Are We Rome?

We are currently in a period where macro brewers are buying craft brewers in an attempt to capture some portion of that market. Heineken becoming the sole owner of Lagunitas is a recent example. Heineken is the second largest brewer in the world. In 2014, when Lagunitas was still independently owned,  it was the sixth largest craft brewer.
To reflect on what macro ownership of craft brewers means, I am reposting an entry that discussed the merger of InBev and Anheuser Busch.

July 14, 2008

Are We Rome?


The Coliseum

I was browsing in one of my local bookstores and came across a book entitled, Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America  by Cullen Murphy. It occurred to me that this concept could be applied to Anheuser-Busch and it’s sale to InBev. When I was in junior high school my history teacher showed us a chart of world civilizations which depicted their rise and fall. Looking at the chart, I had the, somewhat inevitable, realization that even America could not stay ascendant forever. This insight is even more applicable for economic institutions.

In the 1950s, consensus historians, firmly believing in the uniqueness and permanence of the dominant American state, wrote business history from this perspective. If a company followed good business practices and integrated fully both horizontally and vertically, they would inevitably rise to the top and stay there. Pabst Brewing was a prime example of this for Thomas Cochran. However the subsequent course of events for Pabst as well as other companies including U.S. Steel and General Motors exposed the flaws in this approach to American history.

Anheuser-Busch is noteworthy for having survived and prospered through several waves of mergers, consolidation, and cost-cutting while retaining both its independent status and its family heritage. Yet to have expected that it could continue to maintain its position indefinitely was unrealistic. In a global market threats to a large company’s stability can come from various directions. ABInBev may very well continue its dominance in the United States but the increased cost of grains and hops as well as the flat market share which made Anheuser-Busch vulnerable in the first place has not changed.

Macro brewers have also faced increased competition from craft beers and imports. Jay Brooks, in the Brookston Beer Bulletin, makes the very interesting point that foreign ownership of A-B and MillerCoors means that Boston Beer, Yuengling, and Sierra Nevada are now the largest “American” brewers. Pabst is disqualified since it is essentially a virtual brewer and primarily a marketing company. Returning to the Roman Empire analogy, these craft brewers would then be playing the role of barbarian invaders of the late Roman Empire. Of course InBev is also playing that role. If we look at this whole issue through the lens of taste, then craft brewers are a civilizing force.


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Abortion is Legal but Television Doesn’t Know That

Last Sunday I watched an episode of Madam Secretary, a show on CBS. One of the characters, Daisy, played by Patina Miller, is pregnant. This episode was the first time her pregnancy was mentioned. The character is single  and her most recent relationship lasted one week. She  briefly dated a man who turned out to be a CIA agent who was subsequently killed.

The show portrayed  Daisy’s pregnancy as a fait accompli and did not indicate that the character considered any other options such as an abortion. Mainstream television very rarely show a woman considering all of the choices that are available once she finds out she is pregnant. Even more rare is a show where the woman chooses to terminate the pregnancy.

All kinds of women have abortions for a variety of reasons. In the show Daisy is a very ambitious women who initially had a life plan that involved marrying an equally ambitious man. Couldn’t the show at least consider that such a woman might think over what her options were since she is facing becoming a single mother?

It  is entirely possible that the actress is actually pregnant and that’s why this has become part of the story. However the show still could have shown her considering an abortion even if in the end she choose to continue her pregnancy. Abortion is legal and many women choose to have one. However television does not reflect this reality.

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Makeup for Mature Women

Recently I started watching a lot of makeup videos on YouTube. Prior to this I had not done much with YouTube. I had watched some music videos, some old television shows and some skating videos. I had decided after Trump’s election to stop watching reality tv, especially those shows that promote uber rich people such as The Housewives franchise or the Kardashians. Reality tv gave Trump a platform that helped get him elected. I would hate to see a President Kardashian in the future. Since I have been finding the news so depressing I turned to YouTube.

The makeup videos I have been watching are mostly part of a category considered “Makeup for Mature Women” Even if it is a young woman doing the tutorial it is about applying makeup to the older face. One interesting thing about these videos is that mature apparently starts at 35.

Makeup videos share characteristics of commercials which are primarily about generating an anxiety over your looks so then you will buy the product to remedy the problem. Often before seeing the commercials you may not have even realized that you have such an issue.

Makeup videos on YouTube are not overtly selling you specific products. Rather they are selling a vision, often unattainable, of perpetual youth. The people who make the videos are perceived of as “real” because they are not public figures or paid spokespeople.

