Letters: Is craft beer a boon or a burden?

Johnson City Press • Apr 22, 2018 at 7:00 AM

We asked you with Monday’s Question of the Week to tell us whether you think the growing craft beer industry is a boon or a burden. Here are some of your responses.

Everything in moderation

You ask if brewpubs ought to be restricted as a way of addressing alcohol-fueled traffic fatalities. No. When there are too many brewpubs, the better ones will survive and the poor ones will fail.

It is clear that people over-indulge in things that are not good for them. Alcohol is one. Sugar, salt, and fats are three more. Obesity, hypertension and diabetes take a huge toll on people in Tennessee. And yet their causes are not up for regulation. We don't regulate the amount of sugar in soda pop. We don't restrict the salt in potato chips. We don't force burger joints to use 90 percent lean ground beef.

Excessive speed is also a problem. We establish speed limits and we build speed bumps. But we don't forbid people from buying cars and motorcycles capable of breaking the sound barrier.

If we want to address alcohol-related traffic accidents, we should train barkeeps and the wait staff to be more alert to problem drinkers. We ought to promote a service that provides safe rides home.

And brewpubs aren't the only source of alcohol. We recently allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores and it appears that the hours it can be sold will expand. Isn't it a bit foolish to do that and then propose to restrict brewpubs?

If you restrict brewpubs, why not Jack Daniels and Jim Beam as well? They're too big, that's why. Restricting brewpubs is picking on the little guy.

It’s like restricting gun sales to those 21 and older. It’s not addressing the problem. It’s a convenient way for people to say, “Hey! We did something about drunk driving!”

Johnson City

It’s a growth industry

Local and regional beers began to emerge on the U.S. scene in the 1980s. If you've followed the development of that industry in Asheville, their first microbrewery opened 28 years ago and has evolved into more than 38 local brewers in their market area. This isn't unique, and that industry pattern has been duplicated in numerous markets nationwide.

Microbreweries have not increased beer consumption, they have simply switched consumption from national brands to creative and varied products developed by local brewers. Local microbreweries, their local retail outlets and associated restaurants bring significant incremental dollars to our market.

Microbrewery tourism has rapidly evolved and has the potential to bring very significant numbers of new visitors to our market.

Johnson City

Drinking’s hidden costs

Thank you for inviting readers’ comments regarding craft beer. For my response may I cite two observations from the book “Dying for a Drink” by Anderson Spickard, Jr.? Dr. Spickard is Emeritus Professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a national and international leader in substance abuse prevention and treatment.

“The economic cost of alcohol abuse to the U.S. economy exceeds $160 billion a year. To put this figure in perspective, in 1998 the total retail sales of alcohol (beer, wine, and distilled spirits) were less than $110 billion.”

“What separates cultures with high alcoholism rates from those with low rates? It is not, as is frequently supposed, biological or racial differences. The two most important factors are attitudes toward public drunkenness and whether or not drinking takes place outside of meals. Nations and communities that drink only at the dinner table and do not tolerate public drunkenness do not have high rates of alcoholism.”

Breweries can produce economic growth, but this upswing may come with hidden costs. In order for craft beer to be a boon in our region, I believe it is important for us in Northeast Tennessee to encourage the drinking of alcohol only with dinner and to show zero tolerance for public inebriation and drunk driving.

Thank you very much for considering this perspective.


It’s about the beer, not the buzz

As an avid home brewer for over 25 years and a member of the American Homebrewers Association I have seen my share of boom and bust in the craft beer world. I believe it is a boon for Johnson City.

There is a healthy friendly business competition and camaraderie between brewers. The majority of the people that enjoy these establishments are there for the quality not quantity of their beer of choices. There are other establishments in Johnson City that serve cheaper drinks for those who want to get inebriated.

Johnson City

Keep an eye out each week for another Question of the Week, but you may send us letters about any topic important to you. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected].

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