May 31st, 2009 beckel
Beer and Taxes has been a hot topic as of late and over all I think the responses from the (craft) brewing industry have been appropriate so I have largely left the topic alone on this blog. But I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work of the many that strive to keep Craft Brewing a successful industry in our country and provide you with a few solid examples of our wonderful community at work. First Mark Stutrud from our local Summit Brewing sent out a nice email (which Stu so kindly posted) detailing how increased excise tax would hamper his companies ability to grow as well as illustrating how heavily beer is already taxes and what these increases really mean once your beer gets to the liquor store. Some of the best writing on the topic I have read has been by Jay Brooks of The Brookston Beer bulletin. First he points out that three of the thirteen people called on to testify about how to raise money for Obama’s health care plan suggested raising taxes on alcohol and proceeds to debunk their logic in addition to posting this action alert. Later he touches on the proposition to level taxes among alcoholic beverages which will greatly increase the tax on beer and wine while leaving spirits pretty much the same. Luckily the Brewers Association has taken a forward approach on this situation and recently introduced two pieces of legislation H.R. 836 and S. 1058 cited as Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2009 which are intended to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reduce the tax on beer to its pre-1991 level which is half of the current rate of taxation. Thanks to Charlie Papazian for the heads up and most recently this posting (pdf) which further details the efforts of the Brewers Association. So for now I will continue to be optimistic as it seems the community is trying their best to inform the masses that raising beer taxes is simply unnecessary as history has shown us it is not particularly effective and I see no reason to burden a single industry so heavily for such little (or no) gain. Realistically some taxes will have to be raised as we are living in a massive deficit but I hope our government can be realistic and rational when they make these decisions and really think how they will impact our country and its people as a whole.
On to some more humorous observations we have a post from Bill of It’s Pub Night that simply made me laugh out loud. The Beer Review Generator, fill out a few radio buttons and there you have a review for whatever you happen to be consuming. Some people might find the concept a bit offensive, but frankly if you do, I couldn’t care less. Beer may be a wonderfully complex and delicious beverage that is deserving of serious analysis but we should also be able to laugh at ourselves. If you can’t do that you definitely need another beer and should buy me one while your at it.
I found this gem over at The Beer Runner’s website where Tim Cigelske writes for Draft Magazine. All the more reason to get a cargo bike, if only he had them chilled it would be prefect.
On the topic of bikes, this year I am riding the Tour de Cure to benefit the American Diabetes Association and the Larkin Hoffman MS150 to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Tour de Cure is a 45 mile ride on June 6th from Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis through Downtown Minneapolis over to Downtown St. Paul up and down the Mississippi River in both cities and back to Lake Calhoun. The MS150 is a two day 150 mile ride on June 13-14 from Proctor Minnesota (near Duluth) to Nowthen (about 40 miles from Minneapolis). Both rides should be a lot of fun and I am happy to have the opportunity to support some good organizations. I know the economy is tough for most of us but if you are able to donate to a good cause it would be much appreciated. Thanks for your support.
Lastly some more interesting thoughts from Jay on the concept of addiction being a disease. Glad to hear someone is finally challenging the theory as I am one who believes behaviors can be changed with the use of willpower. Even sheep are relatively easily trained 😉
January 2nd, 2009 beckel
Today The Session is brought to us by Beer and Firkins, posing the question: What will I miss from 2008 and what will I excitedly await in 2009? Though this is a quite broad question that I’m sure everyone will respond to differently I know what I will miss the most from 2008 is growlers from Surly Brewing in good ole’ Minnesota. Though I love my state and its breweries we have the unfortunate problem of being stuck in a state that seems to have forgotten that “blue laws” are a thing of the past, that is for those who don’t know laws that were traditionally created to appease the church and the thought that beer should not be consumed on Sunday because you should be in church! Though these laws aren’t restricted to Sundays it is a common term used to describe limitations in liquor laws. Though I have nothing against spirituality I’m sure you can realize how many of these laws are outdated and simply not helpful. Though it is unfortunate that we can not buy beer on Sundays in our fine state I can handle it, what I can’t is the other hoops and complications the force breweries to deal with, limiting their business potential, costing them more of their hard labor and money and more humorously reducing the amount of tax revenue our state is able to generate. Though all of the laws limiting what breweries/brewpubs can and can not do bother me, such as the fact that you can legally only operate one of the two and not both the current law I am here to complain about and fight against is breweries (and brewpubs for that matter) ability to off sell their products. We all (should) know that our liquor distribution systems are unnecessarily complex, but that as well is a rant for another time…so to get to the nitty gritty. In many states breweries and brewpubs alike are allowed to off sell to customers bottles of any size to patrons that wish to purchase their product and are of legal age. Sure they need a license but there’s just more incentive for the state. Our fine Surly Brewing how ever has dealt with many hurdles in their journey to off sell growlers to the community. After going through all of the work of getting the city of Brooklyn Center to approve the sale of growlers and having great success for just over the past 2 years the joyous Saturday mornings of cycling up to their brewery and carting home their beer are over. Minnesota State law 340A.301 allows for licenses to be granted to brewers who produce less than 3500 barrels a year. As it should be everyone loves Surly Brewing and has made them a great success continually forcing them to brew more beer and causing them this year to surpass the limit for licensing. To me this is a very silly and completely useless law, and according to Omar on the last Saturday of this year while waiting in line for their wonderful 16 Grit Imperial IPA will loose the state $20,000 in tax revenue (I assume he meant annually).