Craft Beer Lawsuit

Consumers who purchased craft beer from Walmart are now suing the store. Although the beer they bought has names such as Red Flag Amber that signify craft beer status, all the beer is contract brewed at Genesee Brewing in Rochester. The plaintiffs claim that the beer  does not meet the Brewer’s Association of craft beer as “small, independent and traditional.” One issue for the consumers is price. The lawsuit claims the beers are falsely marketed as craft beer to garner an “inflated” price. Coors faced a similar suit about Blue Moon but it was thrown out last year.

The definition of craft beer is a slippery slope and the Brewers Association has changed it several times., partially to enable Boston Beer, brewers of Sam Adams, to continue to claim  the craft beer designation. Boston Beer began the trend of pricing domestically produced “craft beer” at a price point between imports such as Heineken and mega produced beer like Budweiser. Ironically Sam Adams itself was contract brewed for many years.

Price is certainly an issue for consumers but many economists believe demand for alcoholic beverages including beer is inelastic which means people will continue to buy a beer they like even if the price goes up. Taste is perhaps the final arbiter. If Red Flag Amber tastes like a craft beer is Walmart then justified in selling it as such. The Brewers Association has never answered that question.


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Bock Is Back

Today is the March 2017 edition of The Session.  Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site is hosting it. I decided to post an excerpt from Brewing Battles.

Figure 13: Photo courtesy Modern Brewery Age.










Modern Brewery and its contributors advocated bock beer ad campaigns as one response to the need for advertising which reflected this new social environment. Bock beer originated in Bavaria as a special brew for Easter. Brewmasters roast the malt, producing a darker, brown beer richer in flavor than lager. Because bock means male goat in German, the billy goat became the symbol for the drink.[1]

On the eve of Repeal, Modern Brewery was looking forward to “the first Bock Beer Time in 15 years.” By March of 1935, brewers had almost two years of legal production under their belt, and advertising continued as a prime issue of concern. Modern Brewery advocated cooperative advertising as a strategy for increasing beer sales. The USBA had developed a “Bock Beer” advertising program which the journal supported, stating that “Bock Beer Season affords a splendid opportunity for brewers to get together to stabilize prices and to start thinking in terms of profits and dividends instead of large volume sales. After all, the purposes of operating a brewery are first to brew a good beer and second to make money.”[2]

The USBA felt that a bock beer campaign would increase sales in both the short and long term. “Historically Bock has been a beer on which brewers made money because they met a natural demand.” The proposed ad copy stressed the optimism and frivolity of spring which apparently was the essence of beer, particularly bock.[3]

Looking forward to the future of the renewed brewing industry, leaders continued to stress the issue of public relations and their proposed solution of “cooperative advertising.” In 1938, Herbert Barclay used the example of the “allied trades” to point the way. “The glass bottle, copper and brass products, wooden barrel, steel barrel and other industries . . . have shown how such programs can be developed and operated successfully.”[4]

In promoting bock beer advertising campaigns, the editors of Modern Brewer and the USBA were seeking cooperation on several levels. Brewers would have to agree to produce bock beer for distribution at the same time. In 1936, they apparently failed since Modern Brewery noted that “Brewers in New England, New York, Chicago, and other places have been selling Bock Beer ignoring the agreed dates. This is a serious fumble and ruins any effort at cooperative action.”[5]

Modern Brewer could not overemphasize the importance of establishing a specific “Bock Beer Day.” According to the journal, the day “opens the beer season. It should be a festival time, the welcoming of spring.” The impetus for the work required by sales executives and advertising men was that the day would “increase beer sales, not just for the short Bock Beer Season, but … through out the year.” Apparently the task of promoting bock beer was an easy one because “connected with Bock Beer are ancient legends, traditions and folklore-tales that many Americans have never heard-presenting an unexplored mine of material . . . .”[6]

The editors felt that setting a specific date to begin the season was imperative. “On that day, every Bock Beer campaign should break — break like the first crash of thunder announcing the awakening of Spring! Festivals and displays should be timed to start with and follow the opening blast.” The possibilities for events and advertising were limitless and included potential nationwide Billy Goat contests which would culminate in the crowning of “King Bock.” New York City held such a contest in 1936 and was the model for this proposal.[7]

Modern Brewer had suggestions for other products to help with sales in the winter months. English style dark beer was the answer. In 1933 British brewers had undertaken an advertising campaign linking heavier darker beer with winter. This resulted in an increase in sales over seven per cent. There was precedent for American brewers initiating a similar campaign. In 1914 brewers produced 9,200,000 barrels of dark beer in America. Since estimates for 1936 indicated that production of dark beer would be a little over one million barrels, Modern Brewer presented this as another challenge. “Salesmen, advertising men … Is it in your power to regain 8,000,000 barrels of dark beer sales? Can you … in the period starting with the first of November and ending the thirtieth of April 1937?” Modern Brewer had the whole year covered.[8]

