Today’s infographic answers the age-old question, Is Beer Really Cheaper Than Gas? Created and investigated by Keg Works, who came to following conclusion, which is that the claim only works for homebrew. I guess we won’t see any beer-powered cars anytime soon.
Today is the 41st birthday of James Costa. James is a brewer and co-founder of Oakland Brewing, and is also currently brewing at Half Moon Bay Brewing. But James has certainly made the rounds, and has also brewed for Moylan’s, Santa Cruz Aleworks, E.J. Phair and others. James is justly famous for his big, hoppy beers like the wonderful Sticky Zipper. Join me in wishing James a very happy birthday.
Thursday’s ad is for Genesee beer, from around the late 1969s or 70s. Showing a couple fishing while perched on a pier, with a Genesee cooler between them. The Geneseecret is apparently is “The Good Time Taste of Genesee Beer.” They don’t even appear to be paying any attention whatsoever to their fishing.
Today is the big 30th birthday of Ashley Routson, a.k.a. The Beer Wench. In addition to writing her own blog, Drink With the Wench, she also contributes to the Hop Press and a few years ago started working for Bison Brewing. She’s a social media diva and girl about town, beer town that is. She certainly seems to be everywhere at once and if everyone had her energy for promoting good beer we’d be winning the war against bland, tasteless drinks. Join me in wishing Ashley a very happy birthday.
I saw this yesterday in the Discovery Channel’s Curiosity.com. In answer to the question “do intelligent people drink more alcohol,” two separate answers reached the same surprising conclusion. When I say surprising, I mean it will come as a shock to the anti-alcohol wingnuts who continue to deny any positive attributes whatsoever to drinking alcohol. Because while the answer isn’t that new, or that unpredictable, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time around responsible drinkers — wets vs. drys — you probably already knew that the answer is simply yes.
Their first answer was from Ian O’Neill, Discovery News’ Space Producer, who wrote:
Surprisingly, a recent study using data from the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States indicates that intelligent people really do drink more alcohol.
By tracking the intelligence of children under the age of 16 and then revisiting them as adults, it turned out that kids who were considered “more bright” than others in their age group ended up drinking more alcohol later in life. Even after researchers canceled out marital status, parents’ education, earnings and childhood social class, smarter kids were drinking more alcohol as adults.
Why would intelligent people drink more alcohol? Some researchers suggest that as the production of alcohol is only a recent invention (within the last 10,000 years) and our ancestors had gotten their alcohol buzz from rotten fruit, the more intelligent humans would be more likely to drink modern alcoholic beverages. Although this is attractive evolutionary speculation, it’s more likely the real reasons are more complex.
The second answer was presented not by an individual, but as a group answer by Curiosity:
It’s a myth that alcohol kills individual brain cells, but drinking can cause long-term brain damage. That’s why researchers were surprised in 2010, when data from Britain and the United States revealed that more intelligent children, when grown and of legal age, tended to drink more alcohol than their less intelligent peers. The researchers were able to control for other factors that might affect a person’s propensity to drink, such as marital status and income, and the findings related to childhood intelligence held up. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this link exists; one writer posited that drinking alcohol for pleasure is a relatively new thing, evolutionarily speaking. Intelligent people tend to try new things, so the writer argued that people who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner are actually performing a novel act when you take a long view of history.
One of the longitudinal study each answer is referring to was The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) conducted here in the U.S., while the other was part of the UK’s massive National Child Development Study in the UK. I started writing about some of the conclusions drawn from the UK study several months ago, abandoning it when I got busy with other projects, but it’s still pretty interesting. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist who writes a blog for Psychology Today entitled the Scientific Fundamentalist, wrote More Intelligent People Are More Likely to Binge Drink and Get Drunk which covered much of the same ground. Although in it Kanazawa focuses on something I strongly disagree with. “Not only are more intelligent individuals more likely to consume more alcohol more frequently, they are more likely to engage in binge drinking and to get drunk.” That propensity to “binge drink,” I’d argue, has more to do with the narrowing definition of binge drinking than any actual increase in drinking. Binge drinking used to be a defined qualitatively but over the past few decades has become quantitative, meaning it’s become defined as a specific number of drinks in a set period of time, absent any context or mitigating factors (of which there could be many). And even that nonsensical number keeps shrinking and changing.
Kanazawa wonders aloud if that should be worrying. I have to say “no, Doc, it’s not.” Here’s why. Look at this chart below. It shows the correlation between intelligence and incidence of “binge drinking,” as defined using the modern absurdity of five drinks in a row.
But what this chart really says is that the most intelligent among us have just under five drinks one and a half times a year, roughly three times every two years. The horror! Or is it?
