, yet it’s illegal to show someone drinking a beer. The idea is, as I understand it, showing people drinking might lead kids to take up drinking. So using that logic, does that mean it’s okay if our youth turn into murdering psychopaths? It does say something profound, I think, about our priorities as a society though, and especially how screwed up they are. Death, murder, and crime: perfectly acceptable as entertainment. Alcohol: gasp, oh no, not that. Don’t show that. People might get the idea that having a good time is okay.
In the Czech Republic, where per capita beer consumption is the highest in the world, the only problem with a beer vending machine is how to keep people under the age of eighteen from buying it, so Karel Stibor and David Polnar came up with a solution, a card reader that solves this basic problem. From the Prague Post report:
Curiously, the most obvious American objection isn’t even mentioned. If someone tried this here, the hue and cry would undoubtedly be about how easy it would be for kids to borrow or steal their parents or another adult’s I.D. In the Czech Republic (and most of the rest of Europe) that’s not even an issue because alcohol is not the stigmatized taboo it is in the U.S. So this might actually work in Europe, but it would requite a paradigm shift in thinking before it would be viable here.