Monday, March 13, 2006

Pennsylvania "case" law - There’s been a load of talk about the nutty alcohol distribution laws in Pennsylvania of late; but I think a lot of people are missing the point, (especially some beer writers).

Just in case you're not from PA, let me enlighten you. In Pennsylvania, cases of beer can only be purchased at beer distributors. Beer distributors cannot sell anything smaller than a case (24 bottles). If all you want is a six pack you need to go to a specially licensed bar or deli. If you get to the deli and decide that you want a case after all because the six pack is more than half what you would have paid for a case in the first place - you're outta luck. Six pack licensees can only sell you twelve beers at a time. On top of all this, the one store that is actually all over the place - the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board stores - can't sell beer at all. So if you want to get yourself a nice bottle of whiskey to go with that strong ale you love - you're going to make two stops.

That's the situation in a nutshell. This paints an ugly picture for alcohol consumers yes. But it's a picture that the neo-abolitionists, (like MADD et al), love (that's another story).

The folks this system does benefit, and the piece of the picture that most people overlook, is the small, LOCAL, craft brewery. Contrary to popular belief, package brewing is not a highly profitable business. For small breweries costs are high and competition is strong. Local breweries compete with each other, nationally recognized craft brews like Sierra Nevada and Anchor, mega breweries like Sam Adams posing as craft brews, and quality imports from Belgium, England, Germany, and Canada. The average cost to a small brewer of selling 24 bottles in 6-packs is $2.00 more per case than a straight case of 24. That's $2.00 per case extra for packaging only. Six packs also take more labor to assemble and fill. You don't pay wholesale for beer unless you work for a brewer or distributor. So by the time that $2.00 per case gets to you it will be more like $6.00 per case. Now you are looking at paying $30.00 to $35.00 per case by the time that the wholesaler and retailer take their mark-ups.

I agree that we need better laws surrounding the distribution of beer and liquor in PA. But breaking the case is not the way to do this.

Support your local brewery!

Arguing on the Internet is like competing in the Special Olympics - even if you win you're still a "special person". I know my friend Tom - has already written a similar view on this in his blog; but I gotta get this off my chest.

Beer Review Web sites - everyone has an opinion, everyone has an ass hole, most should not be seen in public. The internet provides the ultimate vehicle for free speech; it's also a great way for cowardly, uneducated ass holes to anonymously spew on somebody else's hard work.

Don't get me wrong - I know I'm painting this picture with a very wide brush. I know, like, and appreciate the efforts of many members of these sites. The original intention of sites like was to educate and promote, (or uhh, advocate?), the appreciation of good beer. This is a value that I share with founders of along with many of its members.

The problem that I have with sites like & is that they promote this idea that personal opinion is holy and carries more weight than fact or what I like to call "reality". goes so far as to compare themselves and their ratings to Wine Spectator. If you drink you've most likely been exposed to Wine Spectator's ratings for wine in most liquor stores. They are usually the source for those numbers posted on small placards describing wines that the store wants you to try/buy. The difference between the Wine Spectator ratings and those from is fact vs. opinion. Wine Spectator reviews are written by experts and are written in such a way that they help a consumer make decisions about the wine. reviews are pure personal opinion and are often written with no regard to the what the brewer intended or what a person reading the review might be looking for. The problem with this concept that "it's my opinion so I can't be wrong and I can say what I want" is that it serves no purpose except to stroke the ego of the person posting the review. Another huge difference between or and Wine Spectator - Wine Spectator will not publish disparaging reviews of a wine; while these beer related web sites are full of negative opinions and misguiding statements.

So - if I don't like what's posted to these site - I don't have to read them right? Or maybe I should just post my own opinions about beer that I do or don't personally like? That misses the point - I'm not sure why was established but I know that other sites like were established to help promote better beer appreciation and beer knowledge. organizes good beer festivals and events and they offer plenty of good resources for learning about and finding good beer. However, the negative nonsense often posted in ratings and forums on these sites marginalizes them and, to some extent, the beer they want to promote by making them appear to be the domain of masturbatory back room geeks. Do you really believe that you'll get a normal person who is only marginally interested in good beer to support it if they associate it with these chest pounding uber geeks? Nope - it's more comfortable to stick with those hot twins and pretend that one light beer has more flavor than another. Or even worse - turn to an imported mega-brew like Heinie or Leuven's lightest - satisfying their need for something "better" with Europe's Bud.

To quote Jon Stewart "You're hurting America". If you feel that the world really needs to hear your malformed, holy opinion - at least have the balls to post it with your real name so you can be identified. Is an anonymous opinion really an opinion after all?

Cheers! Love Dean