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Drinking Less, Drinking Better
By Jim Anderson

Beer glass A generation ago, who would have thought that we'd have a TV screen on our desks that would allow us to talk to people on the other side of the planet? Or that we'd have a box in our kitchen that we could put frozen food into, press a button, and be eating moments later?

Or be talking about gourmet beer?

That's right, lots of things have changed in the past several years, and now that we're in the cost, calorie, alcohol, freshness, quality, health and flavor-conscious 2000's, better beer comes up as a winner all around. How so, you say? Let me count the ways.

COST - Ounce for ounce, even the most expensive beer is the alcohol world's best value, which means it's also good for profits. For the price of the worst wine on your list, you can sell the finest beer in the world in the same size bottle - for at least 15% more profit. And at that price, maybe your customers will stay for more than one. And among high-end beers in individual servings, there's typically for $3.00 profit per bottle - twice that of a bottle of common, industrially-brewed beer.

CALORIE - Despite its bad reputation in the calorie department, beer is typically in the 130-170 range per 12oz. serving, the same as 6oz. of wine. Owing to a low alcohol content, most of the calories in beer are from carbohydrates, which are more easily burned off (within a certain time of consumption) than calories from alcohol.

ALCOHOL - Beer is the definitely today's drink of moderation, as most beers weigh in at between 4.5 and 6% alcohol by volume. An with liquor legal liablility as preposterous as it is in Pennsylvania, you should much rather see your customers with an empty beer bottle in front of them than an empty Goldschlager glass.

FRESHNESS - Beer, like most foods, is perishable. And since, like most foods, fresher is better, the Philly area's numerous microbreweries and brewpubs give you the opportunity to provide your customers with the equilvalent of locally-grown produce - it's a great selling point, and reminds everyone that you support local business.

QUALITY - And speaking of microbreweries and brewpubs, the only reason they exist in the first place is in reaction to the bland, stale state of most nationally-distributed beers. The whole movement is based on producing a beverage of superior quality, which counts for a lot in an era in which people are looking to drink less, but drink better.

HEALTH - Health? Yes! Once upon a time, little Yakima Malting & Brewing in Washington State put a Nutritional Information panel on their six-pack carriers. And why did the big, bad FDA make them take it off? Well, between you, me and the Restaurant Report, it was because the Feds didn't want us to know just how high in complex B vitamins, folican, protein, and potassium the stuff is. How do you think the Paulist monks of Munich survived their Lenten fasts for all those generations? By living off the beer they brewed, that's how.

FLAVOR - It's no secret that there are more flavor profiles in the family of beer than in that of wine. Sweet, dry, sour, tart, grainy, bitter, fruity - it's all there, and more. Which makes beer not only attractive on its own, but also as a flexible accompaniment to all sorts of food. And as more styles of beer become available, many bars & restaurants are offering flights of beer on tap (small servings of several varieties at a fixed price), which creates a festive atmosphere as well as a conversation piece for your customers. A concept that would have been as unheard of a generation ago as a writstwatch, with an alarm and a stopwatch on it, that is accurate to within one second every year - for $3.00.

Jim Anderson is editor and publisher of Beer Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley's leading beer periodical. He also writes and lectures extensively about beer for the restaurant trade and the public.

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