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On the Subject of Craft Beer

Posted by Anthony on September 7, 2015

Quite possibly the best way to start your day

The absolute best way to start your day

The word legacy is often tossed about with impunity since those opining on any particular legacy are usually in a position to observe without being observed on their marking; what we mean here is that the people who decide on an individual’s legacy are often doing it from afar both spatially and chronologically. So it is with President Jimmy Carter, of late, sadly, admitting to being afflicted by that most odious of maladies: cancer.

Those looking over President Carter’s legacy as a political leader tend to render their verdict based upon the subsequent eight years of President Ronald Reagan. They point to the malaise that existed during the Carter years, the long gas lines due to shortages, indeed even the Iran hostage crisis falls clumsily at his feet. Compared to the “feel good” 1980s, with Reagan staring down the Soviet Union, bombing Libya, and creating a general attitude of positive Americanism, what lasting contribution could Carter have to offer this esteemed country?

The answer lies in H.R. 1337, a bill signed into law in 1978 by President Carter which essentially allowed for home-brewing beer with an alcohol content higher than 0.5%. In other words, President Carter opened the taps (if you will) to what would become a flourishing industry in the United States and one that would have a positive impact culturally and economically up to the present day. Before the home-brew revolution, American beer had never really recovered from the post-Prohibition days of bland, macro beers using inexpensive adjuncts and selling because there was quite literally nothing else with which to compete.

What the home-brew bill did was enable innovative entrepreneurs to experiment and learn brewing from the ground up. Companies like Sierra Nevada which began in 1979 by two home-brewers now produce almost a million barrels of beer a year and employs around 450 people. Even bigger is the Boston Beer Company whose founder, Jim Koch, famously brewed his first batch of beer in his own kitchen in 1984. His company now produces over 2.5 million barrels of beer a year and employs 1,300 people. The numbers are astounding: in 1979, there were 89 breweries in the United States; in 2013, there were 2413. In an almost unbelievable side note, and just to show you how much the macro-breweries are pumping out, these breweries which produce 480,000,000 (four-hundred and eighty million) gallons of beer per year represents 7.8% of the total market by volume. Do the math.

Today one can find a craft-brewery in almost every major town (or right outside of it) in the United States. These places often have strong local ties and, because they are producing maybe a few hundred gallons at a time (or less), can be much more experimental with their beers than those companies that need to produce 100x that amount every day. Unlike Germany, with its Reinheitsgebot , American brewers are free to dabble with various grains, fruits, and more exotic additions (cinnamon, peanut-butter, chocolate) in an attempt to create a beer that really speaks about the ambitions of the brewer and his/ her craft.

In conclusion, while he may be pilloried for his political accomplishments, President Carter should always be remembered as the man who made this brewing revolution possible. So the next time you travel down to Dover, Delaware, and visit our friends at Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company, or Athens, Georgia, and taste the offerings at the Terrapin Beer Company, or even find yourself in Northern Alabama (Madison to be exact) and partake of what’s on tap at the Blue Pants Brewery raise your first glass to President Carter; if you enjoy craft beer, you owe him at least that.

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Identifying the True Abomination

Posted by Anthony on August 7, 2015

Jerusalem Gay Pride Stabbing

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

– Leviticus 20:13

This past Thursday, during a Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, an ultra-Orthodox Jew ran through the crowd brandishing a knife and using it to indiscriminately stab and slash at anyone within arms-reach. A terrible act, but one to which he was no stranger: he had just been released, weeks prior, from an Israeli prison for doing the exact same thing at a Gay Pride march in 2005. During that attack he managed to wound three people; during last week’s he stabbed six one of whom, sixteen-year old Shira Banki, has died of her wounds.

To their credit, the Israeli government was swift to condemn the attack in no uncertain terms with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin speaking out on the basic rights for an individual in Israel to live in security however they wish to live their lives. Even the Anti-Defamation League in New York spoke out condemning the attack and praising the open and tolerant attitude expressed towards the LGBT community in Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Siege Mentality

Posted by Anthony on July 27, 2015

Retired General Wesley Clark said last week what all too many U.S. citizens have quietly thought at one time or another: why can’t we just round up all of these radical Muslims and throw them into prison? Certainly there would be little argument if the individuals were spewing anti-American hatred and endorsing or lending moral support to forces currently fighting the country. To be quite frank, it would not be anywhere close to the first time that the United States had acted in a manner of collective punishment against a particular group that presented a “threat” to any of a number of considerations.

