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US. Beer and politics

After a grueling day at work or class, many students decide to kick back and relax with a cold beer. The immensely popular malt beverage has always been a favorite drink of the United States, which produces roughly six billion gallons of it annually. Of this huge mass of beer, nearly 80 percent of it is produced by two companies -- MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch. What few realize when posting up at the bar and ordering a cold one is how their favorite drink might be affecting the political landscape. Perhaps, some would change their preferences if they were more aware of what goes on behind the scenes in the world of big beer.
Anheuser-Busch, with a 51 percent share of the U.S. beer market, has been a model citizen in terms of being environmentally progressive. It recycled more than 27 billion cans in 2006, which is greater than the quantity used for all of its domestic packaging. That being said, Anheuser-Busch employs a substantial political action committee. According to OpenSecrets.org, it handed out $710,000 to candidates in the 2010 midterm elections.
MillerCoors LLC seems to have a longer laundry-list of questionable goings on than Anheuser-Busch, despite having a less wealthy PAC ($106,500 spent on the 2010 midterm election). The Coors family has always been a heavy proponent of right-wing politics. One member, Joe Coors, gave a $250,000 grant in 1973 to found The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy research institute. Chairman Pete Coors went so far as to, unsuccessfully, run for a seat in the U.S. Senate as a republican candidate in 2004. The Coors Company was also the defendant in a 1975 lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement forcing Coors to agree not to discriminate against black, Hispanic and female employees.
Merging in 2007, Coors joined forces with SABMiller in an effort to keep up with Anheuser-Busch's growing prowess in the U.S. beer market. Recently, the Miller Brewing Company signed a contract to brew college beer favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon. It might come as a surprise to more typically liberal college PBR drinkers that their favorite barley beverage is putting money in the pockets of the people behind The Heritage Foundation.
If your aim in drinking is to enjoy the beer and the effects it has on your body without needing to consider political connections, perhaps it would be better to stay away from big-beer corporations. In North Carolina, new breweries are popping up around the state year after year with colorful brand names ranging from "Big Boss" to "Full Steam." These companies focus on the quality of their product over the quantity of the distribution, making the beer they produce much more flavorful and generally enjoyable to drink. This will cause you to drop an extra dollar or two on a six pack, but the added enjoyment in the actual drinking of the beer combined with the general lack of back-door dealings more than makes up for the added cost.
8 Feb. 2011

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