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What drinking problem?

Tim Heffernan's piece, "Last Call" (November/December 2012), which examined the U.S. brewing industry, was a gross mischaracterization of our company's intentions.

Our ownership of distributors is nothing new. We have operated branches throughout the past century and are a welcome neighbor in the communities in which we do business.

While there has been industry consolidation, the number of smaller, craft brewers has significantly increased. There are more choices for consumers in the beer aisle than ever before.

We maintain that a three-tier system is in everyone's best interest. Brewers benefit from the local expertise and community involvement of their wholesalers, while the wholesalers benefit from brewers giving them important tools and resources. A strong distribution network sells more beer, and brings choice and value to the consumer.

Michael Roche

Vice President, Government Affairs

Anheuser-Busch

St. Louis, Mo.

The writer sounds a false alarm over alleged public health dangers stemming from consolidation among brewers, when the facts tell a different story. Drunk driving and underage drinking fell to historic lows during a time of dramatic change in our industry. Contrary to the assertion by Heffernan, these moves by U.S. brewers and importers have proven to be positive for our consumers, as well as our investors and the economy as a whole.

Brewers and importers are among the most effective partners to law enforcement, community leaders, and families in reducing drunk driving and underage drinking. Brewers and importers have committed to more than 130 initiatives in the United States to help prevent underage drinking and drunk driving, and to promote responsible drinking.

Joe McClain

President, The Beer Institute

Washington, D.C.

Heffernan acknowledges the regulatory powers granted to the states in the Prohibition-ending Twenty-first Amendment, yet he neglects to go into great detail on how alcohol laws and taxes vary from state to state, and how these variances correlate with rates of alcohol consumption. I am writing this in Pennsylvania, a state that runs its own wine and liquor stores, does not permit alcohol sales in supermarkets or big-box stores, and is the headquarters of Yuengling, a brewery that has increased its market share recently yet is not owned by any big-industry conglomerate. These last points would seem to present exceptions to Heffernan's thesis.

Even granting these points as insubstantial, the link between cheaper beer and higher alcoholism rates is largely unproven.

Heffernan does present some very salient data on the rise of beer conglomerates and their threat to competition from independent and craft breweries. His piece would have been more effective had it limited its focus to the problems that monopolistic forces pose to the market. By attempting to forecast a rise of inebriated hooliganism in the U.S. as a result of said forces, the argument risks broaching the rhetoric of a temperance movement that was justly laid to rest long ago.

Christopher Mote

Philadelphia, Penn.

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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Roche, Michael; McClain, Joe; Mote, Christopher
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:479
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