Will Corona Suffer Because Of A New Nativism?

I am seldom happier to not be an American as I am today. Don’t get me wrong. I love the USA and live in a border town. Friends and family abound below the line. But that was a tough thing to watch yesterday. A birth of something? Maybe an end to more than is immediately obvious. Maybe something like this:

Rob Sands, CEO of alcoholic beverage giant Constellation Brands, came to New York City on Wednesday to talk about Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wine. And before he even took the stage, the company’s stock took an 8% nosedive. That’s because investors are worried about what Donald Trump’s victory could mean for Constellation Brands stz-b , owner of a Mexican brewer that targets an American customer base that could potentially face deportation.

Nativism has a long track record in the arc of American history and has crossed paths with the brewing industry. In the early 1840s, new German immigration to New York City led to tavern brawls and court cases. Interestingly, earlier German brewers seemed to have an easier go.  Likely due to the lack of greater contextual pressures like the disappearance of clean water in Lower Manhattan. Plus the intervening Jacksonian worldview.

Corona is certainly the leading Mexican brand facing the US consumer in the grocery and convenience stores.  Is it prone to neo-nativist slur? Would another beer be more patriotic in the new Trumpian society? Could be. Just a thought – but could be.

So Far It’s Been A Poor Election Campaign For Beer

mulcair2015UPDATE TO THE UPDATE!! #TeamPoliPour2015 is coming together very nicely. We have received another link via Twitter to a French-Canadian blog post from 4 September which includes photos of both Harper and Trudeau with beer. Must analyze more closely for evidence of actual pouring as opposed to serving and hoisting. More updates as they come in….

UPDATE!! – NDP leader Mulcair seen today in PEI at a microbrewery to announce tax policy. [Inside scoop: I used to live about 300 yards from the parents of named NDP candidate Herb Dickieson (Egmont) on the road just north of New Glasgow, PEI. Lovely people.] Got a tweet from @salut_galarneau at 7:32 EST to let me know. Money shot. You may have had to wait otherwise for the morning papers…

Earlier: Remember last Canadian federal election? The leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was caught on camera proudly pouring a beer. And our Prime Minister was seen awkwardly pouring a beer on his way to his first majority government. Our conservatives like beer. Our centre left appear to want to expand access to beer – though their generosity is somewhat limited. Generally speaking beer is generally not a matter of general public debate. We like beer. It’s like hockey without the ice to us.

So, what has gone wrong so far this time around? Why have I not been bombarded with candidates in tavern scenes or folks who just want to be seen to be Johnny Average Canuck uncomfortably holding a case of some beer upside down? Don’t get me wrong. Normal folk from average backgrounds who have made good have been the norm as far as our national leadership goes. And that sort of dull is frankly better than the alternative. But, still, why is the only image so far this one tweeted from a campaign flight showing NDP leader Tom Mulcair holding a Dos Equis? I sure hope the federal level has not taken the message from the most recent provincial election in Canada’s biggest province when not talking about beer was key to the winning campaign.

And why Dos Equis? Who decided to put that on the campaign plane at all? Well, at least he’s been seen with a brew. Time for macro and micro, craft and kraphtt to demand the nation’s leaders kow-tow to a tavern table of Canadians, insist they show the electorate they drink what the common folk drink. Hey – I know a thing or two… and have a few pals in or near the war rooms. Send me a line. Campaign beer theory is not something for the amateurs. Which makes me comfortable charging a fee. You need help. I can help: beerblog@gmail.99

Ontario: All Quiet About Beer On The Election Front

4515OK, so far the Ontario provincial election appears to be playing out as an effort to ensure the same outcome as last time. As a result, even though it is an excellent time to discuss beer buying policy in the province, no one is doing so… yet. Fervent please by bloggers, newspaper columnists, commercial interests which were winding the story up just a few weeks ago have also gone quite quiet. Odd. Can’t be the interim blackout on political advertising. It was not always so. If we consult the book we see that in 1924, when Ontario was fed up with the strictest form of dry law under provincial law beer sales became a widely fought public issue:

Support for temperance was weakening based on the public awareness of the failure of the law and corruption it brought. In October of 1924, when another plebiscite on temperance was held, the vote against repeal had fallen to only 51.5%. Major population centres like Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Windsor all voted against keeping the law. In response, Premier Ferguson raised the strength of permitted light beer to 4.4 proof from 2.5 and also redistributed the seats in the legislature to remove wet seats and add dry ones. Reaction to the new beer was not rabid as one newspaper noted:

To the imbibers who thought that they were going to get some kick out of the potation, the ordination was as disappointing as a cancelled marriage license to an old maid. Many of them claimed, in fact, that the new beverage bore such a family likeness to the old 2 percent that it might be its twin brother. Unlike the stuff that made Milwaukee famous, there was no blinds staggers accumulated from the new suds. Temperance people who thought the wolf was here in sheep’s clothing will have to wait a while.

Not surprisingly, Ferguson won re-election in December, 1926 on the platform of repeal of the temperance law and replacement with a system of government controlled liquor sales.

