I came across this post about the “Five Best Craft Beers” on a website called The Manual. It reminded me of a post I did over nine years ago, “Beer Books on Amazon“. In 2009, Charles Papazian’s classic, The Joy of Homebrewing was no. 3 on Amazon’s list of “The most popular items in Beer”. It is one of the five books The Manual thinks you should have on your book shelf.
Michael Jackson’s opinion on the best beer in the world, Ultimate Beer was number 23. The Manual chose another Michael Jackson book, Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion.
I decided to look at today’s listing on Amazon to see what has changed in nine years. The number one listing is the Kindle edition of Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser Busch by William Knoedelseder. The sale of Anheuser Busch to InBev was a pivotal event for the brewing industry and it is great that someone wrote a book about it. I would like to read it when I get a chance.
Today on Amazon’s list of books about beer, Papazian is no. 72 and Michael Jackson’s Companion is no. 408. That book is 25 years old which probably accounts for it’s lower listing. Michael Jackson, however, remains an authoritative source on all things related to liquor and drinking.
In 2009 the paperback of Brewing Battles was no. 84 and today it is at 1264. Oh well, it has been in print for 11 years.
In my post from 2009, I said I would, at some point, look and see if Amazon had any listing for temperance books. It turns out they don’t have a separate category for that and in the Social Sciences list, I didn’t find any books about temperance or prohibition. The takeaway is that Amazon lists reflect sales and popular interest not scholarly concerns.
The relationship between women and the brewing industry is an interesting one. Women were a major force in the temperance and prohibition movement which led the brewing industry to oppose women’s suffrage.
Historically women were involved in brewing beer throughout the middle ages and in America before industrialization. This article looks at that history. My only quibble is that women disappeared from the American brewing industry well before the 1950s.
When I was writing Brewing Battles, my research uncovered a few women involved in the United States Brewers Association. Here is what I wrote:
One way to begin to create a beverage that would appeal equally to both sexes was to employ women in the industry. Brewing was overwhelmingly male, but by 1937 Modern Brewer had unearthed two female beer sales personnel. The journal also had a woman, Elsie Singruen, as its technical editor. Ms. Singruen had studied brewing in Berlin, and had written on brewing techniques and the history of the craft. The technician made further history when she addressed the Philadelphia District Master Brewers in 1938. Ms. Singruen, the first female to speak publicly before a brewers group, gave a talk on “the history of American Brewing Literature.*
Modern Brewer, May 1937, 25; December 1937, 64; April 1938, 39.
On June 8, Reading, Pennsylvania held a celebration in honor of the renovation of a statue of Frederick Lauer, a founder and prominent member of the United States Brewers Association. The statue was the first one ever erected in Reading. To help fund the project, the Berks Brewers Guild created a Lauer’s Fellowship ale. Sale of this beer raised over $5,000. This article provides further details about the event.
I wrote about Lauer in both my dissertation and Brewing Battles. In 2003 I wrote several entries about beer, brewing, taxes, and cirrhosis for Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History, a two volume reference work edited by Jack S. Blocker, jr., David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrell.
Here is the entry:
Frederick Lauer, one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent brewers, was born in Germany in 1810. His family, wealthy Bavarian landowners, left for political reasons and immigrated to Reading, Pennsylvania in 1822. In 1826, George Lauer, Frederick’s father built a brewery on the site of an Indian cabin in Reading. Frederick eventually became the owner of this brewery, one of Reading’s prominent citizens, and a well-known lobbyist for the United States Brewers Association in Washington. Lauer actively participated in the USBA from the first national convention in 1862 until his death in 1883.
German-American brewers founded the USBA in response to the initiation of federal taxes on alcohol to help finance the Civil War. The first national meeting was in New York on 12 November 1862 where Frederick Lauer was elected President of the new organization. In 1863 the USBA appointed Lauer chair of a committee charged with overseeing the industry’s Washington affairs.
