The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Craft beer is the anti-monopoly hero

CityLab digs into "the strangest, happiest economic story in America:"

In almost every economic sector, including television, books, music, groceries, pharmacies, and advertising, a handful of companies control a prodigious share of the market.

The beer industry has been one of the worst offenders. The refreshing simplicity of Blue Moon, the vanilla smoothness of Boddingtons, the classic brightness of a Pilsner Urquell, and the bourbon-barrel stouts of Goose Island—all are owned by two companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. As recently as 2012, this duopoly controllednearly 90 percent of beer production.

But in the last decade, something strange and extraordinary has happened. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent. Yes, a 200-year-old industry has sextupled its establishments and more than doubled its workforce in less than a decade. Even more incredibly, this has happened during a time when U.S. beer consumption declined.

Average beer prices have grown nearly 50 percent. So while Americans are drinking less beer than they did in the 2000s (probably a good thing) they’re often paying more for a superior product (another good thing). Meanwhile, the best-selling beers in the country are all in steep decline, as are their producers. Between 2007 and 2016, shipments from five major brewers—Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst, and Diageo, which owns Guinness—fell by 14 percent.

It's not just the United States. The UK passed 2,000 breweries last fall, with organisations like the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) leading the charge.

At least as far as good-tasting, high-quality beer goes, it's a good time to be alive in the English-speaking world.

Welcome home

After a really enjoyable trip, and even before I'd gone to get Parker from boarding, I discovered to my horror that my fridge compressor was making a godawful racket and the freezer door was just slightly ajar.

This is what it looks like now:

Welcome back to college.

Really, I'm mostly bummed about all the cheese, not to mention the homemade turkey stock in the freezer and the mushroom tea in the fridge I was going to make rice with.

Also note that the thermometer says -3°C. I've since adjusted the temperature back up to 2°C where it belongs.

We are closely monitoring this situation and will provide updates as warranted.

Snow time for a walk

Things will be a little low-key today owing to the snow falling on London right now, even though the temperature is rising as a warm front pushes through. The forecast calls for rising temperatures and rain all day, which I guess isn't all bad.

So I'm taking some time to do long-overdue chores for the Apollo Chorus (de-duping our master database, setting up ticketing for our next two concerts), and I've started yet another book (Harold Nicolson's beautifully-written 1939 polemic Why Britain is at War). Yesterday I read John Le Carré's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, cover to cover.

My plan today really was not much more than to read, walk around if the weather permitted, check out two pubs I've never seen, and—oh yes—see Richard Strauss' Salome at the Royal Opera tonight.

Back home tomorrow.

More goals met

On Thursday I hit all my (admittedly non-taxing) goals for the day. And yesterday, on into this morning, I almost did again, except that making three of the goals interfered with making the fourth.

Goal #1: See the Churchill War Rooms. Having recently seen "Darkest Hour," I wanted to see the rooms where it happened. I did, and they were really cool.

Goal #2: Visit three more pubs. I had planned to check in again at 214 Bermondsey, then head up to Ye Olde Mitre before stopping again at The Ship Tavern. I walked from the Churchill War Rooms to 214 Bermondsey (3.7 km) but it turned out they weren't open yet. So I trundled up to Fleet Street (another 3.7 km) and went to The George instead. At Ye Olde Mitre—which can use the archaic spelling legitimately as it's over 400 years old—I met up with an old friend, went to dinner with him, and then finally made it to The Ship Tavern.

Goal #3: Get to 10,000 steps as early in the day as possible. At the stroke of midnight I set off from The Ship Tavern back to my hotel in Earls Court, a distance of 6.4 km that got me 6,828 steps in just under an hour and ten minutes. I dropped my bag off, ate the curry I'd picked up on the way, and trundled around Earls Court for another half-hour before hitting 10,000 steps at 2:09 am GMT. Someday soon, but not today, I'll get there even earlier. At the pace I set from Holborn to Earls Court, it would have taken me only 102 minute had I not stopped for food.

Goal #4: Read another book. At The George, I started Robert Abelson's Statistics as Principled Argument, and managed to get halfway into the second chapter before getting swept up in conversations with the Aussies who mobbed the area where I was sitting at the Ship Tavern. It's also a bit denser than the Frum I read cover to cover on Thursday, which slowed me down a bit.

Today's goals included stopping in two more pubs, including the Southampton Arms, about which I have blogged frequently, and reading a third book. Alas, neither looks promising, for several reasons including the pouring rain outside right now and the six pubs I've already visited since I got here. So this afternoon I'm going to nap, plough ahead with the Abelson, and head up to Southampton Arms when the rain lets up, which the Met Office assures me will happen around 5 pm.

