Tag Archive: industry


Awhile back, I wrote about Bruce Buschel’s New York Times article on the 100 things restaurant staff should never do and the sometimes vitriolic debate surrounding the piece. Quite rightly, a lot of folks felt the list was pretentious and Buschel’s lack of experience certainly didn’t help matters.

He was roundly mocked by many people in the industry (and quite a few patrons) but just as many clueless freaks chimed in with support proving to me that a large segment of the population clearly has no idea how challenging it can sometimes be to a good server.

While I’m no hater (hell, at least a third of Buschel’s advice was solid) everything else he said left me with flashbacks to the motley assortment of owners and managers that I’ve had the misfortune of working with. Like many things in life, the service industry has far more bad eggs than good ones and it gets stinkier the higher you look.

Leaving aside the bickering between staff and guests (some things never change) and a certain segment of the workforce that will never amount to anything (I like to call them “the doomed”) the blame for staff performing poorly can almost entirely be laid at the feet of the owners and those power-hungry assholes they hire to manage their venue for them.

Training is clearly lacking here and while I’d like nothing better than to put together a helpful, concise training manual nobody who matters is going to pay attention and it’s way more to fun to right a shit-list of no-nos anyway…

And so, I present the twenty-five things restaurant owners should never do (I initially considered adding seventy-five more but there’s something to be said for brevity). A lot of this applies to managers as well and quite frankly, I see no harm in lumping ‘em all in together. To my mind, if the manager sucks, the owner’s either not much better or wilfully ignorant.

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Robert Simonson of the New York Times looks back at a decade of innovation (and reinvention) when it comes to cocktails. St. Germain is indeed one of the most interesting liqueurs to hit the market lately and I really dig the idea of “bartender’s choice” as an option on a drink menu.

Dana Rourke of  the Live Organic Food Bar (located at Spadina and Dupont) shares her recipe for The London, a drink that you can feel good about imbibing, with The Toronto Star. To no one’s surprise, moderation is still the key.

Matthew Biancaniello’s an inspiration for anyone who’s gotten sick of the grind and taken up bartending because they’re an enthusiast (I can’t be the only one). His concoctions sound pretty interesting too…

For those of you who want to take a harder edge to your drinking, CAMH has released an online test that may help you get a handle on your drinking. Apparently, I drink more than 96% of males, aged 25-34, in Canada. I also spent over 1,700 hours under the influence of alcohol in 2009. Moving on!

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Indiana University have found a molecule that may repair the enzyme mutation that causes people of Asian descent to get flushed faces when they drink. It does other stuff too (like cause cancer and neurodegenerative diseases) so this seems pretty important.

Jason Wilson of The Washington Post looks at rare cognacs. If it’s all about the bottle, how is this different from collecting any other kind of antique? I’m not sure what the deal is with spirits this expensive but an “indescribable” taste sure sounds interesting.

If you’re tired of creamy chocolate liqueurs, this Austrian spirit looks like just the thing to reverse that trend.

In need of some wintery cocktails? Cocktail Virgin Slut offers up some Boston Grog, Drink Snob has Writer’s Block while White On Rice Couple is all about the Sidecar Fizz.

Over at SLOSHED! they have a list of the ten most popular posts on their site for 2009. There are some really good recipes to be found so have a look.

For those of us who drink beer, here’s a handy flow-chart for determining which brand to go for (and yes, no one should ever be caught drinking lime-flavored beer). Once you figure that out, you can play Beer Battleship.

According to The Guardian, bigger whisky makers are feeling the pinch and have been shutting down plants in Scotland. With all the great new whiskies around, I can’t say I really care. If anything, this is a warning against getting too big and being bought out by a company like Diageo.

Beer companies aren’t really paying attention. Heineken now owns the Tecate, Dos Equis and Sol brands which it must hope will give it a leg up on Grupo Modelo (Parent company of Corona. Interesting sidenote: Anheuser-Busch owns half of GM.).

