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On the bright side.

On the Bright Side

A reflection on the successes of the American brewing industry.

The American brewing industry hears a great deal about the problems that face it. That is as it should be. Neo-prohibitionism and constant threat of "sin" taxes are real challenges that must be met. The striking aspect of this is just is just how successful the brewing industry is, despite the great weights that bear upon it.

If beer was just another commodity, many of these pressures on the industry wouldn't even exist. However, there is no escaping that beer is an alcoholic beverage, with all that implies. Its production is freighted with implications that force a different standard on a brewer than would be faced by, say, a basket-maker.

It is this standard that places moral responsibility on producers. The industry has been working to meet this challenge, creating programs aimed at reducing abuse of their products. These efforts take time and money. Regulation and taxation impose further costs.

Despite the burden of these costs, the American brewing industry perseveres, and is very successful at its primary job--brewing and selling beer.

America does not boast the highest per capita beer consumption in the world, but it is the world's largest single beer market. American brewers have proven remarkably efficient at serving this domestic market. Brewing companies that

started as regional operations now have continental reach.

Not too far in the future, that continental reach will become global. America's top brewers already stand preeminent among world brewers in terms of volume. Most striking, while most foreign brewers build volume through a dispersed world-wide presence--these American colossi have scarcely begun to venture outside their own backyard. When they do, the world brewing community will take notice.

The brewing industry has the potential to become an enormous asset to America in the global economy. Through export and production under license, the products of the American brewing industry could become ubiquitous around the world. The skills that these great industrial breweries have forged, the production of enormous volumes of technically-consistent lager beer, will serve America well.

This state of affairs comes in a time when American industry in general has lost the preeminence it enjoyed in the post World War II global economy. Some industries, while producing high-quality goods, have been slow to modernize. Others have been accused of allowing slippages in quality.

America's top brewers are innocent of these sins. The American brewing industry is a shining example of what can be accomplished when everything goes right with a capitalist enterprise.

This is all the more remarkable when one considers that the entire industry was, for all intents and purposes, strangled in its cradle by Prohibition. The industry's resurgence and ensuing prosperity is a testament to the powers of the free market.

In the years since that event, America's top brewers, many of them old-line family firms, have met the twentieth-century head on. Producers manufacturing a high -quality good here in America, and supporting that product with skillful marketing and efficient distribution. Something to reflect on when the doomsaying becomes tedious.
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Title Annotation:state of affairs of the American brewing industry
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:editorial
Date:Mar 11, 1991
Previous Article:Brewing a new three-tier system.
Next Article:1990: the year in review.

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