The most pressing concern of the brewers was a refund of taxes paid on beer brewed before the tax law had become effective. Lauer, along with other brewers, paid taxes on his stock on hand on 1 September 1862. The brewers’ argument for a refund was based on the specific fermentation and storage involved in producing lager beer.
Lauer worked diligently pursuing this matter with Congress but ultimately the brewers won the issue by suing and winning in the Court of Claims. Lauer achieved both a personal and industry victory.
In 1865 Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch established a commission to study the United States revenue system. The USBA and the Association of Ale, and Porter and Lager Beer Brewers, a sister organization of ale-brewers,successfully requested that a panel be authorized to investigate the excise laws of Europe as they pertained to malt beverages. Frederick Collins of New York and Mathew Read of Philadelphia were both ale brewers and they visited Great Britain for two weeks. Frederick Lauer joined them in visiting Belgium, France, the German States and Switzerland.
David Wells, the chair of the Revenue Commission used the brewers’ report, published under the auspices of the USBA, verbatim. Lauer and the USBA were very successful in establishing an amicable, working relationship with government officials. The work they did with David Wells and the Revenue Commission in establishing the method of tax collection for beer was long-lasting. The stamp attached to the spigot of every barrel removed from a brewery remained the way the federal government collected the excise until Prohibition.
Building on their success with refunds and collection the USBA established an Agitation Committee, which Frederick Lauer chaired. This committee met regularly with officials and legislators, particularly when legislation was pending which was relevant to the industry. Their greatest result came from holding the line on tax increases for 34 years. During the same time period, 1864 to 1898, taxes on distilled spirits increased three times.
Frederick Lauer was more prominent for his work as a brewing advocate than as a brewer. The Lauer brewery was never a national leader although it was the third largest in Pennsylvania at one time. Lauer turned over the running of the brewery to his sons, Frank and George in 1882. Lauer died on 12 September 1883. In 1885 the USBA erected a statue in Frederick Lauer’s honor in City Park, Reading, Pennsylvania. The statute still exists and is maintained by the Historical Society of Berks County Pennsylvania.
Downward, William L. Dictionary of the History of the American Brewing and Distilling Industry, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1980.
Mittelman, Amy H. “The Politics of Alcohol Production: The Liquor Industry and the Federal Government, 1862-1900”, Ph.D. dissertation. Columbia University, 1986.
This week Chicago Magazine is asking the question – “Is Goose Island Still a Craft Beer?” The article is a review of a book, Barrel Aged Stout and Selling Out, by Josh Noel. When we spent two weeks in Chicago in 2010, one of the beers we tried was Goose Island.You can read that post here.
A year later InBev Anheuser Busch bought a controlling interest in the company. The sale was a huge issue in the beer blogging world partly because Goose island was a factor in the renaissance of brewing in Chicago. Noel’s book is about that controversy and explores how Goose Island fared under corporate ownership. For craft beer aficionados the issue was whether Goose Island could remain a craft beer if Anheuser Busch produced and owned it.
The answer to that question depends on what matters to you when you buy and drink a beer. If taste is your sole criteria and Goose Island continued to taste the way it did when John Hall brewed it than you won’t care about Anheuser Busch totally controls the company today.
Craft beers image is, however, based on more than taste. By definition, a craft beer is an authentic product brewed by small, independent brewers. For consumers who care about where and how a beer is made, In Bev Anheuser-Busch ownership could be a defining factor in whether or not to buy the beer.
The intervention of macro brewers into the craft brewing world remains controversial. The growth of some craft breweries such as Boston Beer has been another flash point. When does success remove a beer from the craft brewing fellowship? The Brewers Association has consistently changed its definition of craft beer to continue to include the bigger, more successful brewers.
Molson Coors experienced a drop of 4.8% in its sales for the first quarter. They still had a profit of $278.1 million but sales fell in the United States, Canada and Europe which are three of the company’s largest market. They suffered the largest losses in the United States, falling 5.8% to $1.65 billion. Molson Coors attributed this decrease to “industry softness.”
