Alcohol laws are a confusing bunch, as they are usually based on pragmatic reactions to social evils and aren’t well thought out.  We see this in every sector, not just in the realm of booze.  In fact, just the other day I read an article in which some lobbyist group, while applauding the recent federal concern and proposal to make cell phone usage and texting illegal, said that our reps in Washington weren’t going far enough, but needed to impose fierce penalties on folks eating, brushing their teeth, phat sitting, and anything deemed distracting.  The social ill:  accidents caused by distracted driving.  The solution:  Intervention and government micro managing.  Well shoot, why don’t we just have the Government drive our cars for us?

Extreme interventionism, while well intentioned doesn’t always work.  Does anyone remember the prohibition, Al Capone, and Bugs Moran?  The problem:  prevalent drunkenness.  The solution:  Industry interventionism (prohibition)  The result:  Drunkenness (still), organized crime, lost tax funding, and an increase in home brewing (hey, at least SOMETHING positive resulted!)

And here I must insert the obligatory disclaimer.  I am not advocating any political/partisan opinion (I try to remain aloof on this site) nor am I advocating anarchy and/or suggesting that all government programs are a blight on the map of human history.

I say all that to bring to light some recent faulty thinking in ye old land of Scotland.  A quite fantastic and respectable craft brewery, Brewdog, released a mammoth beer: Tokyo.  This beer, that I unfortunately have not sampled, boasts and ABV of 18.2%, and has drawn some unfortunate social reactionary criticism.  In fact, Scotland Parliament filed a motion condemning the brewery.  One politician, Robert Brown, said of the ABV: “reprehensible in a society where the medical evidence shows that, across all age groups and socio-economic categories, individuals are drinking too much alcohol.”  In isolation his statement may well be correct, but to imply a high quality and complex beer is intrinsically responsible for the statement is affirming the consequent and scapegoating, and is false.

Parliament, in their motion, blames Brewdog for not being an instrument of change in curbing nationwide alcoholism, and for instigating it.  Hold on here.  This is craft beer.  It’s expensive.  When is the last time you saw a drunk transient walking through your downtown holding a bottle of Grey Goose vodka?  Never, of course.  How about that binge drinking frat dude?  Is he toting a high end bottle of Brewdog’s Tokyo?  Or do you spy  a $3.00 forty ounce bottle of Miller High Life duct taped to each hand as he plays “Edward Forty Hands.”

My point is, if parliament–or any other governing body–wanted to discourage alcoholism by imposing legislation on brewers, they would file motions against brewers that put out horrific swill that even a hobo could afford.  They wouldn’t slap the wrists of a company making a beer that is geared toward and consumed by a beer enthusiast willing to forfeit more for better and spend more money for a higher quality beer, that in all reality will be share amongst friends.  This wouldn’t force the poor into not drinking alcohol at all, but it would make thrift necessary. Or they could impose tougher laws on drunk driving and obscene displays of drunkenness.  Or reaffirm a general sense of civil morality and self control…and so on and so on.

Brewdog knows this.  They understand the reactionary interventionist ill logic.  So what do they do?  They bite back and produce the extreme opposite of the 18.2% Tokyo; a 1.1% brew that is apparently hopped beyond belief (malt/hop ratio).  The producer of the UK’s “biggest beer” reacted by making the UK’s “littlest beer,” and they have affectionately named it Nanny State. The name doesn’t suggest the ABV to be a token of penance; rather, it seems to be a passive aggressive attack on the floundering reasoning of the critics…the Nanny-Statists.

It is brilliant, clever, humorous, and sad that a brewery that prides itself on quality should have to so defend itself.  I believe the effect of the controversy may have the opposite effect that Scotland’s Parliament intended as brew dog is rocketed up in recognition from the free publicity.

Thank Heaven for Beer tips its hat to you, Brewdog, and all the other responsibly minded brewers worldwide, who find themselves the scapegoat at the whimsy of legislatures.  A problem exists, yes, but interventionism has yet to prove itself a worthy method.