Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is it illegal to drink and vote?

Came across this article. Apparently an Albuquerque woman was so intoxicated that she passed out at a polling station, causing confusion to the police over whether that was illegal or not. Normal citations aside (Drunk and Disorderly, Creating a Nuisance, etc.), is it illegal to vote while drunk? I poked around quickly, didn't come across much. Apparently in Illinois, intoxication doesn't qualify you for voting assistance at the polling booth, so you're on your drunken own when it comes to checking those ballot boxes. I would assume there's general requirements of mental capacity to vote in most states, but usually those are tacked on to some kind of court ordered guardianship.

So it's probably not illegal to vote drunk, just stupid. And traditional. Looking to history, back in the day elections were a time for everyone to come out of the countryside to the towns. There they'd have a big party, usually put on by one local party or politician, and everyone would eat and discuss and drink, and then go vote for their swell host. It's in this tradition that we host our own Election Day party every two years, I just hope most of my guests drink after they vote... :)

No word yet whether New Mexico counted the Albuquerque woman's vote for: "Thhhe one wiffth tha thiiings. 'You knowwwww, the thinngsss onnnn. I likes himmm. *hiccup* *THUD*"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Does it Matter? (2)

Looks like the results of Papazian's online poll are up.
Summary of the results (as of Oct 3):
  • 5, 264 votes were cast.
  • 51% of voters replied that it did not matter who made the beer they bought.
  • 49% of voters replied that it did matter to a significant extent who made the beer they bought.
  • 150+ comments were submitted to Fark.com.
Oh Fark... it's like the Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python. Twentyfour-seven.

But Charlie puts the problem well:
Americans enjoy the best choice of beers available anywhere in the world. It’s my opinion that in this day and age of company consolidation, big box retailers, large grocers and ever growing large brewing companies, the diversity and choice beer drinkers enjoy today – is a becoming a very very fragile situation.

It’s hard to explain this to the average beer drinker. Here’s one point that’s worth making: Access to market remains a difficult proposition for small and independent brewers. Large brewers through their distributors dominate the decisions determining which beer brands get shelf space and how much shelf space they get. Distributors also significantly influence restaurateurs and the choices they make about what beer is served on the limited number of draft beer tap handles.

To the beer drinker it may seem logical that availability of a particular beer brand is based on consumer demand or profitability. But this is often not the case. Many beers receive shelf space or are delegated a tap handle because of the financial muscle a company can apply to force a decision upon the seller. Small and independent American brewers are often denied access to market due to these dynamics; regardless of consumer demand.
Could he be laying the groundwork for a push for increased specificity in labeling? If so, with Pete's Brewing v. Whitehead to contend with he is definitely moving in the right direction.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Morning Roundup

1) Playboy Wine

First up, Playboy has entered the wine game. Looks like they're paired with the wine.com guys and offering a wine a month. Soon everyone will have their own label wine... The first four are Cab Sav, from reputable vineyards as well. They range from $90 to $380, and apparently you will be able to buy all 12 for $1500 in September.

What's interesting about this is how hard they must have worked to get their labels approved. You can just see the label approval agent, "Playboy wine? Where'd I put my 'DENIED' stamp?" Pretty much every liquor board and the TTB have restrictions on lewd labeling, either by statute or practice. Obviously none of these labels are particularly scandalous, looks like they used 1960's centerfolds.

Just like Friday the 13th Part 1: pretty tame by today's standards...

2) News from England

Interesting articles on the BBC. First is about the relative plight of teetotalling college students at British universities. Interesting considering the U.K.'s growing problem with underage drinking and youth alcoholism. Second is that the UK has rejected calls to lower the drink-drive limit from 80 mg/100 ml to 50mg. That limit would have been about half a pint of beer.

3) Wine Spectator: Mobile

Wine Spectator has announced a new service specifically designed for use in PDAs, allowing you to look up wines and check ratings on the go. You know, so you can be that guy.

4) French fear worst wine sales since 9/11

Wine seems to be taking a hit, at least imports, but what about beer? I've been wondering: is beer recession-proof? Maybe I'll write more about it later, but for now here' s an article from the Washington Post.

5) How can it be the original source Pilsner if it's from Russia?

