WaPo & Marc Fisher think you should suffer for the children

Photo courtesy of furryscaly

That’s assuming that ‘you’ are a Marylander – or sometimes drink in Maryland – and like those fruity near-beers. No, when the WaPo ran this annoying editorial last week they called them ‘alcopops,’ which is evocative of popsicle to me, but presumably they mean it in the sense of ‘soda pop.’ “But the truth is that the beverages — Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and the like — are not beer by any reasonable definition,” said the editorial.

Unfortunately they don’t explain exactly what “by any reasonable definition” means. I’ve always known them to be called “near-beer,” a description that hinges on the fact that these products are sold in single-serving containers like beer and have similar alcohol content to regular beer, and are malted beverages, like – wait for it – beer. When Marc Fisher picked up the banner for this anti-adult effort yesterday he claimed that Attorney General Doug Gansler based his decision on a federal study claiming most of the alcohol in these drinks came from distilled spirits, not malted grain. Too bad that’s a 2003 study and in late 2004 the ATTB published a ruling that going forward these drinks would get the majority of their alcohol content from malting. Not to call any of these lobbying groups or editorialists liars – that would imply they’re making these statements out of malice and with full knowledge it’s not true, rather than just ignorance,willful or otherwise.

That aside, most importantly to almost any rational person, the same report makes it clear that the total alcohol content is roughly the same as in beer: 4 to 6%. Unless we’re regulating beer and hard liquor differently for some other reason that nobody’s told me? If it’s all about taste, then I propose we put in place a proper taste tax and bring Guinness and Sam Adams’ Summer Wheat down to 0.01% and mark Coors and Zima up to 150%. Or maybe 1500%, though drinking them is really its own punishment.

Barring that, WaPo and Fisher would both do well to back off from trying to beat up adults who like this swill near-beer and stop penalizing them for having similar tastebuds to the pimple-faced crowd. The morals brigade leading this fight likes to harp on the fact that the alcohol industry’s own data shows that over 40% of the stuff is drunk by the 21 to 27 crowd, the implication being that under 21 folk will like it too. However they seem to be ignoring the fact that those 21 to 27 year olds are of a perfectly legal age to drink and probably lower earners, therefor similarly impacted by this foolish tax proposal.

Fisher and others don’t seem to think that you voting-aged legal drinkers matter in this. “Will the lovers of Smirnoff Ice and its competitors rally to the governor’s side to thank him for keeping their favorite beverages cheap? Hardly likely.” So prove him wrong and make some noise. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be marginally embarrassed to publicly admit you drink this crap, but myself and other people who believe in freedom will stand behind you. With our better drinks.

Hard Times, courtesy of furryscaly

2 Comments so far

  1. tmoney on May 28th, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

    If your primary (and in this case seemingly only) argument for doing something is ‘think of the children!’ its probably a bad idea. And yet people continue to use it and it continues to work. Apparently the right for a majority of Americans to do as they wish, you know freedom…, is trumped by a minority of children who have parents which don’t want to take responsibility for them.

    At least living in the dc area I can hop state lines with ease when one of them raises taxes on things. Almost makes up for not having congressional representation.

    Couple of side notes: 1) the young age skew of these drinks may be because older adults haven’t really been introduced by them as the drinks are a relatively new thing. My parents didn’t really know about mikes hard lemonade till this summer when my girlfriend introduced them to it. (Now my mother keeps a pack in her fridge). I don’t think they still know about Smirnoff.

    2) Does anyone actually think raising the tax on booze will make teenagers who have access to it suddenly stop buying/drinking it? If you raise it on just one type you might just shift a small amount of kids to some other drink, not abstain from drinking. End result of such a tax might be kids buying cheap tequila instead since its the same price and there will be greater problems rather than less.


  2. mikelicht on May 28th, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

    One thing is for sure: whatever these concoctions are, they are not "Near Beer."

    Near-Beer, a product U.S. alcohol prohibition, is a malt brew with .5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), generally lager style.

    When the federal government first lifted Prohibition, 3.2 percent beer was the first bevvie allowed, and some people called this beer-with-training-wheels brew "near beer" as well.

    Near-beers are manufactured to taste like beer.



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