02.03.11

Stuff your craft beer where the sun don’t shine

Posted in Phlogiston, Stumble and Fail at 9:53 am by George Smith

DD readers know I despise anything have to do with the idea of the ‘artisan’ economy. This is the new mind candy, now that manufacturing except for arms and some cars, is gone from the United States, that a nation of over 300 million will transform to making crafted premium goods for the world’s upper middle class shoeshine boys and plutocrats.

It’s a ludicrous concept, particularly if you still walk by businesses and stores everyday and actually rub shoulders with your countrymen. Yes, we’re surely a great mass of people, bustling with ideas for super apps and the next robotic chrome-plated coffee maker/alarm clock.

What it is: An editorial argument to rationalize sending most of the country to the poor house as too stupid and unskilled to flourish in the new world.

Today’s example, an article on craft beer exports from the Los Angeles Times:

After decades of taking hops advice from foreign brewers, American craft brewers are beginning to return the favor. Several are now exporting their beers, and others are inviting upstart foreign brewers stateside for a lesson in brewing American favorites such as double IPAs (an India pale ale amped up with extra hops to intensify the flavor). Or, as with Stone, they are getting a surprisingly bubbly reception in the bid for permanent resident status abroad.

“We had no idea we would suddenly need a Stone employee with ‘European acquisitions’ added to his title,” says Koch. After scouting locations in May, Koch and co-owner Steve Wagner received more than 75 brewery site proposals from nine countries, including Denmark, Estonia, France, Italy and Britain. They recently narrowed the playing field to the top two contenders: Bruges, Belgium, and Berlin.

Aside: History used to tell us IPA’s were “pumped up” so they wouldn’t spoil on the sailors and their long export trips to resupply the troops with bitters on the fringes of the British empire.

Anyway, I’ve had Stone. Meh.

When I moved to soCal in the early Nineties the domestic craft beer boom was in full swing. I tricked myself into liking a few.

Then I went back to Lucky Lager, from Tumwater, WA, which was the cheapest selling stuff at Von’s supermarket. Plus, all the bottlecaps had a little sight riddle inside them. You knew you’d had enough Lucky when you couldn’t discern the pictographs or figure them out anymore.

About 2003, you stopped being able to get Lucky in Pasadena, right at the time the Tumwater plant closed. Which makes perfect sense in the context of this story. Downsize the middle class.

So Stone is popular in Estonia. I’m beginning to get a hate on for that country, particularly when it keeps showing up in business stories having to do with computing. That anyone from Estonia would like a US artisan beer is enough to warn you off the beverage.

Estonia’s GDP is less than the worth of computer security company McAfee. Get a grip. There are no lessons for us in Estonia.

The LA Times piece, from it’s food section, contains a few numbers, none of them interesting:

In 2004, the Brewers Assn. launched its Export Development Program with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help American craft breweries meet the increasing demand for their products in international markets. According to the Brewers Assn., since 2003 total U.S. craft beer exports have tripled to more than 1.3 million gallons. (Sweden is the largest importer of American craft beer, followed by Canada, Japan and Denmark.)

Most of those sales are limited to large craft breweries such as Stone, but some small breweries are beginning to test the international waters. The Bruery in Orange County recently began shipping about 100 cases of its spice-infused ales to Europe every quarter as part of a shared shipping arrangement with Green Flash Brewing in San Diego and the Lost Abbey in San Marcos.

1.3 millions gallons a year.

The MillerCoors brewery in Irwindale produces 7 million barrels a year. It employs 600 middle class workers.

Of course, if you perused DD blog during the holiday season, you saw this heartwarming Xmas party tale revealing that even they are up for grabs.

The artisan economy thing has also almost ruined Pabst for me. The idea that it’s now entrenched as a beer for cool people leaves me speechless.

The LA Times artisan brew export story is here.

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