Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Did American brewers really become gangsters during Prohibition?

Earlier this week, America noted the 83rd anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine marked the occasion with a short, well-intentioned piece on "Industries That Breweries Turned to During Prohibition."

The story began promisingly, if somewhat overwrought:
While the craft-beer industry is full of talented up-and-comers, there are a handful of breweries who survived one of the darkest—and supposedly driest—eras in the American brewing industry: Prohibition. The Temperance Movement sought to crack down on all the booze-guzzling heathens, and while pointing at the alcohol industry with one hand and clutching their pearls in the other, they shut the industry down. [...] But with a little ingenuity—and a whole lot of luck—some breweries survived. Many of them are thriving today, and so are some of their Prohibition side projects.

For example, Coors kilned high-tech ceramics; Yuengling churned ice cream.

Yuengling tin

But then the author, Libby Murphy, made this startling claim:
Unemployment soared after the breweries closed their doors. To make ends meet, many unemployed brewery employees turned to organized crime to keep food on the table, which, unsurprisingly, kept the underground liquor industry going stronger than ever.

Indeed, the record shows that bootlegging was rampant during Prohibition, but what is the source for Murphy's claim about law-breaking brewers? By "many," did she mean a plurality or a majority of brewers? Or did she merely assume that SOME brewery workers MIGHT have turned to organized crime? The word "many" certainly does not mean a few. This is so vague. She doesn't clarify.

As historian Maureen Ogle —author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer— told me:
Most breweries were long since out of business before Jan. 1, 1920. And companies that stayed open worked hard to keep employees in business (thus the efforts to diversify by, e.g., Yuengling, AB, Miller, etc. Did some [unemployed brewery employees turn to organized crime]? No doubt. Many? Doubtful.

Murphy's unemployment claim also seems suspect.

In 1919, when Prohibition was ratified, the unemployment rate sat at 2.3%. In 1921, a year after Prohibition had taken effect nationally, the rate did indeed jump dramatically, to 11.9%. But soon thereafter, it fell just as dramatically. In 1922, it was 7.6%; in 1926, 1.9%. The rate rose again, slightly, just before the Crash in late 1929, to 3.2%.

I found this data with only a cursory web search, at the website for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Granted, the methodology and metrics of that era were most probably different than those of today. But the data do not support Murphy's claims.

Murphy has written a story of historical brewery interest, a feel-good story of American brewers, industrious under duress. When, in an offhand manner, she then placed those brewers' lawfulness in doubt, she should have provided proof. She didn't.

In the title to this post, I asked: Did American brewers really become gangsters during Prohibition? The answer: NOT PROVEN. Ms. Murphy has published an unfounded allegation.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Pic(k) of The Week: Happy Holidays?

"I Hate Everybody!"

"I hate everybody," the Grinch grouses, as seen along the Beltline rails-to-trails park, painted on a "Happy Holidays" graffiti/mural, near Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 13 January 2016.

Season's Greetings?


Thursday, December 01, 2016

#VeggieDag Thursday: Sweet Stout-Roasted Root Vegetables

Veggie 'Beastie' Loaf (02)
When my husband tried these, he said he'd been hoping for years to taste a roast vegetable that seemed to have the gravy on the inside instead of on the outside, and I'd finally cracked it. As you simmer a selection of root vegetables in a little sweet stout, you can see the beer being drawn deep into the vegetables. When you finish them in a hot oven, the liquid is sealed inside, while the outside is seared to a roast caramel. I serve them with the Sunday roast, but, for a vegetarian, they are strong-flavoured and substantial enough to be the Sunday roast.

That's British freelance beer and food writer Susan Nowak describing Root Vegetables Roasted with Sweet Stout in her 1999 beer-cusine cookbook, The Beer Cookbook, now out-of-print, but easily available from third-party online purveyors.

