Here in the D.C. area, August means summer vacations, lighter-than-usual traffic, and maximum weather discomfort. The city’s ordinarily frenetic pace slows a bit until after Labor Day, after which the city returns to life to wrap up the government fiscal year – ending September 30, for you non-bureaucratic types.
So what’s better than some new Booze News to kick back with during these slow final summer days?
First off, a question: what state in America makes the best craft beer? Colorado, Oregon, and California were my top guesses, but boy was I off. Brad Tuttle, writing at Time.com, reports that it’s Delaware, home of Dogfish Head Brewery.
The Daily Meal’s new Top 25 List will cause plenty of arguments between craft beer aficionados. Despite the fact it’s “based on the input of craft beer experts consulted by the site, as well as votes cast by thousands of readers and beer fans,” it’s certain the ranking will provide endless fodder for debate and disagreement.
Also of note: “craft beer sales were up 15% in terms of dollars and 13% by volume, while beer sales overall decreased by 2% compared to the same period a year ago. Nearly 450 new breweries opened in the last 12 months, and while craft beer still represents a small fraction of overall beer sales, craft brewers now constitute 98% of all U.S. brewers.”
Yet it’s not only craft beer sales that are increasing – sales of non-alcoholic beer are also on the rise, according to the Economist. While most drinkers quickly dismiss so-called near-beer, “it is growing in popularity around the world… [particularly] in the Middle East, which now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales.”
There are two reasons for this regional increase. First, “drinking beer, even the non-alcoholic variety, taps in a popular desire for a globalised lifestyle that neither fruit juice nor even Coca-Cola can offer.” Second is the region’s dominant religious mores, the Mid-East “teetotal majority.” “Some brewers are optimistic that the current wave of religiosity in the region will increase demand… prominent Saudi and Egyptian clerics have issued fatwas declaring it permissible for Muslims to drink zero-alcohol beer.”
Next comes a pair of articles – well, an article and a book review – on why we love to read about writers and drinking. Alexander Nazaryan, writing at the Atlantic Wire, identifies this intersection of booze and literature as the “drunk writer trope,” which helps explain why “we want to believe in the image of the hard-drinking writer, even as that persona falls out of favor. Actually, precisely because that persona has fallen out of favor.” The article is noteworthy not only for Nazaryan’s words, but also for his extensive linking to other sources and articles discussing the subject.
As recent evidence of the drunk writer trope, Nazaryan cites Olivia Laing’s new book, The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, which was also recently reviewed by The Economist. Laing “traces ‘this most slippery of diseases'” and “weaves literary biography with travel and personal history as she follows these figures through America.” These figures are six American writers – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Raymond Chandler – men of letters known both for their prolific writing and their destructive drinking.
And finally, a quick shout out goes to the folks at Brenne, who, in a bit of particularly obscure news, chose Classic Imports as their “exclusive importer for the United States.”
Although it was only slightly inconvenient to order my bottle of Brenne from a New York City liquor store – which you can read about here – it soon might be easier. The rumor mill tells me D.C. is the next market where Brenne will be launched.