Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How Microbrew Can Save the World


How Microbrew Can Save the World

By Chris O'Brien, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on October 25, 2006

The world's cup runneth over with living beer traditions. But this vast repository of cultural brewing capital is under attack by global corporations. The top five brewing companies, all of which are American- or European-owned, control 41 percent of the world market. Perversely, economists and politicians calculate the conquest by industrial breweries as economic growth while the value of small-scale traditional brewing goes uncounted. Much will be lost if this global "beerodiversity" is lost to the forces of corporate-led homogenization.

The globalization of beer not only destroys the social, spiritual, and health-related benefits of small-scale home beer production. It also undercuts the vital role that home brewing plays in sustainable development throughout the world. For 10,000 years, brewing has been conducted at home, primarily by women, who were entrusted with safeguarding traditions that strengthen social bonds and build community identity. As an important component of diet, beer was distributed by female household heads according to the values of the community, which moderated consumption to socially acceptable levels. As an inherently small-scale and local endeavor, brewing also has had a low impact on environmental resources, relying on renewable energy sources and requiring little or no packaging or shipping.

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