My faith in politics and politicians was never that strong. And with the last election, my faith in the American electorate sunk to historic lows as well so I have been avoiding as much Trump talk as I can because it seems futile to not only struggle against Washington DC but the 306 Electoral College votes as well.

Throwing craft beer into the mix seems like a plan that could turn out bad. Seems too partisan for actual nuanced discussion.

But others are taking a different tack and not surprisingly Keep Portland Weird has taken a stand with….

The stated mission of Beer Party PDX is to “Organize members of the PDX beer community to effectively protect and promote basic civil rights, including voter access, freedom of speech, and equal rights.”

Members of the craft beer community have already stood up against one of the many questionable cabinet secretary choices (Scott Pruitt for the EPA) so this may be the start of more organizations that have both beer and what I would call common decency in common.

I think breweries do need to stand for agenda items like clean water and small business help and local issues like potholes on the road outside your establishment. Protecting people who are your customers seem like a smart play to me as well. Whether people will agree or boycott when you take a stand on action items that don’t have direct links to beer or the beer business is another thing though. Along with the attacks on journalism there is an even stronger, “stay in your lane” brew beer not dissent camp in the U.S. now.

But with Trump approval ratings cratering fast, going Anti sooner, rather than later, could be the smart business now (if you are located in liberal country) and later (when more disturbing leaks are revealed).

Beer Book Review – The Opposite of Woe

To be upfront, I was 100% more interested in the beer portion of The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics by Governor John Hickenlooper.

By the end though, I found myself much more interested in his childhood and his mother and how that affected his personality and choices throughout his life.

Maybe that was because both the beer and the politics really get short shrifted in this telling. Wynkoop Brewing was one of the pioneers of craft beer in Colorado, and I didn’t really get to read much about it other than an anecdote about cleaning toilets and fundraising through friends and families. There wasn’t mention of his favorite beers or much about the customers and the growing beer scene or even the Great American Beer Festival for that matter.

The tenure as Mayor of Denver got some coverage but his first term as Governor is just blitzed through with just a laundry list of accomplishments and personnel who helped him.

It is probably too early for a thorough accounting of his political career but I would have hoped to learn more about the craft beer part of his life. But maybe that is for another book. There were many hints dropped as to buried stories underneath the polite line of history that just were not picked up.

But the section up until he got to Denver is really interesting stuff from the point of view of how people are affected by those in their lives and how you can keep pushing and learning all through life. Just following his geographic route through life is remarkable.

Overall, this memoir suffers from what many do. The initial pages are full of content but as the pages go by, the coverage gets thinner until the end, whole years are barely even sketched. There is interesting stuff here but not enough for the beer fan.

Ferment the Vote

I know that talking politics is a turn off, primarily because most of what we see isn’t moving this country forward or even talking or debating. It is one side saying they are right. Be it Trump and the Wallers or Burnies Against Math or Clinton Dancing around Questions.
Now that the final primaries have pushed Hillary Clinton into presumptive status vs Trump and a bruising six month campaign looms in front of us, it might be tempting to just drink beer to make the politicking fade into the background noise.

But it is important to pay attention and not just to the Tostada Tweets. Which of the two candidates do you think will be more favorable to craft beer? There are two items that loom large over the craft beer landscape currently. There is the Small Brew Act and then there is the BIG ABInBev all-but-done mega-merger. Those are very specific and since Trump is barely fleshing out his agenda, you can’t really predict precise support or non-support he would give to specific agenda points. With Hillary you can, at least, check out how friendly to small business and beer in general she has been since she has actual voting records to check.

But what I am more interested in, is the more abstract culture that the two candidates might create. Right now, with government entrenched like a tick, actualy passing legislation become almost an afterthought. Most bills come pre-watered down before they hit the hill, and now even that yellow fizzy water isn’t being passed. Or even debated.

And by culture, I do not mean the ubiqitous, “Would you drink a beer with this candidate?” nonsense. A president, like a parent, is not there to be your buddy. What I refer to is, will there be a free and open atmosphere that will allow breweries to open and/or expand. Will the multiple agencies that govern craft beer be smart enough about the topic at hand without being helmed by a big business insider who could actually rig a system? Will the people in the governmental trenches be allowed to be nimble enough to not get in the way when it is required and regulate when that is needed? Or will there be a tilt towards helping big business more?

Maybe a better (more fun) way to think about the two sides is to picture what type of brewery either side would have and what it’s flagship beer would be. You can make your own assumptions but here is what I think would have materialized if Clinton and Trump were in beer and not in politics.