Even “controlling for age, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, parental status, education, earnings, political attitudes, religiosity, general satisfaction with life, taking medication for stress, experience of stress without taking medication, frequency of socialization with friends, number of sex partners in the last 12 months, childhood family income, mother’s education, and father’s education,” the smarter you are as a child, the more you’ll apparently drink as an adult. Isn’t it at least possible that the intelligent people are on to something? Maybe it’s not such a terrible thing after all.
Another psychologist who also writes for Psychology Today, Stanton Peele, wrote sort of a rebuttal to Kanazawa. In Are More Intelligent People More Likely to be Alcoholics?, he ponders.
So, we can ask, is getting drunk ‘once every other month or so good, bad, or neutral? Is it harmless — even beneficial? Is it a social convention? An exploration of the universe? Fun for people who are better off and can spare the time and who can protect themselves while having a night out drinking? Or is this behavior pathological, a precursor to alcoholism? Specifically, are more intelligent people more likely to be alcoholics?
To this, he posits three possibilities.
- Although smarter people (as measured in childhood) get drunk more, they are less likely than dull people to become alcoholics. Does that mean that they are inured against alcoholism? The dominant theory here would be that being smart is a protective life asset.
- They are just as likely to become alcoholics. Which would still be somewhat counterintuitive, since despite getting drunk far more often than dull people, they are no more likely to succumb to alcoholism.
- Smart people are more likely to be alcoholics. This could follow from several theories of behavior: smart people tempt fate by drinking more, and thus they are more likely to become alcoholics. Or, smart people are inherently more likely to be alcoholics — perhaps being smart makes them more acutely aware of the world’s problems, or creates other damaging emotional states.
Which, he notes, is odd, since it would seem to suggest “childhood intelligence is a risk factor for alcoholism.” Are parents putting their children at risk by sending them to good schools, making them do their homework or encouraging them to read? Peele declares this to be something of a “quandary — something most people generally value leads to a behavior of which we disapprove.” And Kanazawa concludes that since “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to engage in binge drinking and getting drunk,” then “occasional drunkenness is incompatible with regular moderate drinking.”
The fallacy with both these lines of thought, I believe, is that occasional drunkenness may not be the demon the medical community has come to believe. In their zeal to quantify everything, they’ve removed the problems in problem drinking and reduced it to a simple formula that clearly doesn’t work. By their standards, I’m an undisputed binge drinker, and yet I’d warrant I’m drunk less than many people. I can state clearly and unequivocally that I’m not an alcoholic, having grown up with and around countless actual problem drinkers. And without trying to sound too egotistical, I’m not an idiot, at least. I did reasonably well in school. Maybe that’s why I drink more now? Since most of the people I know also drink a fair amount, does that means beer drinkers tend to be smarter than non-drinkers? My anecdotal evidence says yes. But then I’m very biased. Don’t we all want to believe we have smart friends? Maybe, but I’m just happy if they like good beer. Of course, that may possibly be one and the same thing.
Today is the 61st birthday of Charlie Bamforth, who is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at U.C. Davis (and was my teacher when I took the brewing short course there). His two most recent books are Beer Is Proof That God Loves Us Grape vs. Grain. He’s a terrific advocate for beer. Join me in wishing Charlie a very happy birthday.
Charlie with John Dannerbeck from Anchor Brewing, at a reception held there for the launch of Charlie’s new book.
Charlie being courted by both wine and beer on his publisher’s blog, Cambridge University Press.
Wednesday’s ad is another one for Falstaff, probably from the 1950s or early 60s. Showing a trio of people fishing in front of a backdrop of a wall of beer, the tagline is “There’s Light-hearted Living in Light-hearted Falstaff.” I have no idea what the even means, though in the ad copy they begin with “Alive with taste,” yet another inscrutably meaningless phrase.
Today’s infographic is an interactive one, meaning if you’re Feeling Thirsty, you should visit the interactive infographic. It was created at Stanford University, using the Stanford Network Analysis Platform (SNAP), which put more than 1.5 million Beer Advocate reviews into a dataset to create the infographic. I’m not sure why they used color (light, medium and dark) as one of the ways to slice the data, but otherwise it’s pretty interesting to see. Below are a couple of examples, but you really need to look at it on the original website.
Also, be sure to check out the About the Data graphs at the bottom.
For their New Zealand market, Beck’s hired an ad agency, Shine, to create some buzz for their brand, and they came up with The Beck’s Edison Bottle, the world’s first beer bottle you can play like a record.
Here’s the description from Vimeo:
The first playable beer.
19th Century technology meets 21st Century music over a bottle of beer in the latest extension to the Beck’s Record Label project.
This time, the art label has evolved, and been replaced by the grooves of Auckland band Ghost Wave. Their new single was inscribed into the surface of a Beck’s beer bottle which could then be played on a specially-built device based on Thomas Edison’s original cylindrical phonograph.