Â Luckily the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild currently has a petition to help change these things and I will do everything I can to support them in their venture. On to the happier things. What I look forward to in 2009 aside from simply more beer is the trend of collaborative ales that has sprouted in 2008 and where others may take it. I am a fan of all things communal and beer is always better when shared so I say the more the merrier. There was Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project that created a Dopplebock, there will soon be a joint effort by Dogfish Head and Beer Advocate which is sure to be interesting though I doubt I will have the opportunity to make it down to Boston to sample it, and what we are here to try today the effort by Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing: Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. Though there are a few more I neglected to mention this ale in particular has a wonderful story. Brewers at both breweries happened to meat a number of years ago and learned they both were brewing ales called Salvation. With all the silly legal battles people are fitting in this day and age the two friends considered what to do and came up with the perfect solution, make a whole new beer additionally that comprised of both ales. So at the bar of Russian River the two sat down and found the perfect mix of the two very different but uniquely Belgian inspired ales, Avery’s being a Golden Ale and Russian Rivers being a Strong Dark Ale both packing a solid 9% ABV. The first batch was bottled in December of 2006 and the second batch which sits on my table was bottled February 2008 and uses a slightly different mix. The proceeds of these ales will go towards sending brewers from not only Avery and Russian River but Port Brewing, Dogfish Head, and Allagash Brewing on a trip to Belgium to see how they have been doing it for centuries in attempt to improve their own craft skills, talk about a good cause. Now on to the better stuff. This beer pours a dark pumpkin color that is a bit hazy though no sediment is apparent, allowing a bit of light to shine through the bottom of the glass in orange and red hues even if it is not particularly translucent. Head is a solid three fingers or more and crisp white in color lasting for a couple minutes. Aroma is quite nice, gentle fruit aromas are dominate with some slightly floral hints as well giving a bit of a kick to the otherwise sweet malty scent. They must have had a blast sampling different mixes of this ale as the flavors are very unique. Prunes, and other sweet pitted fruits are noticeable as well as more somewhat hoppy citrus flavors. This ale is packed with malty sweetness and is obviously influenced by Belgian brewing with an interesting yeast no doubt contributing some flavor as well as other nice caramel flavors from the malt.. This ale has a rather light body and a slightly sticky but incredibly smooth mouthfeel. Though there are many flavors in this beer the sweet malt flavors do a impeccable job hiding the 8.72% ABV. I had no idea what to expect the mixing of a golden ale and a dark ale would create but this is certainly a tasty brew and a nice American take on a Belgian concept as well as a wonderful approach to an interesting situation. Probably not an everyday beer but a great after meal desert ale. If you are a fan of Belgian inspired ales that are sweet and malty but are still not afraid to pack a punch this is a good choice. To note, the last third of this ale had a hazier and darker color no doubt from sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Very smooth and delicious stuff. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 24th, 2008 beckel
I will take a moment away from drinking beer and talk more about our society as a whole and how the legality of beer (and liquor) in our country impacts how we live our lives.Â J from Brookston Beer Bulletin and Lew Bryson from Seen Through a Glass posted about a surprisingly well written and informative piece from Time entitled “Should You Drink with Your Kids?”. To avoid ranting too much I will try to keep to the topic at hand. The simple answer to the question posed by Time in my opinion is YES! Now by making a blatant statement like that, I’m sure I will get the blatant responses of “But there’s a drinking age for a reason” and “Won’t somebody think of the children?” This is fine, because I am thinking of the children. Most people will drink underage, screw the statistics, they just blur the lines, none the less I’m sure we can all agree that more people drink underage than do not. Now with that said how do we want our (potential) children to learn about the consumption of alcohol? When alcohol is presented to a minor as something normal and not taboo not only is there less desire to consume it, but it also allows the parent to educate their children about it in a safe environment. When I was young my mother allowed me to consume some of whatever they were drinking if I so desired. The fact of the matter is after trying the stuff the adults were drinking not only did I not want to try it anymore (because it did not taste good to me at the time) but it also made alcohol not seem like a big deal. So when as a underage youth I was presented with alcohol outside of my home I rarely imbibed because there was no desire or excitement because it was not only a normal thing to me, but I also saw how silly people acted when they drank too much. Allowing your children to consume alcohol in your home, particularly in their later teen years I believe allows a person to become more familiar with the substance in a safe and friendly environment. Where no one has the pressure of friends trying to get you to drink or other silly things that kids do. If a person never has a drink before the age of 21, how are the supposed to behave on their 21st birthday? Certainly they would get quite drunk. This is the problem. Our system encourages underage people to binge drink; blatantly. It is far easier to get a bottle of strong spirits than it is to get some good beer. Not only is it less expensive but also much easier to conceal and get drunk quickly. Binge drinking is where most of our issues with underage drinking occur. The best way to curb this is to help give children a respect for alcohol. Be it beer or spirits, by sharing quality drinks with your children you can expose them to the other side of drinking, the great flavors, the companionship, and all the other good qualities of alcohol with out the goal of just getting drunk. Your kidâ€™s friends certainly aren’t going to teach them this. As the Time article states, this is largely the way European countries handle this issue, and even though they have lower drinking ages they have about the same level of consumption and less issues with youth binge drinking. Part of the problem here are the many “social host” laws in this country. While I agree that there should be laws regulating this issue, I believe many of these laws are very over bearing and simply unconstitutional. First off any state that does not allow parents to do as they please in their home is wrong (provided it safe and sane). Second I simply believe many of these laws to be too broad; one should not be responsible for those things that they are not aware are occurring. We simply need to encourage our children to be socially responsible and I don’t think we need masses of laws to accomplish this, we simply need to give our children respect, and part of this may be allowing them to consume alcohol occasionally under your supervision. You should probably teach you kids to ride their bike first, but seriously teach your children about the great world that is beer. Allow them to try it, it is the only way they will learn to respect it and be responsible without having to learn from someone else after making mistakes. Now I don’t agree with the drinking age being 21 in the first place…but that will be left for another post.