Modern Brewer persisted in presenting bock beer as the ideal brewery promotion. In 1937 the journal detailed a campaign undertaken by New Jersey brewers to hold a “Bock Beer festival” in early March. The plans for the festival were apparently very elaborate since the New Jersey Brewers Association had a “16 foot float . . . (with) a full-sized keg from which runs a spillway and down this appears to be a constantly flowing stream of Bock Beer. The base of the float is elaborately decorated with an arrangement of Spring flowers.” The plans also included a Goat show in Newark.[9]

Once again, not all brewers were as supportive of the endeavor as Modern Brewer. Apparently some brewers jumped the gun, and placed bock beer on the market in February. This action indicated that they were ignorant of the fact that “Bock Beer was still the harbinger of Spring, the ancient votive offering to the Goddess of Plenty, the brew that more than 400 years ago in the city of Einbeck was christened “Bock Beer.”[10]

In 1939 Modern Brewer reiterated that the promotional campaign was supposed to “sell the retailer and the public on Bock Beer as the traditional spring drink-and you don’t drink a spring drink in the middle of February.” Because every year was different, the journal proposed that “Bock Beer Day should be set for a definite day in the middle week of the month of March. It should be the same day every year and it should have the backing of every brewer’s association in the country.”[11]

Brewers in the greater New York City area apparently agreed and in February of 1939 announced plans for a joint campaign for bock beer. The proposed copy would run in all New York and New Jersey papers for ten weeks. At the same time the United Brewers Industrial Foundation planned a national campaign that would emphasize the “economic value” of beer.[12]

The type of ad campaigns and promotions Modern Brewer and brewing trade organizations advocated were simultaneously old-fashioned and modern. Their fascination with the Germanic properties of bock beer spoke to a disregard or denial of the problematic nature of associating beer and Germans. The campaign’s emphasis on the craft aspects of distinct beers ignored the standardization occurring due to mass shipping, national markets, canned beer, and the increase of off-premises sales. Not until the late twentieth century, with the revival of craft brewing and an increased interest in home brewing, would bock beer and other specialties once again became a focal point for brewers.

[1] Modern Brewer, March 1933, 21; Downard, Dictionary, 25.

[2] Modern Brewer, March 1935, 19, 37.

[3] Ibid..

[4] Modern Brewer, January 1936, 32.

[5] Modern Brewer, February 1936, 19.

[6] Modern Brewer, December 1936, 18.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Modern Brewer, December 1936, 19.

[9] Modern Brewer, March 1937, 31.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Modern Brewer, February 1939, 18.

[12] “Bock Beer Bungs Pop Officially March 13,” New York Times, February 9, 1939, 32.


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Beer Tourism

From March 31 to April 8, New Hampshire will be celebrating the third annual Craft Beer  Week. New Hampshire has sixty-three breweries and ten distributors.  Events such as a Craft Beer Week, which is marketing beer as a tourist activity, are a big part of today’s craft beer business.

This type of marketing also occurs in the other alcoholic beverage industries. Kentucky has had a Bourbon Trail for almost ten years. The wine industry has used tourism to promote its’ product for years. New Hampshire has a Beer Trail as well as  hosting the Craft Beer Week. Alcoholic beverage tourism seeks to associate the product, beer, bourbon or wine, with a particular place. Such an association increase the sense of authenticity about the product for the consumer.

BrewNH and the Granite State Brewers Association are sponsoring the week of events and activities. Prior to Prohibition most states had a brewers association which was usually connected to the United States Brewers Association. As brewing centralized, both regional breweries and state trade associations disappeared. With the tremendous increase in the number of breweries nationally over the last fifteen years, state and local associations have reemerged.

BrewNH, a non-profit, recognizes the value of the state brewing industry to  New Hampshire and seeks to build tourism around it. Their goal is to promote the state while the Granite Brewers Association wants to promote beer.

I live pretty close to New Hampshire so I might check out some of the events. When Brewing Battles was first published I did a book talk at the Vermont Brewers Festival which was a lot of fun.




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Beer History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently hires Theresa McCulla to oversee its American Brewing History Initiative. The Brewers Association, the trade organization for small and craft brewers is funding the three-year position. McCulla is completing a Ph.D at Harvard in American Studies.   From reading about her and the position here, it appears that the project will focus on beer, particularly craft beer as a food and cultural phenomenon.

The posting of this position in July and the hiring of McCulla has made me think, again, about beer history and how I conceptualize the subject. Before I had this WordPress blog, I had an ersatz blog on my website which was then hosted by Network Solutions.