This follows an incredibly-sad statement in The Globe And Mail by Richard Musson, the vice-president of marketing for Labatt, who said that “in the end, what pays the bills is Budweiser.” Truer words were never spoken. Fuck innovation, let’s acquire someone else’s credibility.

Gothic Epicures VinCuisine has put together a handy list of all the best-value red and white wines for under $20 in the 2010 LCBO Vintages release.

While this cellar is presented as an “awesome” idea for storing beer, it would work so much better for wine. Still, it looks good.

I was quite surprised to read in The Globe and Mail that the Liberal government has hired two banks to look into selling the LCBO and other Crown assets to cover this year’s deficit.

After all, wasn’t this brought up before by Mike Harris et al. (and Ernie Eves before him?) and dismissed when the government realized that selling valuable assets to raise money may help cover their deficit now won’t do much for balancing the budget the next year?

But leaving aside whether it’s smart for the Liberals to divest themselves of one of their best and brightest cash cows, which is best for the citizens of Ontario; sale or no sale?

Judging from the comments on the G&M article, a lot of people are confused as to whether this would be a good thing and while I’m not an unabashed fan of the LCBO, I’m also not about to jump on the privatization bandwagon unless I’m sure that it would really benefit us.

So let’s look at the three of the biggest points being raised and see whether they have any merit or not.

Booze would be cheaper.

Really? That would be nice but most consumers don’t realize is that there In the US, each state has its own laws concerning the distribution and sale of alcohol. Some places are cheaper than others but I still have fond memories of brown-bagging tall-boys in NYC; I went to quite a few variety stores and prices ranged from $1.25 to$2.50 for a Coors Light which is not that radically different but you obviously pay more for the “convenience”. A case of mass-market, domestic beer that costs $36 in Ontario typically costs $22 in Quebec and about $18 in New Jersey.

The reason it’s generally cheaper down in the States has everything to do with taxes. Here in Canada, we pay a 26.5% tax on alcohol which includes a 5.75% liquor mark-up fee. In the US, the percentage of taxes applied to alcohol varies from state to state but they’re nowhere near as high.

I’d be the last person to suggest we get rid of the taxes that pay for our health care system (amongst other things) but I do think the mark-up is ridiculous. Still even if the LCBO were sold and the mark-up was removed, we wouldn’t be looking at the same price levels they have in the States; we would probably be a lot closer to Alberta or Quebec. (Strangely enough, spirits are cheaper in Alberta but wine and beer aren’t. Wine and beer are cheaper in Quebec thanks to provincial subsidies that favor local products.)

And there’s no guarantee the mark-up would disappear. If anything, it’s unlikely it would go anywhere since pricing is regulated by the government to ensure socially-responsible consumption of alcohol which, along with store hours, is one of the primary methods they employ to prevent us from degenerating into a bunch of booze-soaked rummies (so we’re told).

Worse yet, if the entire company was sold and allowed to continue as a monopoly except in private hands, we’d have yet another Beer Store on our hands and you only have to look at Hydro One and the telecom companies to see where that gets the consumer.

Looking at the graph above (snatched from the LCBO website) it’s clear that the LCBO controls too much of market to allow it operate as a second private monopoly, answerable to no one but its stockholders.

The selection would be greater.

Yes and no. While the opportunity for specialists to open shops catering to niche markets is greater, there’d be just as many people carrying the same mass-market swill we see everywhere. With the exception of the bigger stores, most LCBOs only stock what they know consumers in their area will be likely to buy. Most private operations wouldn’t be any different.

One big concern is that while the bigger cities in Ontario would probably have no worse selection than they do now, many smaller towns in outlying areas would see their stores close with no guarantee of any replacement.

The sale of alcohol needs to be controlled.

Deciding who buys booze and when they can buy it is an age-old concern. Some people say there’s no harm in having convenience stores sell beer and wine while others argue that public drunkenness and under-age drinking will become bigger problems.