Article from the Prague Monitor about Pilsner Urquell being brewed in Poland and Russia. The author, Evan Rail, takes issue with a beer that literally translates as Pilsner Original Source being brewed in Russia and Poland. It gets to the heart of a problem faced by traditional beers: are they a style, or are they a place? Guinness, for example, is associated with Dublin. It's brewed there as well. But it's also brewed in regional breweries all over the world. So it's more of a brand. But take Newcastle Brown Ale. It had to relinquish it's PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status in the E.U. after moving its brewery across the river Tyne, just outside the boundaries of the city of Newcastle. So you've got place.

Where does Pilsner Urquell stand? I lean toward brand, because it's associated the world over with being the "original" pilsner. It's the original source alright. But then, I'm not Czech, and the Czechs are very attached to their national pivo. After all, they staked out the first PDO for hops, Zatecky Chmel (Saaz hops) and several of their beers (Budweis) carry PDO status. So maybe pride has something to do with it too.

Of course, to be have the type/class designation of Pilsner in the U.S. it has to be be brewed in either the U.S. or the Czech Republic. Everything else 'must include the word “type” or “French” or other adjective or statement, e.g., “Brewed in France,” indicating the true place of production'. I don't think the Russian and Polish Pilsner Urquells are destined for the United States, but it would be interesting if they had to be labelled Pilsner Urquell - Brewed in Russia.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I am thoroughly convinced that Japan produces 95% of the strangest things in the world.

It's weird, it's wonderful, and it's all so very... Japanese. I've never been there, sadly, but perhaps when a former housemate gets married. He's currently in an omiai (speaking of uniquely Japanese). His boss is basically forcing him into an arranged marriage.

When it comes to alcohol, Japan has many social norms that are wildly out of sync with the U.S. And it's perhaps illustrative to view a few examples, if only to think about just how unlawful/impractical/unimaginable such things might be in the U.S. Here's just a couple examples.

Example 1: Bottle Keep. From Lisa Katayama's blog Tokyo Mango. Apparently there is a tradition of regulars in Japanese bars purchasing bottles of sake and just store them at the bar, taking a glass whenever they come in. Each person gets a little tag that stays on the bottle and identifies it as theirs. Would this work in America? Mmmm, no I'm thinking... I've got a personal mug that hangs at the Titanic, but I don't think 1) they'd be willing to put up with the storage space requirements if I wanted to store bottles, 2) they make more money selling glasses of wine that bottles of it, and 3) I have no faith that the collective sense of social propriety in the US would in any way prevent moochers from drinking my bottle while I was gone. At least if anyone "borrows" my mug it'll get washed before it's put back on its hook...probably.

Example 2: Kids Beer. Via Fermentarium. Beer for kids! No it's not actually beer, per se, it's a brown, foamy tea-based drink aimed at kids. The commercials are great, and can be viewed here on the company's website. Alcohol advertising to kids? Candy cigarette anyone?

Example 3: Micros! It used to be that if you wanted a Japanese beer you had a choice between Asahi, Kirin, or Sapporo. (Ok, so there are a few other smaller ones as well.) Reason being, in order to get a license to brew in Japan you had to produce over 2 million barrels a year, meaning only big industrial conglomerates could brew.

In 1994, the rules were relaxed and micros began to appear. On a return from a recent trip home, my housemate brought a horizontal flight from Baird Brewing, an American style micro started in Numazu by American Bryan Baird and his wife Sayuri. The beers were good. There was a wheat, a pale, an IPA, a brown, a stout, and a porter, and if I had one observation it was that the hops tasted a little strange, perhaps they use New Zealand varieties? My wife is also fond of the Hitachino Nest beers, although the adorable owl on the label probably has something to do with it. But beers like this bode well for the micro movement in Japan.

Not that American Micros don't make it over. I managed to snag a bottle each of Rogue's White Swan and Red Fox beers, brewed for Newport's sister city in Japan. Not to mention Rogue's Morimoto beers: the Imperial Pilsner, Black Obi, and Soba Ale.

Image from http://hoosierbeergeek.blogspot.com. (I'm not at home to take a photo of my bottles!)

Example 4: Suntory. I can't think of Japanese whiskey without thinking of Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. They make a fine whiskey, and are one of the oldest alcoholic beverage companies in Japan.

"Santori Time"

Example 5: Bartenders. This article
from last month's Bon Appetit says it all, though there's also a great segment in the Tokyo episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Cocktail-do is taken very, very seriously. The thought of a bartender on South Beach putting even a fraction of that effort into a drink is hilarious.

Finally, for good Japanese food in Miami go to Matsuri or Maido. An unsolicited plug because both these restaurants are amazing.

Creative Commons License
The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.