The Beer Cookbook

The recipe

From page 165:
  • 225 grams (8 oz) each peeled parsnips, swedes, and large carrots, cut into roasting size chunks, roughly equal in size.
  • Approximately 150 ml [5 ounces] sweet stout or brown ale
  • 25 grams (1 oz) butter, for roasting
  • Place the vegetables in a large pan and pour in enough stout to half cover. Put on the lid and simmer gently until they start to soften, then remove from the heat, but leave in the pan to cool and draw inn the beer, turning the vegetables in the stock from time to time.
  • Remove vegetables from stock and place in an ovenproof dish.
  • Roast towards the top of a hot oven (400 °F) for ten minutes until the vegetables start to caramelize. Glaze with the butter and return to the oven to crisp for a further 20 minuted, basting twice, until soft on the inside and crisp on the outside with an intense sweetness. Simple but effective.

What YFGF did

  • To prevent the reduction from becoming unpleasantly bitter, avoid an overly roasty or overly hoppy stout (as is the case with many American 'craft' stouts). In fact, I added a tablespoon of agave syrup when basting the vegetables. (I also substituted Earth Balance for the butter.)
  • If you're vegetarian, you would want to avoid Guinness Stout, which is made with fish-derived isinglass for clarification. The brewery has announced its intention to change that procedure. Most American 'craft' stouts are not made with isinglass. If you're vegan, you would want to avoid milk stouts, which, although they do not contain milk per se, contain lactose: milk sugar.
  • I used a full bottle, 12 ounces (355 ml), of Milk Stout from The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (of Farmville, North Carolina).
    The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout is a traditional full-bodied stout brewed with lactose (milk sugar). Because lactose is unfermentable by brewer's yeast, it remains in the beer. The subtle sweetness and fullness of flavor imparted by this sugar balances the sharpness of the highly roasted grains that give this delicious beer its black color. All year long, Milk Stout is our number one selling beer! ABV: 5.7%.
  • After cooking the vegetables, I whisked a tablespoon of arrowroot into the beer-vegetable stock. Presto, a gravy.
  • A British "swede" is an American rutabaga. Nowak suggests a dry hoppy bitter as beer accompaniment. England and America are two countries divided by a common language ... and beer.
VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Drinking, Again! Winter Cheers: a one sentence review.

Victory Brewing's Winter Cheers

New world meets old, as hop-derived lemon aromas give way to yeast-derived aromas and flavors of clove and banana and then a gently hoppy finish, in Winter Cheers, a hopped hefeweizen (a "celebratory wheat ale," the bottle label propounds), a delightful, if atypical, winter seasonal from Victory Brewing (of Downingtown, Pennsylvania) that bucks the trend for big and/or spiced beers in December (even though, at 6.7% alcohol-by-volume, it ain't no slouch), a beer designed as a chef might create a meal of unexpected combinations: flavorful yet even-handed.

Whew! A one sentence review.

From the brewery:
Winter weather may drive us indoors but cannot dampen our spirits when hearth, home and hops meet in jubilation. Hoisted high in its golden glory, Winter Cheers lives up to its name, fueling festive times and chasing winter’s chill. Glowing and glimmering, frothy and shimmering, our celebratory wheat ale features luscious fruity and spicy notes, making it a perfect brew to brighten spirits even on the deepest of nights. Light in body, this fruity and warming holiday brew delivers a crisp finish, with spicy hints of banana, clove, and citrus.
  • Malt: German wheat and barley malts, and oats
  • Hops: Whole flower Tettnang and Citra hops
  • ABV: 6.7%

In February 2016, Victory Brewing was purchased by Artisanal Brewing Ventures, a consortium consisting of 'craft' brewery Southern Tier Brewing (of New York) and a private investment company, appropriately named Ulysses.

A series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits).
No scores; only descriptions.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 45/46, 2016.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 45/46
6 November - 19 November 2016

  • 18 November 2016
    The 2016 hop harvest in Washington State 2016 is reported to have increased 16% over last year; the state is now the world's largest hop producer of hops, even more than the nation of Germany, the former top global producer.
    —Via WSU News.

