Monday, January 26, 2015

The PC: Getting our SHIFT together … again.

The PC: Getting our shift together … again.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

It may surprise some readers to learn that I have determined to stand in this year’s New Albany municipal elections as a candidate for mayor.

It should surprise no one that my aim is to do so as an independent candidate, freed from the encumbrances of America’s two-party duopoly – whether Democratic and Republican ... or AB InBev and MillerCoors.

Are the thought processes prefacing the advancement of better beer all that different from those encouraging improved local governance? Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, founder of Denver’s Wynkoop brewery, surely has thoughts on the matter.

It’s hardly a secret that many of us frequently borrow ideas from the world outside beer, primarily because beer hardly exists in a vacuum, although try telling this to (a) burrowed survivalists, or (b) chasers of the current Great White Whales of rare beer.

Whether it’s better beer or the little shop on the corner, concepts of shift and economic localization are cross-disciplinary. The following essay was originally published at on January 15, 2013, and has been edited to reflect a handful of altered details.


Political stump speeches differ very little from religious sermons, and that’s probably why we call it a bully pulpit, not a milk crate.

However, a soapbox might be useful, or better yet, a couple cases of Bud Light in tall cans, because if the pet shampoo is too disgusting to drink, at least you can stand atop it and preach.

(By the way, President Theodore Roosevelt was the originator of the “bully pulpit” usage. Roosevelt was one of the last and best examples of a species now extinct, the progressive Republican)

During these past few years at the bully pulpit, I’ve endeavored to echo two important, recurring themes – economic localization and shift – because both notions should be of interest to the well-informed contemporary beer drinker, even if their foundations are rooted elsewhere.

Beer loving Louisvillians are familiar with LIBA, the independent business association that coordinates the annual Louisville Brewfest. LIBA works to “Keep Louisville Weird,” primarily through advocacy and education about the fundamental merits of economic localization. My city’s version of the same is called New Albany First, and my company, New Albanian Brewing Company, belongs to both organizations.

A chart provided by LIBA illustrates in simple, introductory fashion one aspect of the stakes involved with localism. The chart has to do with circulation and reinvestment.

These and other topics pertaining to economic localization can be explored at one’s leisure, and at numerous web sites. Here are two of them: AMIBA and BALLE.

At LIBA’s web site, I’m struck by this single, brief paragraph. There is much to consider in just these few words.

Each time we spend a dollar, LIBA encourages you to weigh the full value of your choices, not solely to yourselves immediately, but for the future you want for Louisville.

Granted, it may not seem immediately evident that one’s spending choices have value, although we’ve long seen that a principled refusal to spend can make a difference when such a calculated abstention aims at facilitating a desired end, as in the practice known as the boycott – so named after Charles C. Boycott, a 19th-century English property manager in Ireland, who was targeted by an organized, non-violent, systematized campaign of disinvestment that eventually came to be named in his dishonor.

A more recent example of sustained economic sanctions came during the 1980s, when numerous investors, from institutions to corporations, and from individuals to governments, expressed their protest against apartheid in South Africa by an international campaign of disinvestment. The objective of this boycott was to compel South Africa to commence the dismantlement of institutionalized discrimination, which in time did indeed occur.

However, for those readers despairing of history lessons buried within a beer column, LIBA’s wording suggests outcomes ranging beyond those pertaining merely to the withholding of expenditures. In fact, one’s spending choices absolutely can reflect positive, active shadings of value beyond the short term and ephemeral … so long as they are weighed, a notion that implies thought and at least some measure of deliberation.

I believe that most self-identified beer lovers/enthusiasts/aficionados grasp instinctively this crucial point in a broad sense. They realize that in a modern consumer society driven by mass marketing, saturation advertising and various insider tricks (legal or otherwise), those dedicated to pursuing better beer must learn to disregard norms previously judged as acceptable, and instead to think their way past the easiest and most commonly available beer, not to mention the cheapest.

Grasp is one thing and reach quite another, and for this reason, I view the second significant pillar of economic localization to be the ongoing process of shift, which by its very nature is gradual.

In an economic system largely predicated on non-local spending, where there may not be an independent grocery or filling station (whether it dispenses gasoline, beer or both) to patronize, going cold turkey isn’t always a viable option.

Rather, one begins to support economic localization by shifting spending where and when such a shift is practical.

Perhaps the single greatest misconception greeting soapbox speakers like me who tout economic localization is that the listener is being expected to boycott non-local entities in their entirety, and either buy local or starve. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the forward march of better beer is a fine example.

That’s because better beer itself did not explode full-blown into the phenomenon it is in this day and age. Better beer evolved and grew slowly and continuously over three decades, incorporating constant shift as breweries were established and communities served. Now most of the country is within range of a local brewery, and with proximity comes a wider array of choice.

When it comes to craft beer, the implications of economic localization and shift are increasingly obvious. You needn’t digest them all at once. Little sips work just fine.


In 2014, the NABC shipped limited quantities of 22-oz bomber bottles to Indiana, Ohio and Florida (via Cavalier); Kentucky (River City Distributing); and Massachusetts and Rhode Island (Humboldt Imports). In 2015, we’ll pick up most of Kentucky through Clark.

Appropriately, a friend and NABC supporter proffers this excellent question:

How does shipping beer to Ohio, Rhode Island, et al, fit in with a "buy local" message?

Economic localization involves the incremental shifting of spending choices. Shift is ongoing, and shift happens. It’s real. As the shift evolves and market for better beer further progresses, brewery owners must nonetheless continue to view our marketplace the way it actually functions, not the way we wish it to function some day in the future. We live and work in the present as we strive for the ideal. We make decisions accordingly, and hope they bear fruit.

During his Indiana U.S. Senate campaign in 2012, eventual winner Joe Donnelly was asked by a reporter whether he would renounce PAC money from outside the state’s boundaries – a particularly plentiful source of campaign financing for his opponent, the GOP’s Richard Mourdock. Donnelly said no. He would continue to accept out-of-state contributions, and explained why he didn’t view this act as hypocritical.

To paraphrase Donnelly:

Until campaign finance reform is bilateral and the playing field becomes level for all, a candidate cannot pursue campaign finance reform unilaterally; after all, the object in politics is to win, because without winning, how can the candidate pursue his platform?

The same goes for my business.

Shift may be happening, but pieces of brewing equipment still are machines that make beer; using them makes money, and unfilled excess capacity costs money. Losses impede the business cycle, and the business cycle remains in large measure dependent on larger-scale market precepts. The regulatory regime largely precludes genuine marketing innovation.

If one can do what must be done while retaining the bulk of his principles, there can be periodically restful sleep … and the bills get paid. My fundamental objective remains as before: Shifting toward economic localization on as many fronts, whenever and wherever possible.

As I pursue this objective, selling more beer to the folks nearest to our brewery is a priority, and that's precisely where most of our beer is sold: Close to home. Concurrently, pragmatism ordains a clear view of other business prospects in other places.

Given the innate complexities of life and living, it's impossible for human beings to entirely escape shadings of hypocrisy. The trick is to shift inexorably away from self-contradiction, and to keep moving progressively forward. This I intend to continue doing.

Last week's PC column: Ripped straight from the pages of an Onion satire: “13 white males not really so eager to discuss issues like racism and sexism.”

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