Federal Beer Tax Decrease Unlikely

Every day I get Google alerts about the brewing industry. Today I got one that linked to a Northern Michigan TV news story about a possible decrease in federal beer taxes. Apparently the proposed legislation would cut the small brewers tax in half and reduce what large brewers pay by one-ninth.

The video showed an earnest craft brewer, at his plant, indicating how he could use the extra money to grow his business. It also showed an appealing pint of beer.

Craft Brewer
Craft Brewer

I thought I should see if anyone else was talking about this so I typed into Google “federal beer tax decrease.” Google responded, “Did you mean to search for: federal beer tax increase.”

I think that tells the whole story. It is very unlikely, in this economic climate, that beer taxes will go down. It remains more likely that beer and other “sin” taxes would go up to help finance health care reform and other projects of the Obama administration.

This and That

Here are some interesting links from around the web. They are mostly alcohol related but I couldn’t resist this story about giant jellyfish.

Giant Jellyfish Washed Ashore
Giant Jellyfish Washed Ashore

My favorite part of the article is that the Japanese are trying to make consumable products out of these creatures, including ice cream.

This past weekend there was a brewers festival in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was the first year and it sounds like a lot of fun.

Carla Champion, The Beer Babe, talked at a seminar entitled, ” I Wished My Girlfriend Liked Beer.” The subject of women and beer seems to have become a required element of any beer festival. As someone who has been drinking beer since I was eleven, on some level I don’t get it. I think more women probably like beer than is commonly known. It is more an advertising and marketing issue.

Roger Protz, beer-pages.com, has an interesting post about the Scottish brewer, Brewdog. Apparently they are in an issue of a newspaper, appearing  lewd and drunk. He thinks this is bad for the image of brewing.

The final item is also from Scotland. The Scottish drinks company, Whyte and Mackay is drilling in Antarctica to recover 100 year old Scotch. The liquor was left there by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is not clear whether they plan to drink it or not, but they do plan to see if it would be viable to start distilling it again.  Didn’t McKinlay and Co., the original distillers keep records?

Bourbon Trail

This past June, the Alcohol and Drug History site had an item about bourbon distillers attempting to market their product in a similar fashion to wine. The history of bourbon in America is one of a small minority trying to fashion a distinct identity. Ninety-five percent of the country’s bourbon is distilled in Kentucky. For the past  ten years there has been a Kentucky Bourbon Trail, modeled on wine tours and trails in other parts of the country, particularly Napa Valley.

Now micro distillers, also known as artisanal distillers, are trying to market their product as distinctive and build up their image in a similar fashion to craft brewers.  There are sixteen licensed artisanal distillers in Colorado and 170 nationwide.

All of these marketing attempts are part of a larger phenomena in the American economy which seeks to create recognizable commodities with a specific identity. Coffee, tea, bread, cheeses, and whiskey are all products that very large companies manufacture. Sometimes the companies have a lot of brand name recognition. Bud, Kraft, and Lipton are some examples. However Americans seem to want the producers of these products to be recognizable individuals who distill whiskey or make cheese on a much smaller scale.

Beer Promotion

I have only been able to attend one event of the many being held during NY Craft Beer Week. Eighty-three bars are participating and a $35 passport enables you to go to any of these places and pay $2 for a pint of that bar’s featured beer. The passport also gives you a discount for other events including the Women in the Beer Panel.

There are also a series of dinners, Zagat House Specials, which are $40, three-course,with beer, meals. The most expensive meal appears to be tonight. You could pay $350 for a seven-course dinner paired with Brooklyn Brewery Beer at Per Se. Thomas Keller owns this restaurant which is in the Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle.

Andy Crouch, Beer Scribe has written about the questionableness of such an expensive meal.  In a a larger sense, I wonder what the  organizers of NY Craft Week are trying to accomplish. The women on the panel all spoke about promoting craft beer and creating wider exposure to its good taste and qualities. Are $350 dinners the way to do that? Even the $35 passport which gets you $2 beers seems problematic. The whole experience seems to require that a participant already has knowledge of both the beers and the bars.