Overall in this first quarter, U.S. beer volume fell 3.8%. Poor weather and a decrease in shipments of premium light beer contributed to the decline. World-wide volume also dropped by 3.8%.
The U.S. Market is the largest segment of Molson Coors’ business, representing 71%. Since 2009 , Miller Coors, Molson Coors’ U.S. operations, has lost market share, dropping by 5%o to 25% in 2017. Coors’ bad showing in the first quarter is symptomatic of larger problems in the beer industry.
Consumers are drinking more craft beer and imports, primarily Mexican beer. Millennials drink eclectically and are particularly fond of wine. Macro brewers had responded to these trends by diversifying into cider as well as by buying craft breweries. ABInBev and Miller Coors,Molson Coors’ U.S. operations, together, have lost 13.4% of the U.S. market share since 2009. Constellation Brands, which owns Corona has a 9.4% market share.
For a while, there have been two beer markets, one consisting of global concerns such as ABInBev and Molson Coors and the other comprised of the thousands of craft brewers. Molson Coors’ market share problems suggests some movement between markets as well as the possibility of a merger.
For several years the brewing industry has been seeking a rollback of the beer taxes of 1991. Until now I was dubious that they would be successful during the Trump administration. The heinous tax bill that the Senate passed last week appears to have achieved the industry’s goal. The Senate put the tenets of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act into the pending tax legislation.
Senator Roy Blount, (R., Missouri) is the sponsor of the beer legislation and his son is a lobbyist for Miller Coors. Cindy McCain’s family owns Hensley Beverage which is a major beer distributor located in Arizona. The National Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade lobby, supports the tax cuts. The McCain family involvement in the beer industry probably explains John McCain’s decision to support the tax legislation despite the complete lack of a process during the writing of the bill. No hearings were held and most Senators voted without reading the legislation.
The craft beer industry markets itself as David fighting the golaiths of Anheuser Busch and Miller Coors. They claim to be providing authentic flavors and products to deserving customers. Their full-throat-ed support of the Senate tax bill would seem to contradict this image. The bill eliminates deductions for student loans, state property taxes, the ACA individual mandate and in general screws anybody who is not in the one percent.
The bill will generate a huge deficit which will enable Republicans, once it is passed, to seek cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The Brewers Association posted the following disclaimer: “Please keep in mind that the BA and its members have had no input on the larger political issues in play on the tax reform bill.” This rings hollow. Craft brewers should be ashamed of themselves for supporting such terrible legislation.
At the latest Alcohol Task Force sub-committee excise taxes came up again as an issue. The lone public health person strongly encouraged the committee to think about raising the state excise tax on liquor which hasn’t been increased since the 1970’s. The business people strongly objected. I tried to make the point, using the federal tax structure as an example, that there could be a way to raise taxes but protect smaller producers. The craft brewer on the committee protested, saying “I pay the same as Anheuser Busch.” This is just not true.
Since 1976 small brewers have had a differential federal tax rate. The Beer Institute, the large brewers trade lobby, which is pushing the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, legislation for tax relief, explains the tax structure:
“Existing federal excise taxes on beer are set at a rate of $18/barrel for brewers of more than 2 million barrels (62 million gallons, or the equivalent of 110 million six-packs) and all beer importers. Since the late 1970s, growth in the small brewing sector has been encouraged by tax credits offered to brewers which produce less than 2 million barrels, cutting their excise tax rate to $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and allowing them a far lower overall effective tax rate on all barrels up to 2 million.”
The craft brewer was totally unaware of this. He apparently has software which calculates his tax rate and that is the extent of his knowledge about federal taxes. This points up a problem in messaging since both the Beer Institute and the Brewers Association, the craft brewers trade lobby, are pushing for taxes to be reduced. I am still of the opinion that they are very unlikely to succeed and the fact that brewers on the ground don’t even know it is an issue only strengths my position.
