Which Came First, the Brewpub or Deregulation?



Don't miss the thread James Fallows has been hosting, about whether or not Jimmy Carter was the true "king of beers," as he first noted a few weeks ago, when he linked to a Balloon Juice post by one E.D. Kain. In honor of International Beer Day, Kain said we shouldn't neglect the fact that Carter signed a law freeing home brewers to buy and use beer-making supplies that had been restricted since the end of Prohibition. As is often the case, only large commercial brewers were able to make and, of course, sell beer. That started to change, Kain wrote, in 1977, when Carter in effect deregulated the industry.

Not so, many readers cried—enough that Fallows posted an update in which he quoted a reader named Tom Hilton, who wrote that Carter's real achievement was not to deregulate the industry but to legalize home brewing:

What Carter did sign was HR 1337, which legalized homebrewing "for personal or family use, and not for sale"--'deregulating' individual, not commercial, behavior. The legalization of homebrewing did contribute to the growth of the craft beer industry (according to Charlie Papazian, 90% of the pioneer craft brewers started out making homebrew), so President Carter certainly deserves credit for that...but it just as certainly isn't "beer industry" deregulation.

Kain later strongly defended himself, saying that in legalizing home brewing Carter effectively let a thousand beer-making labs bloom:

In the pre-Carter days there was little or no access to home brewing supplies, very little knowledge base for do-it-yourselfers to draw from, and far less experimentation with home brewing, making it effectively impossible to gain entry to the beer market for non-corporate brewers. Carter's deregulation essentially stripped away all these barriers to entry, making it possible for a number of people who would otherwise not have entered the market to do so. Did deregulation of brewpubs also help lead to the craft beer explosion? Certainly. But as your reader notes, 90% of craft beers began as home brews. Without Carter's deregulation, the brewpubs themselves would never have taken off. 90% of the craft brews we now have would never have existed.

And the debate went on! In what Fallows said will be his last word on the subject, he quoted another dissent, from Alexander D. Mitchell IV:

Carter's signature only assisted those who wished to sell malt, hops, and yeast to homebrewers, and did nothing to "entry to the marketplace" for brewers. There was and is no commercial market for homebrew; in fact, homebrewers are expressly prohibited from commercially marketing their products. Furthermore, there was nothing on the Federal level prohibiting a brewer from starting a small brewery before Carter's signature. Kain tries to claim that the craft beer industry would not have flourished without homebrewers. While that may be a debatable point, to claim that stimulating an increased demand for quality beer is "deregulating the brewing industry" is a grotesque exaggeration.

I'm left simply grateful that there are so many more craft brewers now than there were before and wanting to read William Least Heat Moon's wonderful "A Glass of Handmade," published in The Atlantic in November of 1987 (and not available online)—and looking forward to the exciting debut of the Food Channel's own craft-brewer in the next few months.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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