Usually they are an older woman, ranging from someone in their 40’s to someone in their 70’s. They have developed skin and makeup problems as they aged and this has prompted them to go on YouTube to describe their solutions. The format is that the woman appears with a clean unadorned face and shows you how to apply makeup to get the finished look. There are also videos that are tests of products with the person giving her recommendations.

Often they apply a lot of makeup and I am not sure the result is that great. The other issue is that the face they start with often looks good and does not have any glaring problems. So, not a lot of wrinkles, dark circles, or sagging skin. In this way, they are replicating how commercials present flawless people to sell you their products.

I don’t know what would possess someone to expose themselves like this but it is on the spectrum of public promotion that has me writing this blog. I started watching these YouTube videos to distract myself from the news while not indulging in the unreality that is reality tv. The irony is that make up videos on YouTube turn out not to be not much realer than reality tv.

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Amherst Town Meeting

I live in Amherst, Massachusetts. Our form of government is representative Town Meeting with an elected five person select board and a professional town manager. About thirty-five  municipalities in Massachusetts have representative town meeting. Many smaller towns have open Town Meeting where any resident can attend.

Right now there is a nine person elected Charter Commission that is looking at our form of government and how to improve it. I have watched many of their meetings on public access television. Although their charge was to examine our form  of government, many of the members have seemed single-mindedly focused on getting rid of Town Meeting.

They have to have a draft of their proposed charter ready by sometime in July and as far as I can tell they haven’t discussed anything except replacing Town Meeting. The most contentious issues in Town Meeting and in Amherst in general are zoning, development, and planning. How the new form of government the Charter Commission wants us to accept will deal with those issues has not really come up yet.

I feel that open Town Meeting is one of the most democratic institutions in our country. Representative Town Meeting is less democratic but still much more accessible to the ordinary citizen than the Mayor and 13 person City Council the Charter Commission is proposing.

To make my position on retaining Town Meeting clear, I sent the following letter to the Charter Commission and to our local paper, the Amherst Bulletin.

Dear Charter Commission:

My name is Amy Mittelman and I am a Town Meeting member from Precinct 5. I have lived in Amherst since 1986.

When my husband and I first moved to Western Massachusetts, we lived in Northampton. A t that time I was a member of a group called Northampton Citizens Action Network (NCAN). We would regularly attend City Council meetings. This degree of citizen involvement was so unusual that the newspaper published stories about us.

Getting an issue before the Mayor and the City Council was a fairly arduous task. Your best bet was to form and foster connections with individual City Councilors  who then might( but also might not) advocate for your position.

My experiences in Northampton stand in sharp contrast to those that I have had as a Town Meeting member. Two or three Town Meetings ago, Amherst  Town Meeting was able to change the budget to provide funding for para professionals in the school libraries. That kind of real-time  citizen intervention into the budget process could never have happened in Northampton.The fact the Town Meeting took such  an action made me proud to part of the process.

In Northampton three people participating in government was noteworthy because it was so out of the ordinary. In Amherst, twice a year, 240 people participate in as many as 10 long meetings. Amherst is clearly the more democratic option. I hope as you proceed with your deliberations you will continue to consider maintaining town meeting and improving it. To do anything else would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Amy Mittelman


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Louis’s Pyjamas

On Wednesday, I read an excellent op-ed in the New York Times by Lisa Selin Davis who happens to be a family friend. Entitled, “My Daughter is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy,” it is about her daughter’s gender identity.

Lisa’s daughter likes to wear “track pants and t-shirts” and has short hair. She is secure in her identity as a girl and finds it perplexing that adults can’t seem to understand that.  When I was growing up, people deemed my sister a “tomboy” while I was quite “girly” because I loved dresses and dolls.

Lisa’s point is  that there is a wide spectrum of behavior that fits within being a girl. Our society has very rigid gender roles and retailers persist in presenting a narrowed version of gender. Boys also face restricted gender options. After reading Lisa’s op-ed I remembered an essay I wrote  when my older son was five. Here it is:

October 1991

Louis’s Pajamas

      I have two sons – age five and a year and a half. When the older one, Louis, was a newborn baby, my husband and I read a newspaper article about a psychologist’s study of sissies. If your son plays dress up and you take pictures, you’re helping to create a sissy.  Shortly after, we bought a crib doll for Louis and named it Sissy Sam.

      If your baby has blonde hair and beautiful curls and wears any color other than blue, people assume he’s a she. Keep the hair long, put barrettes in it, and your pediatrician tells you that you are putting your child at risk.  At risk for what?

      Last year I went shopping for winter pajamas for Louis. My choices were tanks, military aircraft or football; I went to the girls department and bought two pairs.  The first had a picture of cats – probably female – in a jeep carrying skis and skates on a white background. It said “Let It Snow.”  The other pair was pink.

