|From Bryan Roth’s article at Good Beer Hunting.|
Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer was published in 2006, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.
When the Beer Was Bitter, and Its Future Cloudy, by William Grimes (New York Times; October 27, 2006)In the annals of immigrant success stories, lager beer deserves its own chapter. Before 1840, Americans drank English ales and porter or, more commonly, whiskey and rum. But as Germans by the thousands poured into New York and moved onward to Midwestern towns like Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee, they presented a new beverage to the American palate, a different kind of beer that Americans took to with such, shall we say, gusto that it soon became the national drink.The rise of lager beer, and the great names associated with it — names like Busch, Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Miller — is the subject of Maureen Ogle’s effervescent, occasionally frothy “Ambitious Brew,” a fairly standard history with a provocative thesis attached. Ms. Ogle, in telling the story of the great beer families, takes the air out of a few myths, chief among them the standard narrative used to explain beer’s sad decline in quality to the pale, tasteless, mass-market drink advertised these days on televised sports.The twice-told tale of beer’s fall from grace goes something like this. In olden days, thousands of craft brewers turned out a pure, flavorful product made from nothing more than hops, barley, water and yeast. After Prohibition, however, the big beer companies started manufacturing beer with cheap ingredients like rice and corn, duped the public into buying it through lavish advertising campaigns and forced their smaller competitors out of business, making the world safe for Bud Light.
The real story, as Ms. Ogle tells it, is a little more complicated.
Maybe it actually was a “little more complicated,” but one of the author’s own anecdotes confirms that the industrial beer barons of old weren’t exactly exemplars of vision or social consciousness.
Ogle tells of the run-up to Prohibition, with the “Drys” an early example of a well-funded, highly-motivated single-issue lobby group. The teetotalers began putting points on the scoreboard in the late 1800s, but it took the brewers until 1913 to so much as begin organizing in response, and unity was elusive among them.
Perhaps the most effective argument coming from the prohibitionist camp pertained to the sinfulness of the average saloon. Most were tied to a brewery, and the breweries feared giving up this lucrative distribution arrangement even when the saloons were functioning as cesspools, gambling dens and whorehouses.
The ensuing xenophobia and patriotism (almost to a man, the beer barons were of German ancestry, albeit American-born) greeting America’s inexorable march toward entry into WWI effectively did the rest. The brewers didn’t know what hit them, primarily because they refused to pay attention until it was too late.
Ever since Leg Spreader first oozed to the surface three years ago (really — it was January, 2015), much has been accomplished with respect to sexism in “craft” beer.
Quite a bit is left to be done, judging by another excellent piece by Bryan Roth, who is one of the most thoughtful beer writers around — perhaps the Dave Zirin of good beer?
In the immediate aftermath of Roth’s essay, just about every brewery mentioned belatedly recalled those long ago words of Phil Collins: “There must be some misunderstanding/There must be some kind of mistake.”
Coming amid the overdue tsunami of #MeToo, I’m afraid to ask this question, but can the “craft” brewers of today really be as blind as those pre-Prohibition beer barons?
I Know What Boyz Like — A Grassroots Industry Struggles to Find Leadership on Social Issues, by Bryan Roth (Good Beer Hunting)
… “It’s a microcosm of the cultural zeitgeist right now,” says (Craig) Smith, the brewer and consultant from Florida. “We couldn’t be more divided in everything.”
In the macro sense, the sentiment feels true, especially for anyone who scrolls through news feeds or turns on the nightly news. But, as shown from a variety of viewpoints across many entries to the beer industry, there has also never been as much cohesiveness around this one topic. If anything, now may be the most ideal time to push the hardest toward change. The Brewers Association struck a decades-long victory recently when tax reform passed, lowering federal costs for selling beer. It’s making a significant investment in a public hop-breeding program. The organization even launched an initiative to address an ongoing problem of lost kegs, which can be a significant financial burden to breweries.
Battles have been won. If ever there was a time to jump into the fray for other causes, now would be it. In fact, others have already done so.
At the end of December, the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale consumer advocacy group released its first executive statement on discrimination, condemning “any behaviour that discriminates against individuals because of their gender, race, ethnic origin, disability, age, nationality, national origin, sexuality, religion or belief, marital status and social class.” Any use of sexist images or slogans would bar placement at the group’s festivals, competitions, and publications.
Currently, no state guild in the U.S. lists any similar language on its website. The Brewers Association has its marketing code, and won’t announce inappropriate names of award-winning beers at events, but nothing as definitive as what the UK organization issued.
“It’s important that CAMRA’s stance is as public as possible in order to ensure that all our members are aware of the organization’s policy when it comes to discrimination, and that they understand the standards of behaviour and value that we expect any member of CAMRA to follow,” says Tom Stainer, the organization’s head of communications. “It’s also important that we make it clear to the rest of the industry where we stand on issues of discrimination.”
Similarly, the UK’s Society of Independent Brewers followed suit, issuing a statement that “SIBA members who promote their beers with sexist, offensive advertising have no place in our membership of responsible, professional brewing businesses.” The group goes a step farther than its U.S. counterpart in regard to offensive names or labels, holding the right to disqualify competition entries out right instead of simply not saying a beer’s name during award announcements.
Change is happening in many sectors of society, but across the U.S., an attempt at incremental steps continues to be led by those with the least at stake …
This would be an excellent juncture to turn to a more palatable topic, like Maibock or NEIPA. But I’m not finished yet. I recommend reading the whole article, although only the conclusion is here.
The Misogynist Within, by Kai Wright (The Nation)
Sexual harassment expresses power dynamics from which all men benefit.
… And so now we face a reckoning. Let it be more than a coming to terms with sexual harassment. Yes, let’s bring the abusers to justice. But let us also consider the many ways in which we’ve organized ourselves around misogyny—in our workplaces, in our families, and as individuals. Maybe then we can mount a movement larger than Democrats and Republicans, and start talking seriously instead about things like peace, justice, and equity.