I’ve always argued that kids should be exposed to alcohol sooner rather than later (presumably limiting all of that surreptitious, binge drinking) but as that’s generally an unpopular opinion to have, I’d also like to point out that those same stores seem to do a pretty good job of preventing kids from smoking too.

Fact is, people will do what they want to do and the best results have always come from education and integration, not prohibition. The laws we already have in place will take care of the egregious offenders; why persecute anyone else?

Despite my beefs with the LCBO, I’ve come to realize that the provincial government is responsible for nearly all of ‘em… the insane mark-up, lack of inter-provincial distribution (where the hell are my Quebec beers and my BC wines?) and inconvenient store hours.

Selling the LCBO doesn’t change any of that.

The powers that be will still regulate the fuck out of whomever’s selling us our booze and unless they decide private operators to cater to niche consumers, we’ll be looking at another monopoly. We don’t need another Beer Store.

What we do need is a reexamination of the liquor laws and regulations that have their background in Ontario’s Scottish-Protestant roots and adjusting them to fit a society that, over the past decade, has become a lot more conscious of when and how they drink, what they want to buy and where they buy it from.

(And a little store downtown selling me limited-release tequila, absinthe and bitters would be nice too.)

Currently making the rounds on Twitter is an article from The New York Times by Bruce Buschel, the main thrust of which is a list consisting of 100 dos and don’ts for restaurant staff. The response has been equally vitriolic and congratulatory, and it seems to be split fairly evenly between industry types and guests, respectively.

The former tend to take issue with Buschel for not understanding how much shit they put up with while the latter seem more than happy to share their dining-out horror stories. To be sure, there are plenty of commentators who occupy the middle ground on a sliding scale and I would lump myself in with them but I think the heated response to this article points to the frustration both sides feel towards each other which is just as much about a lack of respect and understanding as it is about different standards of service.

While I’m all about taking Buschel to task for his “modest” list (not to mention his lack of experience in the industry) he does raise some good points. Rules are good but what’s often missing from a strict interpretation of said guidelines is giving the server the necessary leeway to tweak them as befits each situation.

With that in mind, I’m going to go through Buschel’s list, point by point, and offer my take. (I’m also going to do my best to refrain from incriminating myself re: my current place of employment but I might slip up from time to time. Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows the difference between not giving a shit and mindlessly following the company line; sometimes you gotta work with what you have.)

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For those of you stuck on a street with no corkscrew and a crowd of friends eagerly awaiting to imbibe.

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Do you know the difference between whiskey and whisky? The Kitchn fills us in.

The Pegu Blog reveals just how close we came to losing Angostura Bitters in the latest economic crisis.

In case you can’t find enough uses for apples this fall, SLOSHED! gives us the Bum’s Rush. I think I like apple juice with tequila even more than with Zubrowka

In more serious news, we’re now being told that mixing cocaine and alcohol is bad for you ‘cos it forms a whole new chemical in your liver. There’s a definite British vibe, seeing as this is the Guardian and all, but I can’t say Canada’s on the level with our neighbors across the pond, seeing as our coke’s really quite shitty at the moment (hearsay, I swear!).

In Spain, there’s a bit of a debate going on regarding teenagers and their right to throw public parties called “botellons”. Neighbors talk of noise and vandalism, teens say they’re being scape-goated. Regardless, it sure beats that period of my youth where I hung out in this public park in Whitby, furtively smoking joints and wishing I had some kind of booze.

And proving yet again that Canada’s one of the most efficient squelchers of fun ever, the City of Richmond, the B.C. liquor board and even Ottawa are burying the Dutch in red tape when all they want to do is bring their beloved Holland House tradition to the 2010 Olympics.

God forbid we should let people have a good time. I’m sure these policy-Nazis are afraid that if Canadians realize how much fun the rest of the world is having, they’ll stop putting up with some of the most draconian alcohol laws around.

