Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sin in Sin Taxes...

It's that time of year again, when we all get reminded just how much of our hard earned income the Feds (and some states) have decided to clip us for. I'm not going to waste your time ranting about the IRS; not that the IRS isn't worth ranting about, but you can find plenty of other blogs that do that. No, this blog is about beer, so I want to say a few words about beer taxes.

Alaska is normally thought of as a pretty low tax state. We've got no income tax and no state sales tax; traditionally the state has existed off the money generated from resource extraction, most recently from oil. Things aren't helped by the fact that the Federal government owns over half the land in Alaska, rather than the people of Alaska, but we'll pass over that little issue as well.

What you may not realize (I know I didn't until I looked it up) is that Alaska has the highest beer tax in the entire country. Alaska charges a tax of $1.07 per gallon. Compare this to the U.S. median beer tax of 18.5 cents per gallon and the lowest tax state (Wyoming) with its massive 2 cents per gallon! So you can see, we here up on The Last Frontier are paying a pretty penny for the privilege of paying more pretty pennies to have a beer.

Why is this? Why do lawmakers think it's OK to stick it to beer (and other alcoholic beverage) drinkers? And to smokers? They like to call these excise taxes "sin" taxes. Well, I've got news for you legislators (at least those of you who haven't gotten popped by the FBI for taking bribes): DRINKING BEER IS NOT A SIN! Neither is smoking, and I say that as someone who has never smoked. Since when did our elected representatives become God's agents on earth, authorized to "punish" sin by making money off of it?

Suppose they decide tomorrow that chocolate is a "sin"? Arguably it's not nearly so healthy for you as beer. How about fried foods? Would it be OK to slap a $1 tax of every order of french fries? If no, why not? How does that differ in principle from screwing beer drinkers by jacking up the price of every growler they buy by about 10%? If they can do one, they can do the other, and don't think they won't. There's already talk about taxing foods with "too much" fat content. That's too much as decided by some fat cat politician, of course.

I love to homebrew anyway, but now I love it even more, knowing that I'm making beer for myself and my friends on which I won't have to pay this ridiculous rip off of a beer tax. And believe me, I'll be letting my state representatives and senator know just what I think of this targeting of beer drinkers as worthy of having their pockets picked.

Well, enough ranting. Let's talk about tasting some beers. On Saturday I had a chance to taste the latest entry into Midnight Sun's Crew Brews series, Anchor, on draft at Cafe Amsterdam. It's a pretty unusual customer, being a Belgian-style wit beer with the added flourish of Brettanomyces.

There's no question that brett isn't everyone's cup of tea; when my good beer-buddy Curt heard that brett was a player in Anchor, he told me not to bother picking a bottle up for him. He'd rather stick to bourbon-barrel aged porters and imperial stouts, thank you very much.

Still, if you like brett's horseblanket funkiness, and I confess I do, it can do some very interesting things to conventional beer styles. Case in point, it gives Anchor a very interesting "twang" at the finish, which makes an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness and citrus notes of the wit. I think the touch of sourness at the end emphasizes the refreshing nature of the beer. For my money, it's another winner from the Brew Crew.

Midnight Sun keeps churning out new beers, even as they get ready to move into their new digs. Earlier this month they released their Kilt Burner, on draft only. This is another Strong Scotch Ale, which just continues the embarrassment of riches I'm experiencing with my favorite style of beer. This is about the smokiest Scotch Ale I think I've ever had, reflecting Midnight Sun's philosophy that anything worth doing is worth overdoing! And we're talking honest-to-God peat smoked malt here, just like in Scotch whiskey. Coming in at 7.6% ABV and about 20 IBUs, this is a great beer for slow sipping after dinner while watching a good baseball game or enjoying a good book. If you don't live in Anchorage, this one will be hard to find, since it's draft only. If you do live there, why haven't you tried it already?

Next week I plan to review a couple of new saisons I picked up. Until then, Cheers!

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