The Legitimacy of Taxes

Today’s New York Times has a story about Oakland, California passing a “huge tax increase – 15 times the former rate” on medical marijuana. Members of the pot industry see this as a further step towards legalization of marijuana.  From 1862 on, the liquor industry accepted federal taxation in exchange for the recognition of their business as legitimate. During Prohibition,  Jacob Ruppert and other brewers argued for a return to legal production of alcohol for  tax benefits. Repeal occurred in part because of the desire of very wealthy Americans to avoid personal tax increases during the Great Depression. California has a huge budget crisis.  Oakland will raise $300,000 from the tax increase. The need of governments for steady, stable sources of revenue often triumphs over moral concerns.

marijuana plant

A-B Anniversay

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch. Jeremiah McWilliams had a story about it in Sunday’s St Louis Post-Dispatch. His story detailed the sequence of events that led to InBev taking over the  historic, mega company  Anheuser-Busch. Sidebars contained comments by government officials about the importance of Anheuser-Busch to the St. Louis and Missouri economy.

I don’t feel that the sale of A-B to InBev has really made that much difference in the beer landscape. The company is still a very big corporation producing a high quality, standardized product that I don’t like. At the time of the takeover, commentators wondered if it would set off a new round of mergers. That has not really happened; probably because of the global economic meltdown. Prior to the takeover, craft brewers and the mega breweries occupied two different and fairly distinct tiers of the brewing industry. That has not changed. Distribution issues for craft brewers and the perhaps, unfair advantage the big brewers have, have also persisted.

The biggest impact of the creation of InBev-AB  has been on the employees of Anheuser Busch. In that way the takeover contributed to the country’s negative economic picture. However, a year later, this Bud is still not for me.

( I could not find a link to the story. McWilliams’ blog is lagerheads/stltoday)

Beer and Wine in Israel

In my post about Jewish Beer and Brewing I discussed Israeli and Palestinian beer. While in Israel, I had the opportunity to taste both Goldstar and Macabee. Goldstar is a medium color lager with a decent flavor and a small hoppy taste. Maccabee was pretty bad, on par with Bud or Pabst. My husband had Nesher Malt, which is a non-alcoholic beer which has been produced  since 1935.

Someone who was on our trip had Dancing Camel beer on tap and said it was very good. Their website has several different beers, some with funny names in the style of Shmaltz Brewing and He’Brew. The food scene in Israel is so amazing that I think it is just a matter of time before Israel has a thriving micro-brewery industry.

We also had a tour at the Carmel Winery in Zikhron Ya’akov. Most American Jews grow up drinking Manishevitz at Passover and think that is the extent of Jewish Kosher wine. The company dates back to 1882,Baron Edmund de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Lafite, helped established it.

Unlike Manishevitz, Carmel’s fine wines are not pasteurized which allows them to have a  better flavor. The wine we tasted was very good and our tour guide was an amazing, extremely stylish woman, originally from  Morocco. Unfortunately I can’t remember her name but I do have some pictures.

The guide is the person on the right
Wine Barrels


I had planned to write a post or two, but getting ready for a trip has taken most of my time. On Sunday,  my husband and I will leave for a ten day vacation in Israel. I will not be posting while on the trip, but I will write about it when I get back. I certainly hope to try some of the beers I wrote about in Jewish Beer and Brewing.

I am a Craft Brewer

The problem with the movie Beer Wars and the video, “I am a Craft Brewer,” (available at Andy Crouch’s site) by Greg Koch, shown at the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston, is that they simplify, to the level of good versus evil, very complex issues. Both also imply that drinking a craft beer is somehow a politic act. (Stephen Beaumont, World of Beer makes a similar point).

Beer Wars implies that supporting small craft beers will strike a blow against monopolistic, big business. “I am a Craft Brewer,” declares that craft brewers are “socially conscious.” How does any of this connect to selling and buying beer to drink? The workers of the large brewers, ABIB and Miller Coors are unionized and have been for over one hundred years. Are workers at “socially conscious” craft breweries unionized? Working in a brewery is hard, physical labor; do Sam Calagione’s one hundred workers receive adequate compensation and full health care coverage? Or is working in a company with a higher moral purpose sufficient compensation?

Both Beer Wars and “I am a Craft Brewer” also present a remarkably un-diverse craft brewing industry; overwhelmingly white and male. Shouldn’t a commitment to diversity be a part of social consciousness?

Before anyone responds that I am expecting too much of a business, that is my point exactly. Neither Beer Wars nor “I am a Craft Brewer” explicitly acknowledges that craft brewers are involved in an economic activity and in that way are no different from the mega brewers.