One day, I’d like to walk around town with a beer in my hand. One day, I’d like to be able to bring my favorite bottle of wine with me to a restaurant for a reasonable corking fee without having the owner jump through bureaucratic hoops. One day, I’d like to be able to decide for myself which liquor store to patronize (and that will be the one that offers stuff I can’t find anywhere else). Hell, I want to be able to buy it at the corner store and then walk back up to my apartment and share it with my friends! One day, I’d like to be able to drink past 2 in the morning because I had work till last call and maybe I’m not quite done yet.

One day…

It seems like it’s been a busy day for booze and I have some more links. Instead of putting up another post, I’m going to add ‘em to this one.

If you’re a construction worker, you probably drink a lot. Top three professions are: construction, agriculture and general labour which is not much of a surprise. The report by the group appropriately titled Ensuring Solutions to Alcoholic Problems also found that male-dominated industries had more incidences with excessive-drinking and job absenteeism.

As far as I’m concerned, the only really interesting bit of information was that service and sales (my area if you will) ranked a solid fourth and fifth, respectively. (I knew we were all drunks but I didn’t know we ranked that high.)

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, based out of Oregon, had not 1 but 12 themed cocktails for their latest event. When not drowning your sorrows in The Yog-Sothoth, you could order everything from a Twisted Tentacle to the Pamakazi of Ibn-Ghazi. While some of them look fairly derivative, I still dig the idea.

Fancy a taste of the world’s strongest beer? Utopia, produced by Samuel Adams, reigns in at a hefty 27% ABV and is a veritable stew of yeasts, malts and hops with a bit of Triple Bock. It’ll cost ya $150 but at that strength and price range, it’s more like a spirit than anything.

boozeThe LCBO has stopped its employees from accepting gifts from distilleries and breweries in order to fall in line with the Public Service of Ontario Act. Does this mean families will actually be able to afford Leafs tickets once more? (Probably not but it’s a start.)

When does an awareness campaign become an advertisement? Is this placement by Droga5 that aligns the Victoria Bitter brand of beer with Anzac (a day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for servicemen and women who died during military duty for their countries) appropriate?

Pete Brown thinks so and I happen to agree with him; it sure as hell beats anything we have over here.

Over at A Good Beer Blog, Alan McLeod talks about a proposed law in Alberta that would allow bar owners to collect and trade information about their customers. While it’s designed to stop gang activity, we all know someone who got banned from a bar for a misunderstanding. Who watches the watchers?

Greg Clow of Taste T.O. reviews the newest beer in town, Palm Ale, which is the first in a new line (hopefully) and the result of a deal between Brick Brewery and Latis Imports.

Oh Group shares the recipes for Hellfire bitters (and a resulting cocktail, the Mexican Standoff).

Next week (Friday, May 22nd) is the C’est What Spring Festival of Craft Breweries! Bartowel News has the details. I can’t wait to try Flying Monkeys’ Hoptical Illusion…

The next time sometime disputes my claim that America is far, far ahead of us when it comes to cocktails, I’ll send ‘em this link. Kaiser Penguin shares some recipes whipped up during Thursday Drink Night.

(If you’re in Ontario, you’ll probably be missing at least one of the ingredients from every, single one of these recipes but substitutions are always possible.)

(Image taken from the_thirsty_moth’s Flickr Photostream.)

Bar Blacklist – VIP Billiards

vip

The bar I went to tonight has prompted me to create a whole new category on this blog. Yes, it was that bad.

From now on, when I go to a bar that is so godawful that I walk away wanting those hours of my life back, I’m going to write about it here.

Maybe that’s not fair though. After all, we all have different tastes and opinions, right? Maybe some people enjoy bad draft beer, auto-grats, watered-down cocktails and indifferent service. Normally, I forgive the last one on the list but the first three really make it hard to overlook.

So you don’t clean your pipes. Every beer is stale; the kind of taste you might get if the bartender put together a pint with the spill from all of the pints they’ve been pulling all night. Some (Rickard’s Red) are downright near-skunky but we let it pass because we were having a good time (and we’re probably too nice for own good anyway).