The organizers have created an equivalent to the gallery scene I described in an earlier post. They are not relying on street traffic to generate business. Beer festivals do seem to be more accessible.

Craft brewers may have  an identity crisis. Are they aspiring to achieve the elitist status of wine or do they wish to get some of the market share that the poor tasting mega beers occupy? These goals are contradictory.

Women in the Beer Industry:Part One

Last night I went to the French Culinary Institute, heard a panel discussion about women in the beer industry, and sampled beer, bread and cheese. All of the beers related in some way to the speakers. There were beers from Stoudt’s, Ommegang and Dogfish Head.

I had a Stoudt’s Pils which was very refreshing and had a good  taste and color, unlike the Heineken I had a few days ago. My husband had a Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB which he liked very much. We both tried the Dogfish Head Punkin which, for me, was surprisingly good, not too sweet and just a hint of pumpkin taste.  My favorite was the Ommegang Abbey Ale which was delicious, a beautiful ruby brown color, and very smooth. It is 7% abv. It would go well at any meal at which you would consider serving wine.

Two nights ago we went to the Blind Tiger Ale House which is a very well-known beer bar with an overwhelmingly selection of both draft and bottled beers. It reminded me of a smaller Moan and Dove (my local bar) with more beers, food but no peanuts. We had Blue Point Cask IPA which I did not like. It was very still and tasted like a stout. I liked the Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale though.

The women on the panel represented various aspects of the brewing industry, from production to retail. Maggie Fuller, founder of Beer  Ethos moderated the discussion. Maggie has a degree in brewing science from UCDavis and founded Beer Ethos to promote” the appreciation and enjoyment of beer through drinking and discourse.”* She plans on opening a beer store in the near future.

The women on the panel were: Carol Stoudt, President and Brewmaster, Stoudt’s Brewery. Carol was the first American woman to “oversee the design and development of a craft brewery from start to finish.”

Susan Greene, General Sales Manager Global Brewers Guild,”which represents a dozen domestic and imported beers throughout the East Coast.” (I couldn’t find a website)

Jennifer Schwertman, a bartender at the Blind Tiger.

Sarah Lescrauwart Beach, Ommegang Brewery, Market Manager. Duvel Moortgat, a publicly owned and traded Belgium company that brews Duvel, owns Ommegang.

Debbie Boening, Oak Beverages, President and Chief Executive Officer. Oak Beverage is  a “leading New York Metropolitan are beer wholesale distributor and part of the 107 -year old, fourth generation Boeing beer distribution group.” She is the only woman.

Tomorrow: Part Two: What they said.

* All the text in quotes is from the handout at the talk.

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!

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.

Bye Bye Blue Laws?

Blue Laws  restrict the selling of alcohol on Sundays and date back to the nineteenth century. Blue law legislation can also prohibit other commercial activities on Sunday. Most states have rescinded or overturned this legislation but Connecticut, Georgia, and Indiana still restrict sales of all alcoholic beverages. Fifteen other states , including Texas, prohibit the sale of distilled spirits only.

According to Time, these states may soon join the rest of the country in providing 24/7 liquor sales to their citizens. Although the Christian right opposes overturning the Blue laws, the states feel they are losing a valuable source of revenue by continuing  to prohibit Sunday sales. Connecticut faces competition from both New York and Massachusetts while Texas feels it is losing  revenue from potential sales along the border with Mexico.

The Time article points out how governments turn to alcohol as a source of revenue during hard times. The Repeal of Prohibition at the height of the Great Depression is the most striking parallel to today’s situation. President Obama certainly appears to share President Franklin Roosevelt’s affinity for cocktails but Jessica Warner, The Day George Bush Stopped Drinking: Why Abstinence Matters to the Religious Right, argues that, as a society America needs to abstain from something. If the revenue needs of states move our abstemious gaze away from alcohol, what other substance or behavior will we seek to curtail?

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