Tag Archives: beverages

Pop consumption falls beyond expectations after soda tax

As voters consider soda taxes in four cities, a new study finds that some Berkeley neighborhoods slashed sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by more than one-fifth after the Northern California city enacted the nation’s first soda tax.

Berkeley voters in 2014 levied a penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks to try to curb consumption and stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity.

After the tax took effect in March 2015, residents of at least two neighborhoods reported drinking 21 percent less of all sugar-sweetened beverages and 26 percent less soda than they had the year before, according to the report in the October American Journal of Public Health.

“From a public health perspective, that is a huge impact. That is an intervention that’s more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen aimed at changing someone’s dietary behavior,” senior author Dr. Kristine Madsen said in a telephone interview.

Madsen, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley, said the drop in sugary drink consumption surpassed her expectations, though it was consistent with consumption declines in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico after it imposed a nationwide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Berkeley results also pleasantly surprised Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

“I hadn’t expected the effects to be so dramatic,” she said in an email. “This is substantial evidence that soda taxes work.”

The soda industry has spent millions of dollars defeating taxes on sugary drinks in dozens of U.S. cities. But the tax passed easily — with 76 percent of the vote — in Berkeley. In addition to soda, the measure covers sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, energy drinks like Red Bull and caffeinated drinks like Frappuccino iced coffee. Diet beverages are exempt.

In June, the Philadelphia City Council enacted its own tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is set to take effect in January, although soda trade groups have sued to try to block the measure.

Meanwhile, voters in Boulder, Colorado and the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Albany will vote on whether to tax their sugary beverages on Nov. 8.

San Francisco voters also considered a soda tax in 2014, but it failed to garner a two-thirds majority needed for approval.

Public health officials and politicians point to the Berkeley study as proof of the power of an excise tax to wean people off sweetened drinks.

“The study is another tool highlighting how effective a tax on sugary beverages will be on changing the consumption rate,” San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen told Reuters Health.

“Just like tobacco, these are commodities we can live without that are killing us,” she said. Cohen wrote the San Francisco ballot measure.

Researchers surveyed 873 adults in Berkeley and 1,806 adults in nearby San Francisco and Oakland before and a few months after imposition of the soda tax.

Sweetened beverage consumption increased slightly in San Francisco and Oakland at the same time it dropped in Berkeley, the study showed. In Berkeley, water consumption spiked 63 percent, compared to 19 percent in San Francisco and Oakland, after the tax took effect.

The researchers attributed the surge in water consumption to a heat wave. But the American Beverage Association saw it as example of the study’s flaws.

In a statement, Brad Williams, an economist working for the trade group, criticized the research for using “unreliable and imprecise methodology” and producing “implausible” results.

The association’s criticism may hold grains of truth, Nestle said. But she largely dismissed it. “Obviously, the ABA is going to attack the results. That’s rule number one in the playbook: cast doubt on the science,” she said.

Public health experts believe soda helped drive American obesity rates to among the highest in the world. The U.S. spent an estimated $190 billion treating obesity-related conditions in 2012.

Diabetes rates have almost tripled over the past three decades, while sugary beverage consumption doubled.

Good gourd almighty! Pumpkin beers proliferate

Autumn arrives with abundance — the fall harvest, colorful foliage and pumpkin beer, for instance. And with each passing season, the pumpkin beer patch continues to grow.

With all the major brands, craft brewers and brewpubs to consider, there’s no shortage of varieties. Beeradvocate.com recently published its list of the top 50 pumpkin beers, a clear indicator that the seasonal pints are multiplying at an impressive pace.

Skeptics who believe pumpkin beer is simply a seasonal novelty could use a history lesson. Brewers have been making pumpkin beer since Colonial times, when the native North American gourd was thought to have medicinal qualities and was often more plentiful than the grain required to brew more traditional varieties of beer. Some early beer recipes replaced the grain entirely with the meat of the pumpkin.

