Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: Beer and Politics SUCK

Written by Ken Carman

I was immediately suspicious. Half awake; yet unable to sleep, I sat down at my Mac and checked out a link a friend sent me to Beervana. Here I found this headline…

“Legislature Proposes 200% Beer Tax Hike in Washington”

Of course putting Washington “State” in the headline might have been helpful for idiots whose reading skills go no further than headlines. But I’m willing to give the writer a break: writers can never solve all moron situations. Writers of all kinds of fiction and nonfiction know this to be true. More likely than a Bud, and “only Bud,” drinker will automatically sneer at good beer, some clown out there will claim that guy in Green Eggs and Ham always said he loved green eggs and ham. And if you contradict him he just might Sue… ss you. Another absurd example: someone out there will claim Green Eggs and Ham is a “clever” diatribe displaying hatred of the Irish (green beer) and Jews who don’t eat pork. And “only an ignorant moron doesn’t see that.”

I had at least one college professor as an English major who would test you on his own absurd interpretations of classic lit, and then flunk everyone in class for not automatically regurgitating and accepting as gospel his weird interpretations as fact. It was like arguing with those who have no doubt about the most absurd political conspiracy theories in human history.

I will start this rant by declaring I have come to loath beer mixed with politics. A few weeks ago I saw an otherwise pleasant pub crawl almost spoiled by someone who had one too few… I know, unusual, right? (Chuckle) …by getting in a Obama is a Socialist, Nazi, non-citizen argument with another reveler. The reveler, of course, has every right to any opinion he holds: no matter how nuts. But, due in large part to beer, he couldn’t even make his points quietly. He had to make sure the whole damn room knew.

Then we have this very site which spun off of a political site. Yes, I do write for that site: a column I have been writing off and on for over 30 years. But I’m the one who asked that the Professor obtains his own URL: making sure the site is as independent as we can make it. I want Socialist, Communist, Nazi, Fascist (not a redundant listing by any means), Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Fruitarian beer lovers to read and enjoy what I write. And I don’t want them put off by some overall political skew… except maybe those damn Fruitarians. Always getting juiced up. They’re not welcome here at Professor Good Ales. Orange you glad?

Just kidding.

To continue to writing about who offered this partisan skew…

The writer offers the following quote from a link…

The tax on beer would hit the so-called “Joe Six-Pack” consumer, but shelter products from small, in-state breweries that sell a higher-priced brew to a more well-heeled clientele. The beer tax would go up by 50 cents per gallon, up from about 26 cents today, according to the Department of Revenue. UPDATE: On a six-pack basis, the tax goes up from 14.661 cents to 42.786 cents.

Then he makes the comment…

The writer provides the classic 1988 “boutique beer” framing here, arguing that local breweries are chichi artisans who sell only to the wealthy. This is pure hogwash, though someone needs to do a survey to find out what the real numbers are. Poor people buy expensive beer, full stop.

“Full stop?” Is that anything like “a whole half-wit?” Using the phrase correctly, in this context, it’s an oxymoron of the highest order. Maybe, like the Titanic, the writer should have come full stop before hitting this iceberg of a contradiction before it sinks the true meaning of his sentence?

But wait, wait… the bill offers the craft brewers a break from the tax? How does the author skip over that and skew this into only “chichi artisans who sell only to the wealthy?” No, it also gives small business a frickin break: the small guy, few employee-based, hard working, often low paid entrepreneurial craft brewer. Isn’t that a good thing? Be against the tax increase. Be for it. But don’t avoid the positive aspect simply because it serves your skew.

By the way. Mr. Alworth, I also have a problem with the other article you cited not mentioning the fact that people other than the “well heeled” drink craft beer, but it was not as much a focus of the news article. It was unnecessary addition in an otherwise fairly straight forward news article. But the fact that you skipped over the other, more obvious, intent of this provision and went straight for that was as problematic as the reporter not mentioning it. If there’s blame to be tossed out here, both of you deserve it.

Earlier in the article you run into this…

“Democrats in Washington State…”

Except other various news articles used variations on…

“…some Democrats…”

Oops. Your partisan underwear, like mine, is showing. Mr. Beer Writer.

And I would like to see who is supporting, who is opposing and who is on the fence regarding this proposal, just to be sure it is all Democrats. Too early yet? Then one can’t simply write “Democrats” and be accurate, fair and most important of all: honest. At best “some Democrats” might work. It still skips around and fence sitting Republicans there may be; but tis more honest.

Back to the headline for a moment…

“Legislature Proposes 200% Beer Tax Hike in Washington”

Oh, my God! 200%!!! Vile, despicable, politicians! Let me pull out my wallet and empty it so I can pay your confiscatory tax of, as Mr. Alworth himself writes further into his article…

“On a six-pack basis, the tax goes up from 14.661 cents to 42.786 cents.”

Oh. OK. Damn. I still have most of my money in my wallet: showing how percentages can be manipulated for shock effect sometimes. Not that I’m claiming this was Mr. Alworth’s actual intent… though I do find placing that stat up front more than a bit problematic.

The writer does make a very valid point further on, if… and only if… he has completely read and understood any proposed bill there may be…

“Nowhere could I find definitions for “small, in-state” breweries. No doubt there’s a definition, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

That’s good, honest, writing.

In college I remember those who smoked pot who had opinions and solutions for all the great issues. After the haze lifted, usually the most polite thing one could say about such is, “Boy was I full of… it.” Alcohol driven political discussions are about as valid as pot driven ones.

There was a time when political discussions in this country often were civil. I always bring up Firing Line, Buckley’s program on PBS here, but for another; more personal, example… my father and my next door neighbor, Mr. Setzer, argued politics on their way into New York City when we lived near there, every day. They still considered themselves friends. One of his sons was my best friend, the other my brother Jim’s.

These days politics has been taken over by passionate name calling masquerading as “framing the issue” when you’re actually framing people. Beer, especially in excess, feeds passion and allows people to say and write things they probably regret later… or at least should. And after reading several net screeds that combine beer and politics I have become convinced; even without the actual act of drinking beer, it’s often best to keep them apart.

That’s a damn shame: but I think it may be for the best. I want all, I repeat all, partisans to enjoy good beer. Certainly not just people I agree with. Perhaps Mr. Alworth might even agree with me.

I hope so.


Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to review, discuss and comment on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

©Copyright 2010
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

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