American Brewer 2012v1 Winter 2012 : Page 3
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<br /> for Seven Billion?<br /> <br /> My first awareness that there might be a shortage of beer came from singing the wellknown song "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" as a child. As we all know, the available supply of beer gradually decreases at a rate of one bottle per verse until the song reaches the sad conclusion, "No more bottles of beer on the wall." Later on, while sitting in a Bavarian beer garden as a young adult, I heard another familiar song, "Im Himmel es gibt kein Bier" (In heaven there is no beer), which again reinforced the message that the world's supply of beer won't last forever.<br /> <br /> A more scientific analysis of the same problem can be found in the November/December 2011 issue of The New Brewer, the cover of which ominously asks, "Barely enough barley?" As is stated in the cover story, "the world's grain supplies have come under growing pressure from two brew industry-external forces, namely the world's growing population and the increasing use of agricultural products for biofuels." The logical inference from this article is that there might not be enough grain in the world to provide an increasing population with the food, beer and biofuels needed for survival. This, of course, is a restatement of the conclusions of Thomas Mai thus, an Anglican clergyman who famously warned in An Essay on the Principle of Population, "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man." In other words, population growth can only be checked by famine or disease.<br /> <br /> This issue of The New Brewer arrived on the heels of the news that the seven billionth person in the world had been born at the end of October, probably in Asia, at least according to some demographic projections. The implications are obvious. Will the world's supply of grain be adequate to feed this baby in the near future and to brew enough beer to quench his or her thirst as an adult? According to the same magazine, the world's annual production of beer (slightly less than two billion hectoliters) has been growing at a rate of 2.8 percent per year, which is more than double the rate of the population growth. At least the trend seems to be going in the right direction.<br /> <br /> Quenching a Thirst in Texas<br /> On a personal note, I should add that this unnamed Asian baby might share a birthday with me: Oct. 28. This day was especially memorable in 2011 because I spent it with my business partner Dan Kopman at Busch Stadium, watching the St. Louis Cardinals win game seven of the World Series. The fact that nearby concession stands offered three different Schlafly styles made the evening all the more enjoyable. Dan and I were able to toast the Cardinals with our Pale Ale, Hefeweizen and (appropriately enough for the October Classic) Oktoberfest.<br /> <br /> This was one of several ways that craft beer played a role in my celebration of the Cardinals' highly improbable path to the world championship. Three weeks earlier, on Oct. 7,1 had attended game five of the National League Division Series in Philadelphia. I have to admit to a certain amount of trepidation in wearing a Cardinals cap in a crowd of raucous Phillies fans, but the abundance of fine craft beers in Citizens Bank Park, coupled with a Cardinals' win in a superb pitchers' duel, more than compensated. Weeks later I was able to relive the experience with a mixed case of beers from Yards and Victory breweries that I won in a bet on the game with a business associate from Philadelphia.<br /> <br /> We had another bet with our friends at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. in Fort Worth on the World Series. Because the Cardinals prevailed over the Rangers, the folks at Rahr were obligated to toast the winners with Schlafly Beer outside the Rangers ballpark. Given the drought that had been plaguing the region, we were happy to help quench the thirst of our colleagues in Texas.<br /> <br /> Darwin and Drinks<br /> <br /> Drought, it should be noted, is one of many threats to the world’s food supply that are of great concern to modern-day Malthusians. It’s also worth noting that Malthus (1766-1834) was followed by another Englishman, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), who wrote that populations don’t simply grow, but they also evolve. As is commonly accepted now, both within the scientific community and outside it, species respond to the conditions around them by adapting. The same could be said of breweries.<br /> <br /> Before 2011 the last time the Cardinals had won game seven of the World Series was in 1982, against the Milwaukee Brewers. I was fortunate to be at the game, which was played in a former incarnation of Busch Stadium. The selection of beer in the ballpark was extremely limited, just as it was in the nation at large. I have no idea how many breweries there were in the United States at the time, but there certainly weren’t very many. I’m not sure I even knew what craft beer was. Even if I did, I never would have expected to find any such beer in a Major League Baseball stadium, especially not in St. Louis.<br /> <br /> A lot has happened in 29 years. The number of breweries has grown to an extent few of us would have foreseen. In Malthusian terms this population growth would be unsustainable. How have we survived? Easy. Taking our cues from Darwin, we adapted to our surroundings. We don’t brew the same kinds of beer as the mega-breweries whose names are on ballparks. Instead, we have responded to our customers’ thirst for something different. To continue the Darwinian analysis, the breweries that adapted well have survived. Those that didn’t are no longer with us.<br /> <br /> Over the past 20 years I’ve been pleased to observe the growing popularity of craft beers, primarily in their local markets. In the case of Schlafly, I was recently astonished to see a sign of acceptance halfway around the world. For some inexplicable reason, a Schlafly t-shirt was being offered for sale by a street vendor in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In zoological terms, a species indigenous to Missouri had somehow migrated to northern Thailand. The shirt was of course an unauthorized knockoff, which made the sighting all the more mysterious.<br /> <br /> Photographic evidence of this phenomenon was provided by Ann Kuttenkuler, who snapped a picture of her friend Sarah Ehret next to the counterfeit shirt. Apart from our designer Sarah Frost, who was indignant at the quality of the font and colors, the rest of us were jubilant. Schlafly Beer was now in the same league as Coach, Chanel, Gucci and fake Rolexes. Some pirate in Thailand thought it was worthwhile to copy our brand. Although the unnamed baby who was born in Asia at the end of October might never taste an American craft beer, it’s very possible that he or she may some day wear one of our t-shirts, or at least a cheap copy of one.
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