Issue April 14, 2009

Mug Shots

Hoosier Happy Hour illegal?

In the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers rode an initial wave of power to successfully lobby Hoosier legislators for an end to reduced-price drink specials predicated on time of day or class of customer. Drink-price reductions are required to be non-discriminatory (no Ladies’ Night, ladies) and uniform for all, and all day long. We can have “Happy Day” as often as we like, just not “Happy Hour.”

While reducing impaired driving is a legitimate goal of government, nanny laws like the Happy Hour ban squelch the entrepreneurial spirit and often contradict other regulations. Then again, those of us who have made our careers in the beverage alcohol business learn early that pious homilies about the free market seldom apply to us.

The peculiar cognitive dissonance of America’s fiscal vs. theological upbringing has served to reinforce two mutually exclusive, yet lucrative, political beliefs: Alcohol is a dastardly and sinful curse borne of Satan, and any sin so provocatively vulnerable is a veritable cash cow to be regulated and taxed without recourse to consistency or common sense.

Consider the many splendored idiocies of Indiana’s “let’s flip a coin” attitude toward alcohol sales on the Sabbath. Sunday represents taxable, low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking when it comes to alcoholic beverages served in bars and restaurants for on-premise consumption, but it’s a metaphorical apple in the Garden of Eden in the sense that these very same beverages are barred from leaving the premises for carry-out sales.

However, if licensed small wineries are your bag, there’s a convenient exception to the off-premise rules. Small wineries are magically anointed with different regulatory standards and are permitted to sell their wines for Sunday carryout, the only entity in Indiana allowed to do so. Conversely, Indiana’s small breweries cannot sell their hand-crafted beers “to go” on Sunday, even though every reason supplied as justification for the privileges of the state’s small wineries applies in equal measure to its small breweries.

Confused yet?

Let’s return to the imperative of reducing impaired driving as the basis for eliminating Happy Hour.

In Indiana, on Sunday, you cannot buy alcoholic beverages to take home for consumption within crawling distance of bed, so you are encouraged to hop into the car and drive to a bar or restaurant for on-premise consumption, which likewise encourages impaired driving — but also facilitates the collection of at least some of the revenue lost to nearby locales like Kentucky, although the tax revenue would increase and drunken drivers decrease if package carryout were permitted on Sunday. But it still isn’t, unless you’re a small winery, which counts for one thing, and not a small brewery, which counts as something else — even though it’s exactly the same.

They’re legislators, not logicians.

 

Three times a Liteweight

“Ever wonder why Miller Lite tastes so insanely great?”

Don’t blame me, because this example of vapid ad copy comes from Miller Lite’s website, which appropriately supplies a meaningless answer to an unnecessary question:

“Well, it’s time you got hip to the hops. We triple hops brew Miller Lite. You just keep living the dream.”

Bizarrely recalling Reichsminister Goebbels at his propagandistic zenith, Lite’s new ad campaign trumpets hops as the most recent disposable (and imaginary) reason for the beer’s purported “flavor.” The public is asked to accept that the master brewer’s insistence on hopping the beer a total of three (three!) separate times during the brewing process is significant.

Wow. Why didn’t any other brewer ever think of this before? Were they asleep at the grist or what?

Sorry to disappoint the nation’s Liteweights, but while a three-stage hopping strategy may sound impressive, two inconvenient truths about beer and brewing are worth remembering.

First, virtually every beer currently being brewed worldwide is hopped at least three separate times. The bittering hops go into the kettle first, followed at later stages by flavor and aroma hops. This practice is default and not at all unique.

Second, Miller Lite has no discernable flavor with or without triple hopping. How can we be sure any hops at all were added when there is no sensory evidence whatsoever of their existence?

There ought to be a law against light beer.

 

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit potablecurmudgeon.blogspot.com for more beer.