  • 18 November 2016
    Big-voiced soul-revival singer Sharon Jones dies at 60 of pancreatic cancer.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • Chaos among the kegs
  • 15 November 2016
    Keg loss cost craft brewers in the United States upwards of over $33 million in 2015. [...] The bottom line is, whether you’re an account or a consumer, that keg you cut up amounts to stealing—plain and simple.
    —Via Andy Sparhawk, at [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 15 November 2016
    The World Meteorological Organization announced that it expects 2016 to be the hottest year on record, surpassing 2015, which had been the warmest. The average global temperature was 2.16 °F above pre-industrial levels.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 15 November 2016
    Jazz songwriter, singer, and pianist Mose Allison has died, at 89. "He was someone who generated his own joy."
    —Via Associated Press.

  • 15 November 2016
    No free beer tomorrow. Anheuser-Busch cuts off free-beer-for-life benefit for retired workers of its Labatts plants in Canada.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 14 November 2016
    Gwen Ifill, a groundbreaking journalist who covered the White House, Congress, and national campaigns during three decades for The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and, most prominently, PBS, has died from complications of uterine cancer She was 61.
    —Via New York Times.

  • Super moon rises through the Georgia brume (03)
  • 14 November 2016
    On Monday (Nov. 14) at 6:15 a.m. EST, the moon will arrive at its closest point to the Earth in 2016: a distance of 221,524 miles (356,508 kilometers) away. It will also be a full moon and thus, a so-called 'supermoon, when the full moon occurs as the moon is at its closest point of approach in its orbit around Earth. The full moon won't come this close to Earth again until Nov. 25, 2034.
    —Via Space.

  • 12 November 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev announces its 2020 Dream Incentive Plan. By the year 2020, the company wants (plans) to nearly double its annual revenue from $55 billion to a cool $100 billion and awarding it top executives $5.4 million apiece if ti is reached. Analysts speculate:
    Having hoovered up many of the big targets in brewing, including its biggest rival, the company may be forced to look further afield to other parts of the drinks industry. A move into soft beverages, which could use the same manufacturing plants, distribution, and suppliers, is the obvious next step. [Anheuser-Busch InBev and Coca-Cola] are a match made in heaven financially. Combine Coke’s annual sales of $45bn to the $55bn InBev makes, and that elusive $100bn is suddenly reached. Who said don’t mix your drinks?
    —Via The Telegraph.

  • 9 November 2016
    Repurposing! A Sunoco ethanol plant in New York state, which was once a Miller brewery, will now also become (in part), a 'craft' beer malting house. When it becomes operational in 2017, the plant will be able to supply more than 2,000 tons of barley malt each year, making it one of the largest suppliers of barley malt to the craft brewing industry in the United States.

  • 8 November 2016
    Republican Donald Trump defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton; is elected 45th president of the United States.
    —Via NPR.

  • 3.2 beer in 2016
  • 8 November 2016
    Oklahoma voters have voted in favor of State Question 792 (66% to 34%) to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and "full-strength beer" (defined as beers of not more than 8.99 percent by VOLUME). The measure goes into effect in 2018. Colorado already plans to do away with 3.2 beer in 2019. Will AB InBev, Pabst, etc., even continue to make 3.2 beer for the three remaining states —Utah, Kansas, and Minnesota— that restrict higher alcohol beer under varying circumstances?
    —Via YFGF.

  • 7 November 2016
    Leonard Cohen, a Canadian-born poet, songwriter and singer, whose lyrics explored themes of love, faith, death and philosophical longing, and whose song “Hallelujah” became a celebratory anthem recorded by hundreds of artists, has died at age 82.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 7 November 2016
    Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as attorney general of the United States, has died at 78, from complications of Parkinson's disease.
    —Via NPR.