Her brewery – Broken Glass Ceiling Brewing. We had to break the ceiling to add in our fermenters.
Her flagship – Like Me IPA – a rotating IPA series that uses whatever hops the whale hunters on Reddit and Beer Advocate say is cool

His brewery – The Best Brewery. All other breweries wish they could be as good but won’t be
His flagship – None. His brewery went out of business because all they did was Twitter all day.

You probably shouldn’t vote for a president based on the issue of beer but you should probably add it to the pro/con list that you have in your head.

Beer PAC

Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing has a large distribution map and now they are entering into the political realm to help broadcast their beer message.


They will be forming their a New Belgium political action committee (PAC).  A PAC is formed by a group looking to protect or advance a particular agenda by supporting candidates and issues via the almighty dollar.

New Belgium is looking to “keeping a finger on the pulse” of legislative efforts in Colorado, North Carolina, and within the federal government, as well.” as well as “supporting candidates and issues that are important to craft brewing.”

That means water and the environment which New Belgium has already been a big advocate for will be on their agenda along with the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (BREW Act), which seeks to reduce excise taxes for craft brewers.

I am of two minds on this development. The Stewart/Colbert part of me thinks that PAC’s are generally the domain of the skeezy. They all seem to have vague names and even more vague donors and they seem (again in general), to demote rather than promote. By that, I mean that they use the vagueness and anonymity to besmirch the names and actions of others or to hold moderate politicians hostage by threatening to get a more radical member of their party elected. Hence the left to right gridlock that we are stuck in now. There seems to be precious little promoting a slate of candidates and issues on their merits alone.

Maybe New Belgium can be an example of a new way that PAC’s can be used. At the very least, the fact that it’s funding is in the daylight is one step. And with a narrow focus on one industry instead of all domestic and foreign policy, the lure of DC siren call to step into the quagmire should be limited. Count me as cautiously optimistic.


Watching out for the small guy

I am not usually to inclined to the power of positive thinking when the government is involved. They have the habit of nosing into business that they should stay away from and shying away from protecting people from bigger interests with bigger pockets.

But this press release might be a cause for some hope in the craft beer world….

“The Brewers Association (BA) shared the news today that the Senate Small Brewers Caucus has been established. The formation of the Caucus was led by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who support the role of America’s small and independent brewers as an engine of economic growth in the country.

In a Dear Colleague letter, Senators Baucus and Crapo noted, “In recent years, the more than 1,700 craft brewers all across America have met growing consumer demand for their products by brewing flavorful and innovative beers which they encourage Americans to enjoy in a responsible manner. These small and independent brewers…generate more than $3 billion in wages and benefits, and pay more than $2.3 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes.”

Mirroring the House Small Brewers Caucus, formed in 2007, the Senate Small Brewers Caucus provides a forum for members of the Senate and their staffs to discuss the issues important to small brewers while exploring what lawmakers can do to strengthen the growth and role of these small businesses in local economies across the country.

The caucus will also provide opportunities for Senators and staff to learn about the science and art of brewing beer, and the unique cultural and economic contributions made by small brewers to their communities.

Currently, the 1,700+ small American breweries account for about five percent of all the beer enjoyed in the United States and 50 percent of brewery jobs—-totaling some 100,000 good-paying part- and full-time positions across the country.

“Montana’s small brewers don’t just make great beer out of the best Montana grains—-they also support good-paying Montana jobs,” said Senator Baucus. “I’m so proud to create the bipartisan Senate Small Brewers Caucus—-because as the state with the second highest number of craft brewers per capita in the country, Montana small brewers need a voice in Congress who’ll keep looking out for them.” Montana boasts a strong brewing community, which generates and pays taxes on approximately $20 million of revenue, according to the Montana Brewers Association.

“As a major producer of barley, wheat and hops, Idaho has a growing role in the craft brewing business,” Senator Crapo said. “While advocating for the excise tax relief bill, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of Idaho’s small craft brewers and heard firsthand from local entrepreneurs about the opportunities for economic growth and job creation that the industry can provide. This caucus will provide Senators with a better understanding of all aspects of small brewing and the positive impact it has on their communities.” Senator Crapo, along with Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), introduced this session’s Senate bill S. 534, which would recalibrate excise taxes on America’s small brewers. Joining Senators Kerry and Crapo were 17 of their Senate colleagues who signed on as original co-sponsors.

“Small craft brewers are growing, creating jobs and contributing in small and big ways to the recovery of the American economy,” said Charlie Papazian, president, Brewers Association. “The bipartisan establishment of the Senate Small Brewers Caucus reflects the collaborative, grassroots community spirit in which the nation’s small brewers contribute to their local communities.”