Making the world’s first playable beer bottle was a formidable technical challenge. The clever people at Auckland firm Gyro Constructivists first had to design and build a record-cutting lathe, driven by a hard drive recording head. Then they reinvented Edison’s original cylinder player, using modern materials and electronics and built to very fine tolerances.
The Edison Bottle made its public debut at SemiPermanent in Auckland in May to a standing ovation from the assembled media and design community.
Beck’s has had a long association with music and art. In fact, at about the same time Heinrich Beck was brewing his first beer in the 1870s, Tom Edison was tinkering away on designs for the first phonograph.
Considering how beer has influenced recorded music since then, this physical collaboration was very appropriate and long overdue.
And below is a video showing the design and manufacturing process, along with a short demonstration of the bottle being played.
Today’s infographic is a well-known humorous poster, called I ♥ Beer, with more than three dozen funny equations about how adding beer to something changes it into something better, or at least different.
Today is the 39th birthday of Jeff Bagby, who until a year or so ago was the head brewer extraordinaire at Pizza Port in Carlsbad. There, you can read the entire biography of Jeff “Extra Spicy” Bagby. I’m not sure when it was written, but it definitely needs to be updated, as it ends with the following sentence. “Jeff has his sights set on winning a GABF Brewpub of the Year award and we most definitely believe it is in his future as well.” Three years ago at GABF, Jeff won an amazing seven medals and Pizza Port Carlsbad was awarded the Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year. That means his plaid pants got to go up on stage a record eight times! You can see a retrospective of Jeff’s plaid choices over the years, too, at Jeff “Lucky Pants” Babgy Wins Big. Once he started working on opening his own brewery, I suggested he should consider “Plaid Brewing” or some variation of that idea, like “Plaid Pants Brewing” or “Lucky Plaid Brewing.” Unfortunately, he went with a more sensible Bagby Beer Co. All, well some, kidding aside, Jeff is a terrific brewer and a hell of a washoes player, though I still think Dave Keene and I could beat him and Tomme again. Join me at wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff with his then-girlfriend, now wife, Dande at GABF a few years ago. And yes, those are his lucky pants.
Friday’s ad is for Hampden Mild Ale, from the 1950s. Hamden Brewery was located in Massachusetts. I’m not sure that troubadour singing “Enjoy Yourself, Enjoy Yourself” from atop a beer barrel would make anyone want to drink their beer, but who knows. The tagline at the bottom is pretty interesting. “The First Truly Mild Ale in America.” I wonder who true that was?
Today’s infographic is the James Squire Guide to Beer, created by the Malt Shovel Brewing Co. in Australia, though it appears to have “borrowed” rather liberally from the infographic created by Pete Slosberg for Pete’s Wicked Ales.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt seen the provocative article on Slate, Against Hoppy Beer, The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews, by Adrienne So. I’d been hoping to avoid taking the obvious bait, but I find myself thinking about the article itself, the way it’s gone viral and the two camps that have been set up online defending or decrying it.
From Slate’s point of view, it’s a massive success. As of this morning, almost 1500 people have left a comment, nearly 4,000 shared it on Facebook, and it’s currently one of the most read and shared articles on Slate. That’s eyeballs on the page; that’s money in the bank. But the article itself, though there are a few deep flaws, isn’t itself that inflammatory. It’s that headline, or as Stan points out: headlines. Because while the page itself displays Against Hoppy Beer, The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews, e-mailing it changes the headline to Hops Enthusiasts Are Ruining Craft Beer for the Rest of Us and bookmarking it saves the headline Hoppy beer is awful — or at least, its bitterness is ruining craft beer’s reputation. If you look in your browser bar where the URL you’re at is displayed, you’ll see that’s what it’s titled online in the address. To me, that suggests that the last one was Slate’s original online title and the plan from the beginning was to pull people in with intentionally inflammatory, and somewhat misleading, headlines. It’s certainly not the first time, for them, or many other websites. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s a rare article of mine that has the same title when I started as what ends up printed on the page or displayed online.
To me, that’s the ticking hop bomb, not necessarily the article itself, that discourse so often happens online in response to something incendiary rather than just as a desire to have a discussion or to address issues important to us a loosely defined group.
Because the issue of balance in beer is certainly a worthy one. Or as Stan Hieronymus muses.
It’s good to call for balance in beer, and too bitter is too bitter. Although perhaps there could have been a little more, well, balance. Maybe more about why there’s more to “hoppy” than bitterness.
