Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Point of Brew: Aged 21? Welcome to the Davis BeerFest

MichaelLewisW

By
From page A11 | May 22, 2014 |

It’s BeerFest time!

The 10th annual Davis BeerFest will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 7, beneath the overpass at Sudwerk, 2001 Second St.

The BeerFest is a lot of fun and good value for money: Included in the entrance price of $40 in advance ($45 at the door) are, among other things, unlimited tasting of about 100 different beers from nearly 40 breweries, live music all afternoon provided by three bands, a delicious beer-brat sandwich and free parking at Target with a shuttle bus to and from the site.

There also will be a raffle and silent auction for your entertainment that, among many other things, will include some curious and interesting beers. Designated drivers are $10 at the door for everything except beer (sodas instead).

Please go online to Davis Beer Festival to purchase will-call tickets; that will save a few bucks and also speed entry to the site. Please plan to attend because this is an important fundraiser for Citizens Who Care; this local Yolo County charity receives every penny of income. Kind brewery owners donate the beers, the space is donated, volunteers staff the event and generous and much-appreciated sponsors help with many of the expenses.

This income funds a significant share of the expenses of CWC programs that bring respite and time off to the caregivers of shut-in patients who are mostly elderly; these programs of support help elderly folks stay home longer than otherwise might be possible. It’s a great cause!

There will be a few teenagers helping to set up the BeerFest site and to clean up afterward. Of course, those who enter the site during the hours that beer is being served must be over 21 years of age. That is because of the ridiculous provisions of the national Minimum Drinking Age Act that was passed 30 years ago (1984!) by a Congress stampeded into action by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In this column I have complained bitterly and often about this age restriction, the highest in any advanced nation, to (of course) no effect. However, I hope I have explained that the law does not prevent youngsters from enjoying beer or wine around the family dinner table. To me, this is an important opportunity to demystify alcohol, to remove it from the realm of forbidden fruit and, indeed, to inform and educate youngsters about alcohol.

This last I have always thought most important because true ignorance is a potential disaster; it is rare, but always tragic, when a naïf drinks 21 shots of blackberry brandy on his 21st birthday and dies from the effects of alcohol poisoning or an unexpectedly drunken young women is raped on campus.

Learning how to drink alcohol sensibly and responsibility (or choosing not to drink) is a basic and necessary lesson of growing up; unfortunately, misinterpretation of the 1984 Drinking Age Act inhibits many parents from exercising that responsibility towards their youngsters in the privacy of the family home.

The 1984 act requires the states to prohibit persons under the age of 21 from “purchasing or publicly possessing” alcoholic beverages as a condition of receiving federal highway funds. Camille Paglia, in a piece in Time magazine (May 19, 2014) titled “It’s Time to Let Teenagers Drink Again,” makes the familiar arguments about the rights of 18-year-olds: Although teenagers can vote, marry and sign contracts, and fight for their country, some young veterans of the Bush/Cheney wars cannot legally buy a beer in a bar.

Paglia goes a bit further than I might go by claiming that, in the same way Prohibition in the 1920s eventually spawned the present global drug trade, so the 1984 Act pushed young people of today into binge drinking, pill popping, drug use and anti-social behaviors.

However, Paglia is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a libertarian and a feminist and doubtless knows whereof she speaks; she argues that the act pushed drinking underground and deprived young people (paraphrasing here) of “safe spaces where they could drink beer and socialize in a free but controlled environment” and spawned the “scourge of boorish fraternity keg parties cut off from the adult world.” I see her point, but I think there have been boorish fraternity keg parties ever since there were fraternities.

Paglia applauds the decriminalization of marijuana though she recognizes that there are many problems with pot, e.g., that it “saps energy and will power” and it is difficult to measure potency (that is not a problem with alcohol). But she praises the virtues of alcohol, taken in moderation, in much the same terms that I would use: “It relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas and promotes humor and is quickly flushed from the system with excess punished by a hangover.”

She contrasts these virtues with the dangers of “deadening pills and massively over-prescribed antidepressants that linger in the body and brain” and related to “unexplained suicides and massacres” though here I think she may be wandering off the point into paranoia. Finally she goes off the deep end entirely by blaming the 1984 act for “undermining the art of conversation and having a disastrous effect on our arts and letters with their increasing dullness and mediocrity.”

For all the weirdness, here and there, in Paglia’s piece, I am delighted to see this topic aired in a prominent national magazine. Maybe it will spark a reasonable conversation about this topic that eventually will lead to much more sensible laws around age and alcohol. But I’m not holding my breath.

When the legal age for young Germans to purchase beer and wine is 16 years (18 years in the United Kingdom, France and Italy), one must agree with Paglia’s last sentence and call to action: “This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!”

— Reach Michael Lewis at cymro@sbcglobal.net. Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com

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