I don’t know what to write about this week. I don’t really have words for anything. Beer has suddenly become way less important than so many other things. I feel like I can’t even start to write about beer without acknowledging the very real fears that women, people of color, and people in the LGBTQ community are feeling, and my fears for them.
I’m really not worried for the direction of our country, the country will outlive us all in one form or another. I mean, the country survived slavery, a civil war, the genocide of Native Americans, and two world wars on foreign soil, so yeah, the country will be fine. But my fears are for the citizens on the margins. There is a president and a congress that will soon take power, and they want to take rights and privileges away that have been earned through hard work, not just in the last eight years, but since this country was founded: Women were not allowed to vote or even own property when this country was founded; people of color from all over the world, not just from Africa, were being imported into this country as slaves when this country was founded; being gay was not just illegal, but punishable by death when this country was founded. When we talk about “making America great again” we are talking about taking away women’s access to affordable health care and a president-elect who bragged about being able to sexually assault women without punishment. (And hey, he’s right, huh? He totally got away with grabbing as much pussy as he wanted); we are talking about people of color being beaten by supporters of our president-elect; we are talking about an entire community of people who still don’t have full protection under the law, who can still be discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender-identity.
These were not important issues to the people who voted for Donald Trump. It was the economy. More important than the gay agenda or the wall or ISIS, it was j-o-b-s. And the Rust Belt has certainly gotten its ass kicked the last 20 years. So, as god awful frustrating as it is to do, I want to tie this back to beer somehow …
So what does that mean for craft beer? With the industry’s 13 percent growth rate in volume, it’s growing at 10 times the rate of the rest of the economy (1.2 percent), with a 15 percent increase in the number of breweries and a 16 percent increase in dollar value, according to the Brewers Association. In 2014, craft breweries, including brewpubs, contributed $55.7 billion to the American economy. In addition to breweries, there are brewing support industries like Ska Fab, distributors, malters, hop farmers and retailers that also see the benefit. Then, with two brewpubs opening a day nationwide, there are the construction and manufacturing industries that are further impacted. The wake of craft beer is huge (YUGE). Most of these are small businesses with less than 100 employees. Small businesses rely heavily on access to capital to order raw materials, to build infrastructure, to increase production, and hire new employees. Any loss of access to that financing or significant interest rate hikes and you’ll see the industry slow, stop or slide.
Then there are our trading partners. The craft beer industry is increasingly turning to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa for trendy, boutique hops. There are a lot of American companies making stainless steel brewing equipment, but there are also a lot of kegs and tanks and brewhouses and equipment coming from overseas, mostly China and Germany. And we all know The Donald loves to say China, so we might be seeing less Chinese stainless in our breweries. He’s also being very hawkish when it comes to importing anything that overlaps with American industries, so perhaps we’ll see agriculture added to the list?
I don’t know. The future stuff is all speculation. I got roasted last time I dabbled in economics so I won’t delve too much into it. The beer side of me and us is safe. I’m actually more worried personally as a writer. Journalists were regularly harassed on the campaign trail, and I’ve seen more than one T-shirt promoting the lynching of journalists. Now, I’m not a journalist, per se, but I do write some funny stuff about beer and drinking and sneak in jokes about doing illicit drugs in public, and I enjoy that. That’s a civil liberty that has protection in the First Amendment and I love that amendment because it doesn’t [eff] around with language and have muddled-up clauses like the Second Amendment (it’s a goddamn mess of sentence, guys). I want amendments for the people in the margins, as clear as day, like the First Amendment. Until then, don’t [eff] with the people I love. Don’t [eff] with their rights. Oh, and chinga tu pelo, pinche naranja.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.