Drink till you dry

Let’s face it, summer is not that pleasant any more. Daily temperatures are averaging 90 degrees and humidity is reaching daily highs of 80 and 90%. I often see the cross-fitters working out in the Miller fields and every time I conclude they are clearly crazy. There’s no way a sane mind in an average body can stand these strenuous conditions. It is simply too hot and humid outdoors for you to be out there—having “fun”.

In my mind, the only honest way anybody could be possibly enjoying themselves in this (disgusting) North Carolinian weather is if you are laying in the shade, with a fan blowing on your face, while you are drinking a very cold beer. Now we are talking sanity.

If you are American, you are likely thinking like me—and there’s no shame on that.As a consumer you may think you got all what takes to choose your beer: taste buds and a thirsty throat. Think again. There is more to beer than fun and the consequences of your drinking sessions go beyond many frequent visits to the toilet. Beer production puts heavy pressure on dwindling resources. Perhaps a short exposure to some of the less amusing details in the production process of a particular pale lager will make you reconsider your beer choices. Like it or not, as a consumer, you’ll have to play police too.

Against common belief, Americans are actually pretty decent beer drinkers by global standards. Of course, you can’t say that to a Czech or an Austrian, where beer consumption per capita per year averages 142 and 104 liters (that’s like 400 and292 beer cans in a year, for the average person—not just college students.) But the reality is that U.S. is at the top of beer consumption in the New World (the American continent). In the U.S. beer accounts for about 85% of the volume of alcoholic beverages sold each year.

In the US, the average person drinks 76 liters of beer per year, more or less 214 beer cans in the year, meaning that Americans drink a little bit more beer than they do milk and coffee—but about half as much as carbonated soft drinks. If you break that down by season, most of it is drank in the summer times—surprise, surprise. In fact, in the 15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, beer and malt beverage sales tend to surpass the 10-billion dollar mark—making it one of the largest selling categories of all food and beverage channels.

(Not surprisingly, beer consumption, and alcohol consumption in general, is much lower in the Southeastern, more religious, states. But even though North Carolinians are not impressive beer drinkers for U.S. standards, they are not Utahans either—in fact, they resemble pretty well the drinking habits of the average American.)

The top beer brands tend to be Bud Light, Budweiser and Coors Light. But if you have a taste for foreign alcohol, you will most likely be drinking Corona Extra — the number 1 imported beer in the US and one of the top-selling beers worldwide.

Corona Extra is a pale lager, produced by the Belgian-owned Cervercería Modelo and the US-firm Constellation Brands (CB). The Corona Extra that’s sold in the US is produced by CB in Mexico.

Constellation Brands runs a brewery in Nava, near the border between Mexico and Texas. The brewery is huge, and it is growing. By 2017, the facility will have installed capacity to produce 20 million bottles of beer per day—that’s a lot of beer. To produce that much beer, CB needs a lot of water—yes, it may have slipped your mind, but most of what you drink (80-95%) in beer is actually water.

Northern Mexico is extraordinarily dry. It doesn’t have a lot of rain, therefore, water scarcity is a binding concern. What is ironic is that local governments representing various municipalities near the CB brewery don’t have legal access to the necessary 100 liters of water per second to give local households to drink or use in their homes — but there is enough water for an American firm to produce the beer that will satisfy America’s thirst for imported alcohol.

When CB purchased the brewery in 2013, the Coahuila government gave them legal permits to use land and the water sources liberally. According to the mayor of a nearby municipality, CB draws 1,200 litters of water per second from local wells.

These kind of special concessions made for foreign entities, like CB, are driving towns in the state of Coahuila dry and compromising the livelihood of locals. And even though the state government is responsible for the protection of current water crisis, nobody seems looking into the legality behind this crisis — mainly because there is a lot of money on the table. Yes, when revenues from foreign direct investment are at stake, politicians are willing to overlook certain injustices. As it was suggested earlier, you, the consumer, are going to have to play police too.

So, how does this touch you and what can you do about it? Well, it is a difficult question. I can’t say there is a silver bullet to tackle what is ultimately a failed system plagued with corruption and incentives to cheat the vulnerable and poor at the expense of the wealthier and the powerful. But if I were you, in what remains of the summer I’d think a little bit about the environment of Northern Mexico, about Northern Mexicans, about U.S. firms with privileged contracts, about Mexican officials with privileged salaries… and drink a Heineken instead.

References:

Wikipedia: List of countries by beer consumption, Beer in the United States

Beer Info: List of states by beer consumption http://www.beerinfo.com/index.php/pages/beerstateconsumption.html

The Beer Institutewww.BeerInstitute.org.

The Guardian: “Americans’ taste for Mexican beer sucking up water supply, mayor says” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/30/americans-beer-corona-mexico-water-crisis?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link

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