On April 3 2008 I published the following post which fairly accurately explains ow I approached writing my book, Brewing Battles. Since it is almost nine years old I have done some editing.


These are some thoughts I have been having about beer history and the history of Repeal and Prohibition. Sometimes it feels like I am writing this bog for myself since no one ever comments although I continue to hope that people will.  I wrote the book I wanted to write. In many ways writing Brewing Battles was the fulfillment of long-held ambitions. This is what is important to me.

Through various marketing and advertising campaigns the post-repeal brewing industry sought to generate mass consumption and a prominent place for beer in American society. These goals are not that different from the goals of the 2008 brewing industry as they seek to promote April 7th as the end of Repeal. It is interesting that the Beer Institute, the arm of the big brewers, the Brewers Association,  and beer bloggers all want April 7 1933 to be the historical moment that is celebrated.

Historians, of course, realize that the whole period from April to December 1933 constituted Repeal and that the interaction between the federal government and the liquor industry is essential to understanding both the 18th and 21st amendments.

Most modern industries have trade associations to facilitate their relationship with federal, state, and local governments as well as promote a positive image of the industry. From 1862 to 1986 the brewing industry had the United States Brewers Association to fulfill these services. In 1933 the USBA, founded by brewers whose breweries no longer exist and thus could be considered obscure, stood ready to join the government in reestablishing beer as a legal beverage.

History is on one level about winners and losers. The nature of battle is that the winners often write the history.  In the brewing industry of 2008, Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors, Boston Beer, and some other craft beers are the winners. But how did they obtain their winning status? If we tell that story from today back solely from their perspective we lose much of the richness that is historical narrative.  Frederick Lauer, Christian Moerlein, George Ehret and Frank Jones are no longer household names, This fact alone doe not mean they do not have historical significance.

I began Brewing Battles in the colonial period because the early colonists came from beer drinking societies and they sought to replicate that practice in their new home. The early American brewing industry was small and fragile; it existed as one among many beverages competing for colonial favor. This early period set the stage f or the subsequent rise of beer as America’s premier alcoholic beverage.

My book is heavily footnoted; interested readers can easily find the sources for my analysis. Many non-fiction books toady do not have any footnotes. The reader must take on faith that the author could substantiate his or her claims. Other books footnote only the quotations. Once again the reader must take the validity of the rest of the information on faith.  I was determined to write a book that would have high scholarly standards while being interesting and accessible to readers. The many positive reviews I have received indicate that I have succeeded.



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Beer and Taxes

At the end of January Congress introduced the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. The bill would reduce the tax rate for large and small brewers. Both the Beer Institute which primarily represents mega brewers such as Anheuser Busch InBev and the Brewers Association which is the trade organization for craft brewers support the legislation. Similar legislation was proposed in the last Congress but did not pass. The prior bill had bipartisan support as does the current legislation.

Small brewers who produce less than two million barrels (a barrel is thirty-one gallons) annually would have a reduced rate of $3.50 a barrel for the first 60,000 barrels. All other would have a reduced rate of $16 per barrel for the first six million. The current rate of $18 a barrel would remain for companies that produce more than six million barrels a year.

The beer industry has been trying to reduce their taxes since 1991 when the rate of $9 a barrel, in effect since 1951, doubled to $18. The small brewers differential, enacted in 1976,  defines small brewers as those who produce less than two million barrels. These producers currently pay a reduced rate on their first 60,000 barrels.

The proposed legislation keeps that definition but creates another tier for brewers who produce between two and six million. Thus there is something for everyone in the bill. Mega brewers get some tax relief, small brewers who represent the vast majority of the 4,269 American breweries keep their differential  and some craft brewers like Boston Beer who have outgrown the current small brewer definition also get some relief and more importantly  get to maintain the cachet that goes along with being a craft brewer rather than a large brewer, It is not an accident that the name of the legislation includes the phrase “Craft”.

Although brewers are hopeful that the proposed legislation will succeed in the  current Congressional term, it is not clear that , after twenty-six years, they will finally achieve their goal of tax reduction. The current President is a teetotaler and he will need revenue for some of his deficit enlarging schemes such as a massive tax cut for the rich, the border wall and infrastructure projects.

Excise taxes are a very stable source of revenue that the federal government has relied on to supplement internal revenue since the 1930s. Time and again from the Civil War on, when the state has faced a shortfall they have  looked to the liquor industry to make up the gap. If the bill was not successful during the Obama administration I  don’t see why it will be any more likely in 2017.

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200 and Counting

The post I did last week on the Women’s March was my two hundredth  on this WordPress blog. It was my 238th post if you count the thirty-eight I did  when I had a website hosted by Network solutions which had a sort of blog page.

238 is not that many since I  started blogging in February of 2008. It is about twenty-six a year. That is why I am trying to step it up and  blog at least once a week this year. I am also trying to tweet at least once a day.  I am doing pretty well with both tasks but it is not as easy as it looks.