Your cocktails suck. I’ve had every kind of shitty drink you can find in this city but I’ve yet to come across one that’s watered-down and this bar’s definitely a contender. My coworker’s lychee martini might’ve been almost 1 oz of booze if we’d been pissed but it was the first drink of the night and it was pretty damn obvious.

The mediocre service I could overlook except that our table was slapped with an automatic gratuity.

What the fuck?

We ordered no food and you never bothered to tell us that you were going to tack it on to our bill (nor was there any mention of it on the menu). I’ve yet to go to a bar that does that and I wouldn’t have minded so much if the drinks had been good and the bartender had put together our round of shots in a timely manner (ten minutes is a bit much).

The icing on the cake had to be the manager-on-duty coming up to us and offering us VIP cards for (get this) free pool if we referred his establishment to our guests when they asked us for a recommendation. Then, and only then, would we could get a free game of pool and a line-bypass.

Whoop-de-fuckin’-doo.

VIP Lounge & Billiards Club is a shithole.

liquorTiare over at A Mountain Of Crushed Ice gets into using vegetables in your cocktails. I’m really interested in trying out beets and plaintain but they all look pretty good to me. It might also help me feel better about not getting my eight servings a day.

The Intoxicologist takes issue with patriotic booze and so do I. The idea of exploiting an American’s patriotism to market cheap booze while making vague statements about supporting “everyone in uniform” (without saying which organizations they send money to) doesn’t sit well with me.

Science Daily talks about a new study completed in the UK that claims that “beer goggles” do not affect drinker’s perceptions of age. The idea is that this might prevent men from claiming that they didn’t know that their partners were underage. This is all very fine and well but doing a study in a pub is very different from doing one in a nightclub. And what about when you’re all on ecstasy?

Vietnamese snake wine with big-ass cobras in it!

Martin always said so but now we have some sense of what having Kingsley for a dad must’ve been like. Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog reviews “Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis”. Like many famous British drunkards, Amis Sr. was really good at being an insufferable prick but you gotta love quotes like these:

“If asked what you think [about the wine], say breezily, ‘Jolly good,’ as though you always say that whatever it’s like. This may suggest that your mind’s on higher things than wine, like gin or sex.”

I want a copy!

For those following in his footsteps, here’s a handy method for hiding booze at the office. Helen Gurley Brown might sneer but this sort of thing is generally frowned upon nowadays.

If drinking at work is too risky and you live in London, you could always visit the Alcoholic Architecture exhibit which makes you feel like you’re walking through a giant gin-and-tonic.

Finally, I have 116 bits of alcoholic trivia for you. While quite a few of ‘em fall into this bizarre wordplay category (otherwise known as “who gives a fuck”), the historical ones are genuinely interesting. For instance:

“33. The bill for a celebration party for the 55 drafters of the US Constitution was for 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that ‘ducks could swim in them’.”

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I like how that one white dude really digs the music.

(Image taken from wil.widner’s Flickr photostream.)

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The Telegraph recently posted an article about how some companies such as Facebook and Google, the NBA and American television companies are relaxing their restrictions on alcohol advertising in order to generate new streams of revenue.

This is apparently a big deal although I fail to see why as long as they’re not misleading and they don’t market it to minors. Facebook tends to skew to an older crowd anyway although I’d wager it’s a pretty tight demographic (18-25?) that’s likely to install any applications offered by the likes of Anheuser-Busch or Bacardi.

Apparently, most of these apps offer allow users to win contests that get them into sponsored parties. I wouldn’t know because the Bacardi Mojito Party was unavailable to me (likely due to it being restricted to American users) and Miller’s Today I’m Toasting was under construction. In fact, none of the applications that have been developed were available which leads me to wonder if they’re specifically targeted at an American and not Canadian audience because we get to legally drink two years before they do?

The only application I’ve seen anyone use is Booze Mail, a particularly stupid bit of code that allows you to send drinks to your friend’s walls which is just as retarded as those gifts that get exchanged. Two apps I find much more appealing are Bottlenotes and RateBeer, both of which allow like-minded users to rate and talk about wine and beer they like (or dislike), respectively.