This palpable sense of fear is especially tangible when it comes to Muslims in the United States. When a young man murders his mother, then goes on to murder a classroom of children we explain it away as that he was “mentally ill”. When a young white male sits in the pews of a church before murdering multiple blacks with the intention of starting some kind of white backlash against African Americans, we label him “disturbed” and try to look for reasons in his upbringing that could explain why he would be driven to commit such a hideous act. The bottom line is that overwhelmingly, if you are not Muslim you will somehow be excused as either insane or deluded or a multitude of other words that have in effect the same meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Moral Imperative to Destroy ISIS

Posted by Anthony on July 20, 2015

This is an article which I had been planning, and wanting, to write for some time. The issue isn’t what to write about or how to present the facts; rather, my concern here was that I would not be able to restrain myself from lashing out in an overly emotional morality infused rage before I even got to the mid-point of the writing. Surely, if anyone can bring that out in abundance it is ISIS.

Comparing ISIS to other historical organizations is not entirely fair. For example, to bring up the Nazi regime is to insult the memory of the tens-of-millions of deaths that abomination was responsible for both directly (through their racial policies and the Holocaust) and, well, directly by starting the Second World War. In this regard, ISIS is, as President Obama referred to them, “the JV team”. Their death toll pales in comparison to regimes such as that which existed under Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao in China (who may well hold the record for deaths), the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia under Pol Pot which, although much lower on the scale for total deaths must be recognized for the absolute barbarity of the regime, or even any of the more localized genocides such as the Hutu extermination of Tutsis in Rwanda. Read the rest of this entry »

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As You Sow…

Posted by Anthony on July 16, 2015

In a conversation with a moderate Republican the other day (yes, they still do exist though they are certainly on the endangered species list), I was asked with all sincerity what is to be done about Trump and his recent poll surges. Certainly, this individual asked with palpable concern, there was no way that he could win the nomination much less a national election, was there? After all, his rhetoric was bordering on the ludicrous; his message was appalling to the vast majority of Americans, or at least one should hope it was. My answer was somewhat less comforting than the individual would have liked it to be.

I explained with all sincerity that Republicans have nobody but themselves to blame for this latest catastrophe. For the last twenty or so years, FOX News and various right wing personalities have been spewing forth a litany of condescension and moral outrage about perceived slights to America committed by “those people” as well as stoking anger, fear, and resentment in mainly white America. Now this creation of theirs has taken shape, embodying all of the ills they have built into it and, much like the titular character in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, they find themselves unable to control it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Speaking about healthcare…

Posted by Anthony on March 31, 2015

Well, as some of you may have noticed it has been a little while since I last posted here. Fear not, though, for there is a good reason and it has nothing to do with being lazy! Allow me to explain…

About a few months ago (late 2014), I began having bad night sweats. How bad? Bad as in having to get up in the middle of the night and completely change what I was wearing and change the pillow bad. I blamed it on the heat in the room (it was, after all, the chilly part of the year), on what I was wearing, on what I had eaten that day… basically on anything that would allow me to avoid having to recognize it as a symptom of something crying out for attention. During the time period from around the end of December until a few weeks ago I also suffered from numerous minor illnesses. A cold here, a sinus infection there… nothing either some NyQuil/ DayQuil or a quick trip to the doctor couldn’t fix! So it went on, week after week and the months rolled by. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Thought Vaccines Were an Option?