This Saturday, in Hartford there will be the Small State Great Beer festival. This is the second for the event and they expected more than thirty-five brewers to participate. The beer festival was the idea of three young people with some connection to Hartford. It is being held downtown in Constitution Plaza.
Beer festivals like this are part of the growing trend of municipalities seeking economic development from craft brewing. I am currently serving on a subcommittee of the Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force ( You can read about that here).
My committee is looking at Public Health, Safety and Prevention. Another committee is looking at local economic development.
These two goals could be in conflict since increased economic development via craft brewing will most likely lead to more retail outlets and more drinking. One of the key points of the public health movement around alcohol abuse is to try to reduce retail outlet density and control the amount of drinking that is done.
Both Massachusetts and Connecticut have a large number of craft breweries and both states as well as many others are seeking to obtain revenue from these establishments.
Tuesday I attended a public hearing of the Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force. Deb Goldberg, the State Treasurer, created the task force to look at the laws and regulations governing the alcohol beverage industry. About fifteen people were present and about eight people spoke.
Three groups of stakeholders were present. The largest group, more in numbers than in influence, were people from the public health community. All of these speakers were women and focused on prevention of underage drinking. Their basic demands were for public health to have a seat at the table, more funding for compliance checks, and controls over advertising if possible. Several of the women mentioned tax increases but this was not a major demand.
Viewing alcohol use and abuse through a public health lens is a relatively new phenomena. Before Prohibition, temperance and prohibition advocates saw alcohol use as a moral issue which affected all of American society. During Repeal and after, both the liquor industry and the medical community refashioned alcohol problems as problems of the individual requiring an individual medical response.
Inspired by the anti-smoking movement which saw smoking as having a societal cost, public health advocates began to see drinking in a similar light. The tightening of drunk driving laws, raising the minimum drinking age to twenty-one, and not allowing spirits advertising on television are all examples of the public health approach to alcohol problems.
The liquor industry has been careful to not directly contest public health demands but has continued to present options around alcohol as solely an individual’s choice. Two industry representatives spoke at the hearing. One was from the Distilled Spirits Council which is a longstanding trade association representing seventy-five percent of distilled spirits producers. His focus was on creating a level playing field for distilled spirits and limiting any legislation which works against a free market.
Such an approach has been standard for the liquor industry since Repeal. Distilled spirits producers have long resented the preferential treatment beer has received on both the state and federal levels. In the 1980’s the Distilled Spirits Council had a very effective ad which showed that “Alcohol is Alcohol is Alcohol. The DSC spokesperson repeated this mantra at the hearing.
The other person representing the liquor industry has a farmer-brewer license and owns a very small brewery. These two speakers revealed a reality of the liquor industry which is that it is highly segmented. There are multinational corporations that produce distilled spirits and mega brewers but there are also very small breweries in many local areas and micro distillers in many counties in the country.
The final stake holders in alcohol legislation and regulations are municipal officials whose primary concern at the hearing was the licensing system. Massachusetts distributes liquor licenses for various retail operations using a quota system based on population. The Mayor of Northampton, David Narkewicz has more requests than he has licenses and therefore wants a streamlined process for getting over-quota licenses.
Alisa Brewer, a member of the Amherst Select Board, wants the flexibility to issue different types of licenses depending on the needs of the community. Because all-alcohol licenses are the most expensive many restaurants want the more narrow wine and beer license. Amherst has less of those but has not used all of its all-alcohol licenses. Keeping the number allotted the same, she would like to locally determine how many of each the town distributes.
The hearing revealed a tension that has been present for governments regulating alcohol for a long time. The alcoholic beverage industry and the role it plays in the entertainment industry provides a great deal of revenue for state government. However the state must balance the economic benefits of encouraging alcohol production against the goal of providing public health and safety.
The Alcohol Task Force will wrestle with determining the right proportions for regulations. I will try to keep you posted on further developments.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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 . . . .”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
 Modern Brewer, March 1933, 21; Downard, Dictionary, 25.