This doesn’t really help us Canadians, with our limited options for purchasing alcohol, and I’d be surprised the LCBO hasn’t jumped on this marketing opportunity except that I’d bet anything that they’re a) too cheap and b) far too old-fashioned. It’s too bad because an app that tracks new product releases with links built into their website allowing people to find what stores carry them and then contact those stores seems like a natural to me… Or maybe not but I don’t think I’m the only one who finds the LCBO website irritating.

But moving on, what about television? We’ve all seen our fair share of beer ads, ranging from stupid to offensive, but how is this regulated in Canada? The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has a code that specifically deals with what can be broadcast and what cannot. Here are some highlights.

“Commercial messages for alcoholic beverages shall not:

(a) attempt to influence non-drinkers of any age to drink or to purchase alcoholic beverages;

(b) be directed at persons under the legal drinking age, associate any such product with youth or youth symbols, or portray persons under the legal drinking age or persons who could reasonably be mistaken for such persons in a context where any such product is being shown or promoted;

(e) attempt to establish the product as a status symbol, a necessity for the enjoyment of life or an escape from life’s problems, or attempt to establish that consumption of the product should take precedence over other activities;

(f) imply directly or indirectly that social acceptance, social status, personal success, or business or athletic achievement may be acquired, enhanced or reinforced through consumption of the product;

(g) imply directly or indirectly that the presence or consumption of alcohol is, in any way, essential to the enjoyment of an activity or an event;

(k) use imperative language to urge people to purchase or consume the product;

(n) contain inducements to prefer an alcoholic beverage because of its higher alcohol content;

(o) refer to the feeling and effect caused by alcohol consumption or show or convey the impression, by behaviour or comportment, that the people depicted in the message are under the influence of alcohol;

(q) contain scenes in which any such product is consumed, or that give the impression, visually or in sound, that it is being or has been consumed.”

Now, far be it from me to be a negative fuckin’ nancy but don’t they regularly break (e), (f), (g) and (q)? Doesn’t the Molson ad I just linked to fit the bill? How about this one? There are good ads out there.  Arrogant Bastard Ale released this campaign that pretty much made fun of mainstream beer drinkers and companies they support that release “outrageously conniving, intentionally misleading, blatantly masturbatory and fallacious ad campaigns.”

ale

I don’t know about you but I’ll take that their brand of arrogance over what the other guys are offering any day; even if it treads dangerously into that extreme, stressed graphic style I find distasteful. At least it has some credibility.

We’re way past the days when Anheuser-Busch et al. could lay any claim to putting out a “premium product” and in a way, their advertising is a perfect example of that. They can’t really claim to have the best-tasting beer but they sure as hell can sex it up.

So what’s my point with all of this? I guess I’m saying that I’m in favor of allowing spirits advertisers back into mainstream media and I’d argue that having those ads play during prime time television and be printed in newspapers isn’t going to raise a nation of underage binge-drinkers.

No, we have the stupid neo-prohibitionistic notion that children must be protected at all costs from the dangers of alcohol to thank for that. These ads will bring in important revenue and if the product is good, I see no harm in it. However, I have one proviso and it’s a biggie.

The ads should deal directly with the quality of the product. They should make you want to drink it because, goddammit, it’s the best product of its kind and you’d be a fool not to. The ads can be funny, serious or clever as long as they’re honest. Maybe I’m asking too much but I don’t think so. I’d like to see both advertising and it’s retarded cousin, Facebook apps, up their  game and start treating consumers with a little respect.

They can be the cooler, older brother if they want to.

Over at bevlog, they’re asking what readers think of a ongoing proposal by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to change the labels of all beer, wine and spirits by including “Servings Facts” information on each and every bottle.

monavie_nutritionBasically, it would indicate “typical serving size, number of servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat”. It would also be divided into two sections, ingredients and alcohol facts.