But if the transition from bland, flavorless macro beer to a craft beer landscape should have taught us anything, it’s that there’s plenty of room for lots of kinds of beer: hoppy, malty, sour, dark, light, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. That hoppy beers have been in ascendency for a few years now is certainly true, but so what? All flavorful beer is selling more and more each day.
So admits that “[n]ot all craft beer is hoppy. There are many craft breweries that seek to create balanced, drinkable beers that aren’t very bitter at all.” How could she not? She blames Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for starting it all, perhaps forgetting Anchor Liberty Ale was the first beer to use Cascade hops and was considered very hoppy in its even earlier day. But as Jeff Alworth correctly points out, it wasn’t so much that those beers introduced imbalance, they re-introduced a new mix of flavors, ones which emphasized a bit more hop character than a majority of Americans were familiar with in the 1970s. I was alive, and drinking then, and can tell you there were not a lot of hoppy beers to compare these with. As Alworth puts it. “That was shocking because we’d slowly leached all hop character from hops and told customers that bitterness was the enemy. THIS was the bizarre position.”
Maybe it’s the bubble of Portland that has given So the impression that hoppy beers are the big sellers, but again, as Alworth points out. “When you look at the best-selling craft beers, they’re not hoppy: Fat Tire, SN Pale, Boston Lager, Blue Moon, Widmer Hef. Those five beers account for at least four million barrels—something like a fifth or a quarter of the market.” For several years, IPAs have been the fastest growing category in mainstream grocery stores, as reported by Nielsen and IRI, but you have to remember that’s from a very small base, and is not representative of the market as a whole. But even that aside, breweries are at heart, businesses. If their hoppy beers were not selling, they’d stop making them. Which begs the question. How can something that’s selling, and selling, be ruining a market that continues to keep growing? I’ve heard brewers tell me that they feel like they have to have at least one hoppy beer in their line-up, because customers expect it, and want it. Does that sound like a situation in which hoppy beers are alienating the customer? Or ruining the market?
Whenever I hear the canard that people don’t like bitter flavors, one word leaps to my mind: coffee. Please tell me again how people won’t drink something bitter? Go ahead, I’ll wait until after you’ve had your morning cup of joe, or even your Earl Grey tea. Even if you’re adding milk or sugar, it’s still a bitter concoction to some degree. Bitter is one of the basic tastes humans experience, and is present in virtually everything we eat and drink. Are there times when it’s too much? Of course, just as there are beers I find to be too sweet, or display too much oak character in a barrel-aged stout. Balance is the key, but sometimes even balance can be overrated, if done well. If every beer was balanced in the exact same way, they’d all taste the same again. And we all know what happened to American beer when that was the case. There’s room in the beer world for all manner of beers on the continuum of possible flavors, and if you want something that’s not overly hoppy, there are many, many choices available. So concludes by suggesting what she believes everyone who loves, or is obsessed, with hops should do now. “Give it a rest.” To which I can only reply, in the words of the great Marcel Marceau, who spoke the only word in Mel Brooks’ film Silent Movie. “No.”
What I’d really like to see given a rest is the attention-getting, inflammatory headline in which the article that follows can rarely back up its provocative premise. It’s the schoolyard equivalent of “look at me, look at me!” It’s like saying hoppy beers are ruining craft beer, or they’re just awful or that they’re alienating people. Those are just headline grabbing stunts to lure people in. And, sadly, it works. But it doesn’t seem to do anything to further what might otherwise be a valuable discussion about the changing nature of peoples’ tastes, preferences and the marketplace. And now I think it’s time to go to the refrigerator and grab a Pliny. After all this, I sure hope it still tastes good.
UPDATE: And while I was writing this, Jeff Alworth also posted his own response, Hops Are Not A Problem, which is worth taking a look at, too. As he nicely points out, bitterness is relative, hoppiness isn’t just bitterness and different regions have different styles.
Today would have been Bert Grant’s 85th birthday, and he is definitely missed. Bert opened the country’s first brewpub in 1982 in Yakima, Washington and was a fixture in the industry until his death in late July of 2001. Join me tonight in lifting a pint to Bert’s memory.
— was a lad in old Bagdad
He had a lot of luck
with a lamp he had
He rubbed that lamp—
a man came flyin’
and served him up some Ballantine.
You can steal Aladdin’s tricks
Lamp or no lamp this one clicks
Today’s infographic is another one showing hangover cures that are common in other cultures around the world, and also offering other factoids and tips for dealing with yours. Entitled Hangover Helper, it was created originally for confused.com.
Wednesday’s ad is another one for Schafer, this one from 1973. It shows just one grand glass of beer in a mug on a bed of ice, , with a can of Schafer beer next to it. Just like yesterday’s ad the foam looks just a little unnatural to me. Too perfect. And maybe this says more about me than the ad, but it seems a little phalic, or at least some sort of foam comb-over.