      Girls will be girls and boys will be boys. The manufacturers of children’s clothing won’t let you forget that.  If, as a parent, you have other ideas about people being people and coming in all shapes, sizes and colors, you are swimming upstream.

      I am not sure you can control what kind of man your son will become. One of the first things I realized when I gave birth was that the baby had come out with his own personality. Louis is a sweet, sensitive boy who loves playing make-believe with characters. He likes dinosaurs and the Yankees and wants to learn how to play ice hockey and own a Barbie doll. Too feminine?  Too masculine? I only hope he’s happy and learns how to make other people happy.

This is a picture of Louis with my mother at the beach in Lake Waubeeka, Danbury, CT. 


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Quarterly Report

Since it is the fourth month of the year I thought I would take stock of my stated goals to tweet at least once a day and to blog at least once a week.

Tweeting has been going very well. I have tweeted every day and I have often tweeted several times a day.  The current political situation has helped. I started the year with 1938 tweets; as of today I have 2095. That is thirty-six more tweets than the number of days. I have also gained a few more followers but I don’t have an exact count. That number also fluctuates. Tweeting every day has been relatively painless and pretty enjoyable.

Twitter has its own analytics which I think is an attempt to get me to buy ads. It counts impressions. According to that metric, my top tweet recently was one about figure skating.

Blogging has been harder. I have blogged every week so far but it hasn’t been that easy to find topics. I try to write it a day or two before Friday and then have it ready or almost ready to post. It is too much to think of a topic, write and post it in one day.

The topics that have been easiest for me to write involve alcohol, primarily beer. I do want to start posting about other topics, particularly the material connected to my book about faculty wives.

I can’t really tell if blogging more frequently has led to increased readership. I seem to have about twenty-five people on most days.

I set these goals for myself because I wanted to increase my online presence and I thought the structure would help me with writing my book.  That has not been going as well. Because my life since the end of October has been very crazy with a lot of family issues, I haven’t had a lot of time. Since I wanted to maintain my commitment to blogging, I have done that but not really any other writing.

Given that, my goals for the next quarter are to continue the tweeting and the blogging but find a way to work consistently on the book. I will keep you posted on my progress.


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Happy National Beer Day

Today is National Beer Day. It commemorates the day drinking beer became legal after fourteen years of Prohibition. In 2008, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the event, I wrote the following blog post about Repeal. The post also included information  about the Theo. Hamm Brewery which reopened after Prohibition but no longer exists. Much of the material in the post comes from my book, Brewing Battles.

April 7 2008
Repeal – Seventy-Five Years Later

When Franklin Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States on March 4, 1933 the country was in the worst economic depression in history, with 13 million people unemployed. Roosevelt set to work trying to repair the nation’s economy. On March 12 he addressed the nation in the first of his many “fireside chats.” The president declared a bank holiday. Immediately after the fireside chat, he sent a message to Congress requesting immediate modification of the Volstead Act to exempt beer with an alcoholic content no greater than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Roosevelt believed that “now would be a good time for beer.”[1] The President was calling on the beer industry to provide the nation with a much-needed boost in morale as well as assist him in his agenda of reform and repair of the economy. In turn the brewers would get a much desired chance to start anew.

As the movement to repeal Prohibition gathered steam, proponents for reestablishing legal liquor sought to remove federal control and return regulatory powers to the states. State regulation of liquor prior to Prohibition had involved licensing of retail establishments as well as sumptuary legislation. States generally did not tax liquor before 1933. The Twenty-First Amendment repealing Prohibition and legalizing the production and sale of alcohol achieved the return of regulatory control to the states. The federal government resumed its primary concern with taxation.

The states, as well as the federal government, saw the brewing industry as a source of economic relief. Following Repeal, many states established Liquor Control Boards and began taxing alcoholic beverages. The highest tax the brewers had paid prior to Prohibition had been $3 a barrel.Modern Brewery estimated that the newly reestablished brewers were facing tax increases of “400 to 600 percent.”[2]

After fourteen years of Prohibition, on April 7, 1933 the legal production of beer resumed. The New York Times proclaimed that “beer flows” in 19 states. The newspaper was recording the return of legal 3.2 percent alcohol beer to many cities across the nation including Philadelphia, St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. All of these municipalities held “gala night” in honor of modification of the Volstead Act.[3]Prior to Prohibition the country had approximately 1250 brewers; by June there were 31 brewers operating. In 1934 there were 756 brewers who produced 37,678,313 barrels. Production for 1914, the last “normal” year prior to Prohibition, was 66,189,473 barrels.[4] The brewing industry had achieved an amazing rebirth; the public was extraordinarily grateful. The challenge for the brewers, as the nation sought to regain its economic footing, was to maintain their good public image and restore their industry.