Even though this is an initiative proposed by the TTB of the USA and doesn’t effect Canada (at least initially), I’m generally in favor of more information being released to consumers to help them make decisions about the products they want to purchase.

First and foremost, the “alcohol by volume” percentage which is already printed on the label is supplemented by a box informing you of the “fl oz of alcohol” per serving. Despite some comments declaring that this might be mathematically confusing for consumers, I think it’s a fairly important piece of information to be including on the product, especially when you think about how most people don’t know how much alcohol is in individual servings of whatever they’re consuming and this can vary from product to product.

Sure, there will be lots of people who won’t give a damn but a conscientious person who wants to monitor their intake because they have to drive will be able to measure that a whole lot better or refuse a drink that would put them over the legal limit.

The other boxes don’t really matter so much although I suppose some people monitor their calorie intake closely enough that a drink will make some difference and it could be argued that people don’t pay enough attention to the empty calories they consume through drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The one exclusion that really catches my attention is the lack of any information concerning the amount of sugar in a product.

Surely this is a rather large oversight; sweeter drinks are often cheaper, mask the taste of alcohol and include more nasty congeners, the by-products of fermentation which are toxic and, along with dehydration, are largely responsible for hangovers. (On an unrelated note, I was surprised to find that bourbon drinkers like me are especially at risk; our favorite tipple contains thirty times as many congeners as vodka.)

Criticism of the proposed regulation has come from at least two different groups; another post on bevlog that featured Bluemont Vinery’s opposition from the viewpoint of a small business and a PDF posted on a government site by Wine America, a national association of wineries. Both of them are opposed because they claim adhering to these standards would result in untenable costs to smaller producers and lead to general consumer confusion due to excess labelling. They go on to state that because there is little variation in alcohol content and carbohydrates of most wines, there is no point in releasing this information and since most people already know how much they can generally handle, telling them how much pure alcohol is in a serving would also be unhelpful.

I call bullshit. I’m generally in favor of labeling for most food and drink. Most people now appreciate being able to determine the nutritional content of products they purchase at the grocery store and I would imagine they would feel the same about alcohol. Hell, I’d go further and add regulate the spread of GMOs as well as the food we’re served in restaurants but that’s another issue. As for the cost, I don’t see why it couldn’t be passed on in part to the consumers if this is something that people are truly interested in.

I’m well aware that regulations often favor the big guys like Diageo who have the money to spend on laboratory testing and label redesigns but I don’t see why both the American and Canadian (when the time comes) governments couldn’t subsidize the little guys with grants and tax breaks.

Bevlog also linked to a video of former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop talking about why adding this information to labels is important and although it’s rather dry, I agree with them; this video deserves some attention as well.

Madison Beer Review put together a great post talking about this issue and they presented several things I didn’t know at the time of writing this: one of the biggies is that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the group who originally petitioned the TTB to change these regulations has been accused of having a “neo-prohibitionist” stance by many “beer supporters” and is of the opinion that alcohol is ruining America. I don’t doubt that their voice would be moderated by the presence of health organizations and industry lobbyists but it’s still something to consider.

However, both sides have some explaining to do. It’s also pointed out that while the Beer Institute “objects to publishing alcohol content” because said content “in most beers is in a very narrow range” this is hardly true when one considers the beer “can range from less than 4% ABV (alcohol by volume) to over 20% ABV”. As we move away from the the narrower definitions of beer that its members (who include Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors and Heineken) generally espouse, it makes sense to include this information on the label without it hurting the same folks whose products warrant its inclusion.

Also, as Madison Beer Review notes, it’s hardly realistic to reduce serving portions proportionally in terms of the ABV-2 oz for a 20% ABV brew is just silly-it would make sense to consider how beers with a higher ABV are meant to be shared and incorporate that information onto the label somehow.

In the end, I agree with them. Full disclosure of ingredients would be a nice step and would also tie in nicely with the trend to more natural, healthy products. After all, I’d take a St. Peter’s Organic English Ale over a Smirnoff Ice cooler any day.

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