So, beer retailing can become a winning story even if it does not seem to be doing so now. Either one of two things is happening. Folk are not as motivated in 2014 to pursue the political route to effect beer retailing change as they were ninety years ago in 1924… or politicians have not had the interests of the public effectively brought to their attention as a vote getter. I suspect it is the first possibility as there has been plenty in the news. It’s just that the story has not been made compelling enough yet to actual inspire real action, to move people to switch habits at the ballot box.

The strangest thing, however, is how like Premier Ferguson in the early 1920’s any of the three main political parties could themselves use it to justify getting votes if they just framed it as an illustration of their core values. Sure, the Tories under Tim Hudak have supported corner store sales but only tepidly so despite it being a tale of small business and personal freedoms. Beer as the drink of the working class sure could be again framed as a boon to the left, the union made drink of the little guy and the NDP – but so far the party is only “open to new ideas.” The Grits under Premier Wynne have sided with the no vote so deeply that it might be tough to now shift, preferring to take the “we control stuff so you don’t have to” route. Gridlock.

What is needed is a compelling new angle for one of these parties to latch on to as a way to present itself as mirroring a compelling positive public need back to the public. What is it and who gets to it first?

Ontario: Did The Beer Stay In Town In The 1830s?

I am thinking I may have a theory or at least a bit of half an idea. I was in the library yesterday waiting for the kids swim lessons next door at the Y to end and came across a copy of a book from 1913, a History of the County of Lennox and Addington by W.S. Herrington from which I found this passage from an interview of a man then in his nineties:

I remember the first election I ever witnessed. It was over seventy-five years ago, about the year 1836. John Solomon Cartwright and George H. Detlor, the Tory candidates, were running against Peter Perry and Marshall Spring Bidwell. They ran in pairs; Perry and Bidwell were called the rebels by the other side. There was only one polling place and that was in Bath. It was a little booth at the edge of the village. I was quite a young man at the time and didn’t know much about the issues; but I could understand that the people were greatly excited. The taverns of Bath were crowded with men wrangling about the votes. Whiskey was flowing freely, and there were plenty of drunken men and brawls in the streets. There were plenty of taverns all over the county. There was Charter’s tavern near the head of Hay Bay; John Davy’s over near Sandhurst, and Griffith’s in the second concession about four miles west of Charter’s. Ernesttown must have had a dozen at least.

I like these sorts of old guy interviews. Like the one from 1899 with the recollections of a ninety year old guy of his pre-Victorian youth including Albany Ale. In this recollection above, the guy being interviewed is from a farm outside the village beyond the smaller town to the west of the military, mercantile and brewing centre of Kingston. He grew up in a log cabin. The degrees of distance from the big centre, the layers of the hinterland, describe distribution. See, Ontario – or rather Upper Canada – at this time was still a tenuous proposition given the continuing uncertainty of the Republic’s intentions. It was also one run on a combination of an imperial demand economy tied to local sustainable farming. Before the 1840s repeal of the Corn Laws, crops from here were shipped to Britain and manufactured supplies were shipped back. We were part of the great Georgian hive.

It seems to me that the references to whiskey in the book are what they are – not a euphemism for drinks so much as confirmation of the drink that’s on offer. The same man quoted above stated all the crops were wheat and corn. He did’t see barley until he was in his twenties – right about the time of the repeal of the corn laws in the 1840s and the end of guaranteed supply to the empire. Elsewhere in the book a country store ledger is described. Plenty of spirit references and a few wine sales but no mention of beer. I had in my mind for a while that all the references to whiskey may have meant they were brewing their beer at home but if there’s no barley being grown that’s unlikely.

So, where was the beer going in the 1830s? Likely it stayed in town, was sold to the military or was moved by sailing ship in multi-cask loads to other centres along the shore of the big lake like York, later named Toronto. It maybe takes the railroads in the coming decades for beer to get more deeply distributed. In a world of coastal sail and carts on questionable roads, a cask of the hard stuff is probably the safer bet, the better investment for the families operating the taverns and the country stores.

Announcement: I Would Have A Beer With Mitt Romney

Enough! There is a certain point where the pile on the goofy rich kid like we did in undergrad is not fun anymore. Worse is when Canadians weigh in and decide to kick the guy when he is down:

Mercer also weighed in on Mitt Romney’s latest gaffe about the 47 per cent of Americans who don’t pay income tax as freeloaders. “It’s about as offensive as anything I have ever heard,” he said. “He is talking about senior citizens, the disenfranchised, the unemployed and the underemployed, he is talking about the disabled, he is talking about veterans who have suffered catastrophic injuries fighting a very long war for the United States,” he said. “I would have no interest in having a beer with that guy.”

There is nothing worse than the smug Canadian. As offensive as anything he’s ever heard? Get out much? This is not to defend the stupid statement – but, really, what do you expect rich donors want to hear as they write the cheques? I mean these are people who don’t even need super large vanity cheques when then hand on the big money. Anyway, not that I would vote Mitt if I could… and I can’t… but if he wants to have a presidential beer or even have, say, a chamomile tea as I have a beer…? Why not?