Repeal proponents had touted increased revenue as a benefit which made liquor taxes inevitable. Amazingly, a week after beer became legal, legislators passed a tax bill. Echoing their Civil War predecessors, Congressmen sought the highest possible rate from the beer tax that would not cause fraud and corruption. They settled on a rate for legal brewers of $5 a barrel plus a $1,000 annual license fee for each brewery.[5]

In the immediate aftermath of modification of the Volstead Act and prior to ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment, the government was looking forward to the economic benefits that Repeal would bring. Postmaster General Farley predicted that “it will provide approximately $800,000,000 annually in revenue.”[6] Taxes on beer had helped to reduce the government’s operating deficit and Farley was optimistic that the end of Prohibition would help reduce federal taxes on everything else.

Michigan was the first state to ratify the Twenty-First Amendment and the amendment became final on November 7, 1993 when Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah voted their approval. The amendment’s language made Repeal effective December 5, 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment and its antidote the Twenty-First stand as unique events in American history. The first outlawed a legal industry and deprived thousands of business people of their livelihood. The Eighteenth Amendment is the only amendment to have been repealed. The Founding Fathers used state constitutional conventions to enact the Constitution; the Twenty-First Amendment was enacted in the same manner. Joseph H. Choate, Jr., as head of the Voluntary Lawyers Committee, contributed this expeditious and successful legal approach as part of the anti-Prohibition movement.[7]

Both the government and the liquor industry were quite comfortable reestablishing their old relationship, particularly since officials were willing to limit tax increases, citing concern over the continued presence of bootleggers. Tax revenues had fallen to 1.5 billion in 1932 — the lowest collection since 1917; following Repeal they began to rise. In the first six months that legal 3.2 beer was available, Americans drank 7,037,969,264 eight-ounce glasses. This gave the government $84,917,539 in revenue.[8] Liquor taxes continued to grow in strength; by 1936 excise taxes on alcohol contributed thirteen per cent to the federal tax system, providing fiscal support for New Deal legislation.[9]

The brewing industry, newly legal and providing a product for which there was pent-up demand, was well situated to meet the goals of New Deal legislation that sought to increase production and reduce unemployment. Unlike other industries, they also had a history of government regulation and control. The challenge for the brewers would be to flourish in a new regulatory environment.

[1] Schlesinger, Almanac, 461-462; Quoted in Kenneth S. Davis, FDR, The New Deal Years 1933-1933 (New York: Random House, 1986), 63.
[2] Oregon State Archives, “Prohibition in Oregon: The Vision and the Reality,” (Accessed April 7, 2017); Modern Brewery, February 1933, 20. Modern Brewery Age began as The Brewer’s Art (1923-1932), and then became Modern Brewery (1933-1935), Modern Brewer (1936-1940), and then Modern Brewery Age (1940-2004). It is now available online only at
[3] “Beer Flows in 19 States at Midnight as City Awaits Legal Brew Today,” New York Times April 7, 1933, 1.
[4] United States Brewers Association, Brewers Almanac (Washington, D.C.: USBA, 1940), 14; “Chronology of the American Brewing Industry,”, January 16, 2002).
[5] Carl Miller, “We Want Beer: Prohibition and the Will to Imbibe,” Beerhistory.com (accessed January 20, 2006).
[6] “Farley Holds Liquor Will Balance Budget,” New York Times,September 1, 1933, 36.
[7] Brewers Almanac, 1940, 60; United States Brewers Association, Brewers Almanac (Washington, D.C.: USBA: 1980), 110; Robert LaForge, “Misplaced Priorities: A History of Federal Alcohol Regulation and Public Health Policy” (Sc. D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1987), 135-136.
[8] New York Times, October 28, 1933, 32.
[9] Amy Mittelman, “Taxation of Liquor (United States)” in Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia, ed. by Jack Blocker, et al, (Santa Barbara, 2003), vol. 2, 609-61.

Excerpted from Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (Algora Publishing, 2007) copyright Algora Publishing 2007





View of the Theodore Hamm Mansion at 671 Greenbrier. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1954.