Posted by Anthony on February 4, 2015


As we have just turned over a new year (well, for those following the Gregorian calendar in any case), it is always a good idea to take stock of where we are, how the past year has been, and where we’re going from here. I had a discussion the other day with a friend who asked about how much longer I thought the human race would manage to keep itself on the universal stage. An interesting question, to be sure, since it requires one to contemplate any number of the myriad situations that might bring about the extinction of humanity (even if not rendering the Earth a lifeless globe). Some are, of course, beyond anything we can stop: a rogue black hole finding its way into the Solar System, or a Gamma Ray Burst that happens to annihilate the atmosphere. Some, however, are preventable even if to certain degrees: we could, for example, take measures to stop an asteroid from obliterating our planet though it would require a tremendous effort and cost, just as we could make the inevitably required move off of our planet and either onto Mars, the most likely candidate as a planet, or to a ring-world of sorts, which is not nearly as fantastical as it might seem. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Turkish Non-Delight: Facebook and Freedom of Speech

Posted by Anthony on January 26, 2015

First, allow me to start off this entry with a blanket statement: I love Turkey. I visited Turkey in 2012, and can honestly tell you that there are very few places in the world I have been that were as enjoyable. For me, it contained the perfect mix of ancient, medieval, and modern along with the fine balance so difficult to find these days of European and Middle-Eastern mixed into one fantastic city: Istanbul. The people are about the best you will find anywhere, the food is excellent, and history is everywhere you step which, to me as an historian, was quite thrilling. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Much Wealth is Enough?

Posted by Anthony on January 19, 2015

Anti-Poverty charity Oxfam released a report the other day wherein their studies show that by 2016 the wealthiest 1% of the global population will own more than 50% of the wealth. By 2020, that percentage is due to rise to 54%. Whereas the elites have been getting wealthier, the poor of the world have seen a marked drop in the amount of wealth they posses: the same report explains that the bottom 50% has seen their wealth drop by $750 billion in the last four years. This bring us to some interesting observations… Read the rest of this entry »

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A Few Thoughts on Freedom of Speech

Posted by Anthony on January 13, 2015

At the time of this writing, the streets of France are once again quiet (or at least quieter), and the world leaders who had gathered there to express solidarity with the Republic have gone home. Except, of course, for the one glaring omission: who exactly did the United States send again? One cannot seriously make the argument that there was no way to send a high profile individual to represent the States. While it is true that the President most likely could not have gone (President’s don’t usually go on spur of the minute trips because of the immense background work that has to go in to him going pretty much anywhere), but one could have at least expected the Vice-President to go, or perhaps even better to have a former President who is well known for his ability to show compassion for the cameras (yes, it’s Bill Clinton) march arm in arm with those heads of state. A no-show, or rather, a minor-league show just seems in bad taste for the the United States at this critical time.

Discussing this issue with others, I am amused to think back on the Satanic Verses travesty and how that matches up to this current issue. Back then, the majority of the “free world” hammered Mr. Rushdie and even the liberal left came out against him. How dare he create an allegorical story that had a section eerily similar to the foundation tale of Islam! How few were they who stood up for his freedom of speech, for his right to write what he wanted regardless of whom he might offend. Today, thankfully, we do not see the same attitude being shown in the western world: almost to a one, the leadership of Europe has come out in steadfast defense of the right to offend and for freedom of expression. One wonders here if the last thirty years have taken their toll on the desire of those in Europe to stay silent, or at least to beg not to offend. One is perhaps not so afraid of Iran exporting her (now completely discredited) revolution to Shia Muslims worldwide, nor is one apt to back down as much now that the threat of violence has been realized rather than imagined. Whatever the reason, it is refreshing to see from a dozen states and then some the impassioned voices of millions rising up as one in claiming the (yes, I’ll use the term) sacred right to offend, or at the very least to feel one can write/ draw/ say something and not have to worry about being murdered for it. Finally, we may stop blaming the victim here and turn our collective finger in an accusatory fashion at the real villains of this travesty: those who murdered individuals because they wished to silence them.

Finally, a comment on Charlie Hebdo itself: good on them for going ahead and printing a cover with a picture of Muhammad on it. This was really the only feasible reaction: answer back the sword with the pen, a long arm from the grave, and show that although you might be able to kill some people, you will never be able to kill off all voices who cry out for justice against such a heinous act. When Creedy had finished pumping bullets into V, only to have the latter stumble forward and grab him by the neck, he asked him in an almost pleading manner “Why won’t you die!?” V‘s answer, of course, was brief yet eloquent: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”

Indeed they are, and so long as that remains the case we have nothing to fear from these ruffians.

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