Amidst the things in the US economy that aren’t going in the right direction, the debacles, fiascos, and nightmares, is an industry of scrappy upstarts, tiny operations, and larger companies that use American ingenuity, marketing, and the right amount of hops to stand up to Wall-Street-engineered giants—and they’re winning the amazing American beer war.
We’ve had an endless series of products whose ingredients have been cheapened in order to maintain the price. Consumers won’t be able to taste the difference, the theory goes. So, as the horse-meat lasagna scandal in Europe is spiraling beautifully out of control, we’re now getting hit where it hurts: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.
I love steaks. Rare. So I’m biased. But now there is the report of a year-long investigation into the potentially deadly industry practice of mechanical tenderization. It has been going on for decades, with innumerable victims. The risks have been known since at least 2003. Yet the industry resists even the most basic labeling requirement that would save lives.
We’ve all heard about Wall Street employees who lost their jobs and ended up doing something unrelated, chasing after a dream, starting up a software company, working on a crab boat, teaching English to immigrants, run a taco truck, become a pole dancer…. So there should be indices that measure the number of people undergoing sudden and unlikely career changes—to give us a better gauge of the real job market.
As a kid in Germany, I engaged in underage beer drinking. I was too young to drive, so it didn’t bother anyone, except me the next day. It was when German beer consumption peaked at 151 liters per capita, the highest in the world. But then I went to America … and German beer consumption took a multi-decade dive. In the US and other Western countries, the beer industry is now morose as well, but it’s booming elsewhere.
I love wine, but I’m leaning towards Californian wines; they’re awesome and grow in my extended neighborhood. More precisely, I love drinking wine, not keeping it locked up in a refrigerated vault, and certainly not investing in it. Hence, I have little sympathy for those who were buying high-dollar French wines for the purpose of investing in them, instead of drinking them, and I certainly don’t feel sorry for them in their plight. But a plight it is.
“The US is one of two major beef-exporting countries with no comprehensive traceability system,” said Erin Borror, economist at the Meat Export Federation. The other country is India. The issue was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. Humans contract it by eating contaminated beef. It’s always fatal. Lack of traceability “places the US at risk if an outbreak occurs in this country,” Borror said. That was last November.
I love beer. Particularly craft beer. I’m a sucker for a good IPA, or an amber, or a pale ale. For special occasions, there’s the expensive stuff. If I’m traveling, I try to discover local brews. And the first swig is one of the simplest great pleasures in life. But I’ll stick to the numbers. And they’re morose for the US beer industry. Yet there is an astonishing winner.
With the European Union going into recession possibly, with the US growing, but not enough, with China booming, or crashing, and with Japan languishing, the worldwide economic picture is confusing, and debt crises have been swept under the rug by voluminous money-printing. But there is one economic indicator that is particularly … tasty and, if consumed in quantity, more vertigo-inducing than all the Eurozone bailout mechanisms: wine.
There still are some economic numbers that aren’t seasonally adjusted or manipulated with fancy statistical footwork by governmental, quasi-governmental, or non-governmental number mongers. And they give us the true picture of the worldwide economy: beer, wine, mood, and San Francisco real estate—with more predictive power than is allowed by law.