An early American folk song, written in 1643, contains the following lyrics:

If barley be wanting to make into malt,

For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,

Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-          tree chips.

For those who enjoy variety, character and a little exotic seasoning in their brews, pumpkin beer is the perfect libation for a cool fall night. But if you want some, you’d better hurry! The first brands began hitting the shelves in late August and some popular varieties already are out of stock. 

Here are some brews that might be new to Wisconsin drinkers.

Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery consistently receives high marks for its Pumpkin Lager, which is based on one of Thomas Jefferson’s original recipes. Joining this year’s lineup is Lakefront Pumpkin Imperial, a high-octane beer brewed with spices and vanilla and aged in oak brandy barrels. At 9.5 percent alcohol by volume, Imperial is potent. The high alcohol level dominates the flavor profile, obscuring some of the beer’s subtler elements. With that much alcohol, subtle is not what this beer is about.

Milwaukee Brewing Co. has joined the party this year with Sasquash Pumpkin Porter, a darkly spiced beer that combines specialty malts with 400 pounds of pumpkin and 300 pounds of sweet potatoes per batch. Pouring an almost black-brown with a caramel head at 5 percent ABV, the beer offers essences of cocoa and dark chocolate with light carbonation and an earthy quality from the root vegetables.

Speaking of porters, Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau, Alaska, offers its first Alaskan Pumpkin Porter this year. At 7 percent ABV, the beer is brewed with pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. It pours a dark brown with a strong pumpkin-and-spice nose. Expect nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin on the palate, with a slightly dry character and pleasant mouthfeel.

Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville, Washington, this year introduced Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, a 5.8 percent ABV brew made with pumpkin, spice and maple syrup. None of those elements lead; rather, they combine in a brewhouse gestalt of balance and finesse in which the whole is truly better than the sum of its parts.

It stands to reason that the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. would produce very powerful beers, and Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale is no exception. At 10 percent ABV, this little darling pours with an orange-ish hue and flavor profile that’s long on cinnamon, along with hints of cloves and nutmeg. The pumpkin flavor comes through, but so does the alcohol in this not-for-the-faint-of-palate libation.

One of our favorites this season has been Wasatch Black o’ Lantern, a pumpkin stout produced by the Utah Brewers Cooperative in Salt Lake City. A blend of Wasatch Pumpkin Ale and Polygamy Porter (we are talking Utah, after all), the 6.5 percent ABV beer pours dark and spicy with an emphasis on nutmeg. Expect a medium-bodied beer with flavors of roasted malt and chocolate blended with pumpkin pie.

A lighter stout and an imperial that’s a little lower in alcohol, the Millstream Brewing Co,’s Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout, brewed in Amana, Iowa, is available only at Brennan’s Market (19000 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield). At 7.6 percent ABV, it’s not quite imperial strength, and its dry stout character seems to be overbalanced by spices that give it an almost artificial sweetness. But the beer has earthy and roasty malt qualities that come to its rescue, turning it into a nice starter beer for those new to pumpkin brews.

Epic Brewing Co., another Salt Lake City brewer, has combined forces with DC Brau in Washington, D.C., to produce Fermentation Without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter. Brewed with 200 pounds of pumpkin, five spices and whole Madagascar vanilla beans, the rich, chocolaty porter weighs in at 8.6 percent ABV. Think chocolate pumpkin pie with whipped topping and an alcoholic bite.

Last year we took a real liking to Pumking, the imperial pumpkin ale from Southern Tier Brewing Co. in Lakewood, New York. This year we found a real friend in Southern Tier Warlock Pumpkin Imperial Stout. At 8.1 percent ABV, Warlock comes on strong, with its “stoutness” playing a supporting role to its roasty malt, pumpkin-forward profile. The huge pumpkin spice aroma, with notes of vanilla and gingerbread, follows through on the palate. If you have ever wondered what roasted pumpkin pie tastes like, this would be about as close as it comes.

Good gourd almighty! Pumpkin beers proliferate