Old Style

A few weeks ago , the Alcohol and Drugs History Society site had a story about Old Style beer.  Old Style Beer was the most famous product of Heileman Brewing Company, the nation’s sixth largest brewer in 1980. Heileman was a victim of the late twentieth century beer wars which saw regional and second tier breweries fall under the advertising onslaught of Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Pabst owns the brand now and the virtual brewer has decided to change the recipe. Pabst is returning to krausening as its’ carbonation method.  The process involves adding  a small amount  of wort that is still fermenting to a already fermented beer.  This is  an older method of adding carbon dioxide to beer.

Old Style
Old Style

Until recently a 24 pack of Old Style cost $13; now it cost $19. Various bars in Nebraska have Old Style on tap; a pitcher used to cost $5.75 now it is $7.25. Many of the nostalgia laden beers that Pabst markets, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Style, and Schlitz, get much  of their appeal from the low price. Some drinkers have called Old Style, “Old Bile”.

Pabst made these changes in response to declining sales. Most of the brands Pabst manages were regional or second tier breweries from the 1950s to the 1980s or whenever they ceased independent production.  The drinkers of these cheap beers with a long history are far removed from people willing to pay $40 for a three course dinner with beer pairings. That is available today at the Beer Table in Brooklyn New York. (I gave a talk there in the fall) The  charming, small bar/restaurant has three beers on tap; two are Italian and one is Belgian. In many ways drinkers of standard American lager and drinkers of craft beer occupy two completely separate worlds. I am not sure what would ever connect them.

Beer Wars – Act Two

I saw the movie yesterday. You can read my review on U.S. News and World Report. Yesterday the same site had an interview I did with Anat Baron, the director of the movie. Both posts are on Kimberly Palmer’s blog, Alpha Consumer. If you have any comments you can leave them at U.S. News, email me, or leave them here. Once I read what everyone has has to say, I will probably post again. Cheers!

Beer Wars

Beer Wars LIVE

Thursday, April 16 — ONE NIGHT ONLY

Live from Los Angeles, an evening dedicated to celebrating the world of craft beer and the American entrepreneurial spirit.

With over 95 million beer drinkers, beer is an American icon and is interwoven into our culture, yet the real story of these independent brewers has never been told. Beer Wars introduces the who’s who in beer while following the journey of small, independent brewers who are challenging the corporate behemoths. The evening will feature the world premiere of the groundbreaking documentary Beer Wars, followed by a spirited LIVE discussion with brewers and experts from the film. Using clips and never before seen footage to spice things up, this inspirational event will cap a movement 25 years in the making at a time when everyone is looking for proof that the American Dream is alive and well.

Panelists include:

* Sam Calagione – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder
* Rhonda Kallman – Founder of New Century Brewing Company and co-founder of Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
* Greg Koch – Stone Brewing Company founder
* Charlie Papazian – Brewers Association president
* Maureen Ogle – Beer historian and author of “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer”
* Todd Alstrom – Beer Advocate founder

Playing in 440 movie theatres nationwide on Thursday, April 16th, Beer Wars LIVE will begin a conversation about the future of beer in America.

For more information, and to purchase tickets for the LIVE event on April 16th at 8pm ET/7pm CT/6pm MT/8pm PT (tape delayed) visit .

I received this press release from Anat Baron, who is the person behind this movie.  I think Ben Stein, comedian and journalist, is the moderator for the panel. I have no idea what he will bring to the conversation. All the panelists are connected to the home brewing and craft brewing movements except for Maureen Ogle who has been more sympathetic to big brewing, particularly Anheuser-Busch before In Bev purchased the  mega brewery. Several blogs, especically Andy Crouch, have indicated the theme of David versus Goliath or big versus small brewing may be passe. I hope to see the movie prior to the 16th and write a review which will be on the US New and World Reports website. If possible, I plan to attend the event and post about that as well.

The Awful Truth

Andy Crouch has a very interesting post about the efforts of Daniel Lanigan to buy a bar in Cambridge. It is of particular interest to me because until recently Daniel owned the Moan and Dove which is my favorite bar. He also owned the Awful Dirty Truth which I think he envisioned as a beer restaurant but I don’t think it worked. The issue Andy is reporting on concerns the liquor license and whether the bar in Cambridge will be open until 2 a.m. The License Commission is concerned because they are trying to eliminate “barrooms””. The neighbors are concerned because of crowd control. These and similar issues were standards parts of the pre-Prohibition world. Licensing was often a tool of Prohibitionists in their attempts to curtail the liquor trade. Liquor control polices developed during Repeal also relied on licensing. A main goal of Prohibition was to eliminate the saloon; post-Repeal polices along with changes in the packaging of beer have encouraged a huge trend away from public drinking toward drinking in the home. The craft beer movement and the growth of beer pubs has reversed that trend somewhat. However, the License Commission hearing shows that public officials prefer drinking to be a part of a dining experience and frown on establishments dedicated solely to drinking.

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