See, the smirk of the smug Canadian doesn’t care anymore than they accuse the Mitt-ster of being. But catch them digging out a stump? Fat chance. So, from the land where politics are leveled by the goodness of beer, Mitt… I will have that beer with you. But, really, you’re buying, right?

Socialists In Quebec Particularly Support Beer

jack1

I’ve told you no politician in Canada denies beer. Jacques Boissinot‘s photo for the Canadian Press above of NDP leader Jack Layton taken in a bar during the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins playoff game on April 14 proves it. It looks a lot like the one of our Prime Minister pouring a brew in Halifax earlier in the campaign, except he’s not as awkward. Jack awkward? Heck, the second night of the debates got moved to make sure there was no conflict with this game and Jack Layton made sure he let voters know where his heart lay last night – a sports bar in Montreal, La Cage aux Sports. And unlike Harper, he looks like he actually knows how to down one. More here.

Again, In Canada No Politician Refuses The Beer Vote

harper1

Even though we are freakish in our cultural fear of untamed beer and booze flowing through the land, beer is big in Canada. So big, as noted before, that no Canadian politician in his right mind would fail to support it. Up there, that’s Prime Minister Harper in the middle of this Federal election pulling pints in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s a big uncomfortable loaf of a man, clumsy with a beer bet, who no one expects he kicks back with a beer or two on the weekend.

Yet, as my pal Stephen Maher noted, he had the common sense to not finish the pint of the Keiths. Well done, Mr. Prime Minister.

Canadian Conservatives Are My Kind Of Conservative

Political culture is a weird thing. It doesn’t translate well from nation to nation and leaving the words associated with themselves rather meaningless. Conservative or liberal? Anarchist or patriot? Who know what any of this stuff means? Yet, there are moments when you know that being a Canadian politician means there is one thing you can’t disapprove: beer.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak says he won’t rule out bringing back “buck a beer” if he becomes premier this fall. “Many folks, myself included, look forward to that $24 two-four on the May 24 weekend,” Hudak told reporters on Monday. “That is now something that has passed under Dalton McGuinty.” The Progressive Conservatives are yet to release their official election platform, but Hudak says he’s committed to reducing the cost of living – and that could include beer prices. “I do hear from people who say ‘Come on, I can’t even get a buck a beer in this province thanks to Dalton McGuinty’s policies,” Hudak said.

Blame the government for the price of beer? Well, you can when the government controls the minimum retail price through a Crown owned corporation and making “recommendations”.Still, no social conservatism that tells us beer is bad… and not even fiscal libertarian conservatism telling us that the LCBO needs to be broken up and privatized. No, it’s the progressives v. the liberals up here for control of the centre… every election time… time after time. Will they actually lower the minimum price if they don’t get in? Hudack says: “We’ll have more to say in the time ahead about some of the ideas we are hearing from Ontario families”. I look forward to what my ten year old advises on this point.

Politics, Pubs, Leadership and Density

Interesting observation in the Montreal Gazette today about why it is that the two-dimensional Pub Minister and other cynical forms of political band wagoning over the pub trade has gotten such attention in the UK election:

Few commentators question the need to help out a sector of the economy made up of 52,000 pubs – the majority owned by large pub companies or breweries – in a country of 61 million. By comparison, there are just 6,100 drinking establishments in Canada – including pubs, bars and night clubs – to service a population of just under 34 million, according to Statistics Canada.

Well, that would do it. We have only one tavern or bar for every 5,500 Canucks while Brits have five times as many per person. Sure, there are hot houses of pub life in Canada like old colonial east coast towns Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s Newfoundland. Heck, good old Pembroke in the Ottawa Valley had at least 15 bars for 15,000 people when I lived there in the mid-90s. A whole country of that? Of course pubs are an election issue.

But, thinking about it, I really have no idea who is going to win this great British contest we are all watching so eagerly. Who’s going to win? In the end, it’ll depend on who comes forward to stand up for what is good and right. Yet, unlike tomorrow’s election, we may never know who has been more boorish: Pete or Protz and the CAMRA lads. Unless, of course, someone who was also the table comes forward to place that “X” next to a name.

The Last Time Someone Else Won, They Were Whigs

That was the line of the night. Apparently, the last time portions of New York state’s 23rd district of the US Congress were not represented by Republicans, they were represented by Whigs. It was the equivalent of a by-election for the House of Commons. But it had a very different feel. While party affiliation is huge here, so is personal contact as well as local issues that might, in Canada, be handled by someone else. So, in the bar I was invited to attend, local candidates for positions like municipal clerk were applauded in victory or supported in sad defeat by others with far grander titles and offices. I talked with union leaders, insurgent college kids from other states here to get the vote out as well as a very genial county court criminal judge who was elected to a second ten year term in a landslide.

The big news was the Congressional win for the Democrats. But the story for me was how this had the look of a church supper in a way, with local people of all sorts doing what they could to try to play a role in improving their community. Sounds smarmy but when you are chatting with a member of the New York State legislature bouncing he newborn as you hold the corner with the good cold cuts tray, it sorta has that feeling. Follow the results on NCPR and WDT.