Beyond Amethyst: The Conference

This past Friday I attended a conference at Hampshire College about the drinking age and whether it should be changed. Alex Torpey, a graduating student , organized the conference as part of his Division III, or senior project.

Ralph Hexter introduced the keynote speaker and indicated that he feels the issues around the drinking age and drunk driving hinge on responsibility. President Hexter is a signer of the Amethyst Initiative which called for lowering the drinking age to eighteen. Continue reading “Beyond Amethyst: The Conference”

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.

This was cross-posted from Women Grow Business

“Am I a Woman in Business?” Learning to Promote Yourself the Same Way Businesses Do


Am I a woman in business, a businesswoman?
That is an interesting question for me to contemplate in writing a post for Women Grow Business. I started my website,, and my blog, Musings, because I wrote a book, Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer.

Many years ago, I had a business, Academic Publicity, that provided promotional help for academic authors.

In retrospect, my business plan had a fatal flaw: academics didn’t want to pay for my services.

In general, academics do not think of themselves as writers and thus do not want to pay to increase their book sales. The existence of the book itself punches their tenure ticket. And most academics write only one book. The one major business success I had was getting my husband‘s book, Nazism, the Jews, and American Zionism, 1933-1948 into paperback.

New business, young family, and next steps
At the time that I was running Academic Publicity, I had completed a PH.D in American history and had two small children at home. I had started the business because I was realizing it was unlikely I would be able to get an academic job without significant disruption to my life.

The perfect vision of hindsight
Because of life’s increasing complexity with family, including buying a new home, I ended the business after two years. With the perfect vision of hindsight, I realized that was too short a time to grow a business. I pulled the plug on Academic Publicity so quickly because I was losing money and I already had some feelings of guilt because I had been unable to find an academic position.

I think inadequacy, guilt, and feelings of illegitimacy are all common problems for women as they negotiate between professional goals and family life. I ended the business and quickly looked around for some way to be gainfully employed.

I settled on becoming a nurse.
I have been a nurse for 14 years and have worked in many different healthcare settings. I do not feel that being a nurse replaced being a historian. I brought all the skills and lessons I had acquired from my academic career, my business, and my family life to my new profession. Again, I think this is typical for women.

Many women’s lives do not occur in a linear fashion.
Both male and female baby boomers are famous for second acts and continually reinventing themselves. I believe this has always been truer for women and has certainly been true for me.

Contemplating a book on beer
Although I enjoyed being a nurse, I had always wanted to publish my dissertation as a book and that remained a goal. About seven years ago, with an increased focus, I began to contemplate taking material from my thesis and writing a book on beer. I was fortunate enough to obtain a publishing contract in the spring of 2006 and Brewing Battles was published in December 2007.

I believe persistence was the key to my achieving this long held goal.

And to achieve anything you probably have to have a passion for the endeavor.

Algora Publishing (who published Brewing Battles) is a very small press, providing very little marketing support for my book. So I have had to market the book myself. Luckily, I had the experience from once running my business Academic Publicity to fall back on. However, in the 15 intervening years since I ended the business, publicizing and marketing books changed completely.

I have marketed the book in both traditional and new ways.
I sent out advance copies to various academic and trade journals, hosted a book party, and have given book talks. Of course, almost all of my correspondence and press releases have been via email (…haven’t done any direct mailings). And many blogs also received my press release about Brewing Battles, in addition to traditional print media.

Learning curves and achieving mastery on the blogosphere
The blogosphere represents the most significant change from the world of book marketing 20 years ago. Setting up my own blog was definitely a challenge with several false starts. Every new task I have attempted has come with a new learning curve and a deep sense of accomplishment when I achieve mastery.

Persistence is key here as well.

Finding the answer to “Am I a woman in business?”
So in answer to my original question, I am a writer and that means I am in business for myself. My varied life experiences have taught me that everything in life is about marketing, marketing yourself. Not in a conceited or self-absorbed way but in the sense that…

You have to put yourself forward and promote yourself in the same way that businesses do.


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!


I read  the blog , New Kid on the Hallway which focuses on her leaving the history profession and going to law school. Of course this reminds me of my own professional journey. When I decided to give up trying to get an academic position and went back to school to be a nurse I did that on my own. I had no community of historians, academics or nurses to support me. Fifteen years later blogs exist to connect people with similar interests. I think this is one of the most positive aspects of the “new media”; people can be connected  even if they do not have an institutional or professional affiliation. An independent scholar, a freelancer writer, a self-employed entrepreneur can all find a community and do not have to pursue their goals in social isolation. Blogging does not replace face to face communication and interaction  but it can give someone who has no workplace to go to a greater sense of identity.

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.

New Drug Czar

Yesterday Vice President Joe Biden announced the appointment of Gil Kerlikowske as the country’s drug czar. Kerlikowske is the Chief of Police in Seattle, Washington. Both the city and the state have been in the forefront of harm reduction. Although Kerlikowske has not been a strenuous advocate of such policies, he has not opposed them.

In 2008 drug policy reformers sought lessons from  Prohibition and Repeal and hope from the election of Barack Obama. Many now feel that the appointment of Kerlikowske justifies that hope. Activists might have preferred a public health expert as  the new czar, but  Kerlikowske’s neutrality represents a significant change in policy from the Bush administration.

Most of the money the federal government spends on preventing illegal drug use is on the supply side rather than on treatment. For four years,I worked as a  nurse  in a  methadone clinic. That experience convinced me that education, support, and ongoing treatment are the keys to reducing our country’s drug addiction problem.

Jewish Beer and Brewing

On Sunday, I gave a talk at the Jewish Community of Amherst on “Jewish Beer and Brewing.” I didn’t actually write that much about this topic in my book, Brewing Battles, so this talk was a combination of material from the book and other sources. For this blog post, I will present primarily the new material.


In 1840, the Jewish population in America was about 15,000. By 1880, there were 250,000. The majority were German Jews. Their reasons for leaving were very similar to non-Jewish Germans. Many of the German Jewish immigrants were involved in business including banking and department stores. German Jews had not been prominently involved in brewing in Germany and thus did not gravitate to that industry in America. The industry that both German and Eastern European Jewish immigrants played a major role in was the garment industry as well as department stores. My father and his family all worked in the garment industry. Continue reading “Jewish Beer and Brewing”

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