In 1934 the 756 brewers operating breweries faced a world they could not have completely prepared for and there was nothing preordained or predetermined about who would survive and who would fail. Some breweries initially succeeded but now no longer exisit. One such brewery was the Theo. Hamm Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company dated from 1864. Theodore Hamm, the founder was from Baden, Germany. The company incorporated in 1896; Olympia Brewing bought the brewery in 1975. William Hamm gave St. Paul Hamm Park in 1910 to honor the memory of his father, Theodore. The park still exists as does the site of Hamm’s original brewery. The brewery is no longer operational and there are plans to turn part of the building into an Asian Community Center.[1]

 William Hamm’s son, also named William, was famous for having being involved in a kidnapping which remains notable because the case, in 1933, was the first time the FBI used a now standard procedure for identifying finger prints. The “latent fingerprint identification” procedure uses silver nitrate to obtain fingerprints from surfaces that can not be “dusted” for prints. Using this method the FBI determined that the Barker/Karpis gang had been behind Hamm’s kidnapping.[2]

[1] Downard, Dictionary, p. 87; “A Walk Through Historic Upper Swede Hollow by Karin DuPaul St. Paul, Minnesota © 1994”,, (accessed on April 7, 2017); New York Times, June 12, 1931, 16; personal communication, Tom Brock, Marketing Projects Director,St. Paul RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority, March 26, 2007.
[2]“A Byte Out Of FBI History: Latent Prints in the 1933 Hamm Kidnapping,, (accessed on April 7, 2017).

unpublished material – copyright Amy Mittelman 2017.





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Russian Beer Taxes

This post is in honor of the issue that has been dominating the news cycle for at least a week: Russia  and its role in the presidential election. I don’t know if you can correlate  a decrease in drinking beer with an increase in nefarious behavior but it is a fact that beer production in Russia has declined significantly since 2010.

In 2010 the Russian government decided to raise beer excise taxes by 200 percent. Before this, beer was not legally considered alcohol. It was an attempt to curtail drinking and a response to alcoholism in the country. In 2010 Russian brewers produced 1 billion deciliters, about 630,000 barrels (31 gallons to a barrel). In 2015, they produced 659.5 million deciliters. Production has steadily gone down.

Since 2010, the Russian government has increased the excises taxes on beer every year.This year the Russian government once again raised taxes. Although overall production has decreased, the largest brewers have been losing market share to craft beer.

It is not clear that the high excise taxes have produced any decrease in alcoholism rates.  The taxes, however, contribute money to the national budget. Beer excise taxes are 1.3 percent of the budget and 45 percent of the overall alcohol excise taxes.

Although most people  would assume that Russians are heavy vodka drinkers, the drink of choice is beer. Russia ranks 26th in world-wide beer consumption. The United States is 17th.

States can often have two motives for taxing alcoholic beverage – financial and sumptuary. Governments need to find a balance since deeply curtailing consumption can hurt the bottom line. Russia’s tax policy for beer seems to be more weighted towards public health and decreased consumption.

For more information about Russian beer, see this USDA report.

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Do women like beer?

The stereotypical picture of a beer drinker is a man who guzzles a six-pack at a sporting event. Most beer advertising, especially for mega produced beer, focuses on attracting this consumer prototype. This, of course, has led to a great deal of misogynist  commercials over the years. Here is one example:




Both before and after Prohibition, the vast majority of people who drank beer or worked in the brewing industry were male. There is, however, a long history of women brewing beer for family consumption during the Middle Ages in Europe and the colonial period in America. In the late nineteenth century, saloons were the  site for most public consumption and the clientele was overwhelmingly male. However, most saloons had a side  entrance for women to enter and buy a growler to bring home.

In 2009, I attended a talk about women in the brewing industry at that time. You can read about that here and here.

Today about thirty-two percent of craft beer drinkers are women. They are less well represented on the business side. Only four percent of over 1700 breweries  have a female lead. Several events this yea are focusing on women in the beer industry. Over Memorial Day weekend South Florida will have first first Female Brew Fest. The event will showcase only those breweries who have a “female head brewer, brewmaster or that are owned and operated” by a woman.

A few weeks ago in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the co-owner of Pearl Street Brewery, Tami Plourde, gave a talk on women in the beer industry. The growing involvement of women in brewing is not limited to the United States. Recently the Ontario Craft Brewers created new scholarships for as many as six women to complete level 1 of the Cicerone Certification Program. The co-head brewer of Folly Brewpub  in Toronto is Christina Cady. Toronto has at least two organizations of women beer drinkers; Barley’s Angels which is an international organization and the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. Here in the States, I follow the blog, Women Enjoying Beer.






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I was lucky enough to spend last week in beautiful Delray Beach, Florida. I didn’t do that much; mostly walked on the beach and swam laps in the pool.  We returned to 15 inches of snow. If I could have stayed I would have. Here are some pictures from the trip.

Birds on the beach.

The pool at East Wind Beach

Bridge opening over the Inter-coastal.




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