Because of a time crunch I am doing this shorter, accounting type of post today but there will be longer posts in the future. Next week I plan to blog about one of my favorite topics – the brewing industry and taxes. In two weeks I will tackle beer history and the different meanings of that term. Looking further ahead, I  hope to post about my work on my new book about faculty wives.

See you next week.

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Women’s March 2017

I went to the Women’s March in Boston last Saturday and found it to be an inspiring experience. I will need that inspiration because Donald Trump’s first few days as President have been terrible.

Eight years ago, I attended President Obama’s inauguration which was also inspirational. Of course, that event had a more hopeful tone since it was at the beginning of his time in office. I wrote about  being at his inauguration here.

The Boston March was less hopeful and more defiant. The people who marched are well aware of what Trump has said he will do and they believe him.  People are prepared to resist and fight to maintain civil rights, reproductive rights and liberties.

Since the election I have often felt overwhelmed and have had trouble figuring out what to do  and how to resist.  The march was inspiring  primarily  because it is great to know that over three million people world-wide feel as I do about Trump.  The March organizers are now figuring out what to do next. ( Click here to see their first action.) We will see if the energy of the March turns into a strong, ongoing movement. I hope so.





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Social Media

I have wanted to write a a post comparing Twitter and Facebook for a long time. I have been on Twitter for a longer period of time than I have been on Facebook. I have felt from the beginning that Twitter is a better arena for news, politics and connection with people I do not know.

Like anything, Twitter is what you make of it.  It took me quite a while to get over 100 followers – now I have 108.  Hash tags are everything; I could be better at coming up with good ones and more consistent in the use of them.

I have gotten the most responses to tweets that were essentially complaints about one or another big company.  Not only did individual people chime  in when I tweeted about Blue Host or Turbo Tax but the companies themselves responded.  There is something a little Big Brother about that but it also felt good to vent the frustration that comes with dealing with a faceless mega corporation.

Facebook, on the other hand, feels like a throw back to a village or bar where everyone knows your name.  It is very personal and enables you to stay in a minimal level of contact with friends and relatives. It is great that Facebook tells you when  it is someone’s birthday. Last week I dyed my hair purple and I got over seventy responses on Facebook to the picture I posted. I didn’t get a single response on Twitter to the same information. Once again, maybe a better hash tag would have helped.

To me, this shows that Facebook is about people you already know and Twitter is about a larger community. As a writer, I think Twitter, with the proper hash tags and tweets,  would be great to promote my next book. I don’t think Facebook would help that much except to tell people about the book party.





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A few years ago I started crocheting again after not having done it for a long time. I have wound up doing a lot of it. My latest creation is a Pussy Hat to wear at the Women’s March, January 21, 2017. We were going to attend the main demonstration in Washington D.C. but our schedule means we are going to the sister march in Boston. This is the pattern.

In 2015 I posted about my plans to go to Bowling Green for the ADHS conference. In that post I mentioned that I wanted to add something about crocheting and crafts to the website. That is a renewed intention for 2017.

I have always done some kind of craft. When my sister and I were teenagers we both learned knitting and crocheting She became a knitter while I gravitated to crocheting. When my children were little, I crocheted stuffed animals and other things for them. These are owls I made for some children I know.  For a while I made baskets but I have returned to crocheting. This is a miniature basket I made a few years ago.





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Plans for 2017

Last year was not such a good year, for either the country or this blog. Apparently I only blogged once – to complain about BlueHost, the company that hosts this website. BlueHost contracted with a company called Sitelock who contacted me repeatedly and claimed my website was infected. Of course they wanted a lot of money to fix it. I didn’t do that and eight my  months later my website is still here and seems to be working fine.

Admittedly, since I only posted once, I haven’t been paying that much attention. I am hoping things will improve in 2017. My plan which is somewhere between a resolution and a goal is to post, at least, once a week.  To actually achieve this, I might have to pick a day and then blog on that day every week.  That level of scheduling is probably necessary because I am trying to work three days  a week on my book about faculty wives.  I also plan to tweet every day. I started on January 2nd so it will be 364 tweets if I stick to it.

Those are my plans for increasing my social media presence. As for the website, I do plan to re-mediate any problems or infections. I also plan to change some of the the pages to better reflect my current interests,

As for who is reading what on this site, my to  post for 2016 was, by a wide margin, the one on methylated spirits. That was the subject of a paper given at the Alcohol and Drugs History Society conference in London. I gave a paper about bourbon there. There was one in 2015 in Bowling Green, Ohio where I gave a paper on addicted nurses. Since we have a conference every two years, there will be one in June in Utrecht, Netherlands. I don’t plan to give a paper but I will be attending.

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