Well, they've done it again

The U.S. government has shut down its nonessential functions (including the President's vacation travel) because the ruling party can't play nicely with others:

The federal government shut down for the first time in more than four years Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

Republicans resolved not to submit to the minority party’s demands to negotiate, while Democrats largely unified to use the shutdown deadline to force concessions on numerous issues — including protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

So the Republicans control all three branches of government but couldn't avoid a repeat of their mistakes in 1994 and 2014.

As for my current project, we're fully funded, so we can continue working and getting paid. But about a third of our team are civil servants who are now on furlough. Let's hope that the Republican Party shows a little more willingness to make a deal with the minority over the weekend.

The pubs shall be numbered three

Yesterday I did exactly what I set out to do: visited three pubs and read an entire book.

The book, David Frum's Trumpocracy, should be required reading by Republicans. Frum is a Republican, don't forget; he's trying to put his party, and his country's shared values, back together. As a Democrat, I found his critique of President Trump and the current GOP's policies insightful and well-written. I don't agree with Frum's politics entirely, but I do agree with him fundamentally: disagreement between the parties is healthy when we agree on the fundamentals of what it means to be American.

The pubs were entirely less controversial.

First: The Anglesea Arms, Hammersmith, where I had a St. Aubell Tribute Cornish Pale Ale. Second: The Dove, also in Hammersmith, where I had a Hammerton N1 American Pale Ale and some foccacia with olive oil. (I'm trying to appreciate some pubs, not get sloshed.)

Both pubs were comfortable, classic English pubs. The Dove was more classic (it opened in the 17th Century), but the Anglesea Arms was more comfortable. I'd go back to either in a minute.

The third pub, where I read about half of Frum's book, is my third-favorite pub in the world*: The Blackbird in Earls Court. Over three hours, I sipped a couple of Fuller's ESBs and had their amazing steak and ale pie.

I may post some photos when I get back, but the glass over my phone's camera is all jacked up and I didn't bring my real camera.

Today I also plan to read a book and visit three pubs, and for the entire trip (including the flight home), I aim to finish four books and visit 10 pubs. And as it's already 11:30, I should get cracking.

* After Duke of Perth in Chicago and Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak, London, which I plan to visit tomorrow.

Fortunately, I only had one

Getting tea at the local Pret this afternoon I discovered that one of the one-pound coins I tried to use no longer had any value:

On October 15 2017, the round pound ceased to be legal tender. This meant Brits could no longer use them to make purchases in shops, supermarkets, vending machines and even car parks.

The coin was phased out over six months, to pave way for the new five sided £1 which launched last March.

Those who find themselves still in possession of any round ones will have to head to their local bank, building society or post office branch to have them traded. Most will also only agree to do so if you're an account holder.

So, I now have a souvenir round pound that cost me $1.33 at the time. Could have been worse, I suppose. Now I just have to check my £10 notes. The paper ones expire in March.

Chicago is an Amazon HQ2 finalist

I can't tell if this is good news or neutral news. It's not bad news:

Chicago has been named a finalist in Amazon’s search for its second headquarters, known as H2Q.

Amazon announced the short list in an early morning tweet, but didn’t offer many other details other than the other cities that made the short list. The other finalists are Columbus, Ohio; Newark, N.J.; Toronto; Indianapolis; Denver; Nashville; Los Angeles; Dallas; Austin; Boston; New York City; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Montgomery County, Md.; Northern Virginia; Atlanta and Miami.

Illinois, Chicago and Cook County teamed up to offer more than $2 billion in incentives to Amazon, and offered 10 proposed sites. They are Lincoln Yards, a development along the Chicago River near Lincoln Park and Bucktown; the Downtown Gateway District, which includes space in Willis Tower and redevelopment of the old main post office and Union Station; City Center Campus, a proposed redevelopment of the state-owned Thompson Center in the Loop; the River District, a 37-acre development along the river and Halsted Street; the Burnham Lakefront, a Bronzeville development that includes the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 78, a development planned on 62 acres along the river between the South Loop and Chinatown; Fulton Market district properties controlled by multiple owners; Illinois Medical District redevelopment; the soon-to-be-vacated, 145-acre McDonald's campus in Oak Brook, which the company will leave for Fulton Market; and more than 260 acres available for development on the longtime Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg, where Zurich North America recently built a new headquarters.

Even if Amazon chooses a different city, it's still good for Chicago. I'm just not sure about the $2 bn giveaway.

More stuff to read

What a day. I thought I'd have more time to catch up on reading up to this point, but life intervened. So an hour from now, when I'm cut off from all telecommunications for 9 hours, I plan to sleep. And if I wake, I'll read these articles that I'm leaving open in Chrome:

And now, I head to my airplane.

Why I hate the suburbs

I spent over 3 hours in my car today in principal because there were no public transit options to my remote, suburban destination. That, plus all-day meetings, means that instead of outlining what I'm planning for the weekend—I'll do that tomorrow—I'm just going to line up some articles I want to read:

I now have to pack. Parker will be unhappy with this.