Posts Tagged Drink

The Death of Beer Has Been Greatly Exaggerated – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic

The Death of Beer Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Taking a deeper dive into America’s liquid economy





It’s been a rough decade for beer. 

Americans are drinking less brew. Producers are making less, too. Meanwhile, wine has closed a 20-point favorability gap with beer in the just 20 years. Since the mid-1990s, beer volume has declined by nine percent while and spirits have soared (now even hard cider is staging a comeback after a century-and-a-half slump).

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But, despite my previous lamentations, maybe beer doesn’t deserve out tears. This is still America’s booze, goshdarnit, and Uncle Sam is awful proud of that beer gut. In fact, total U.S. spending on all alcoholic beverages — both at home and at restaurants and bars — is up 27 percent since 1980 and even more since the mid-century.

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Those numbers are inflation-adjusted, but real incomes have grown since the 1950s, too, so maybe the best way to see our boozy growth is measure alcohol’s share of the food budget, which has grown steadily since 1994.

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Pull back the lens to the late 19th century, and the story changes slightly. Alcohol spending has been about 15 percent of the food budget since the turn of the century, but the rise of cheap beer in the second half of the 20th century helped contribute to a decline in relative booze spending. It’s only recently (since 1994, or so) picked up.

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Back to the present: If we’re spending more on alcohol but drinking much less beer, what’s going on? Well, we’re spending more for the suds. Beer is getting more expensive on average, due to the rise of craft beers, which account for about 10 percent of the market. In 1980 there were 8 specialty breweries in the United States. Now there are more than 2,000 “Between 1994 and 2011, an average of 97 breweries opened in the United States every year,” consultant David Dworin pointed out in an email to me. As a result, beer hasn’t lost much ground as a share of total booze-spending at stores.

And it is by far the most popular alcoholic drink by volume. Yes, you point out, it is physically impossible to drink vodka in beer-like quantities. And yes, I’d agree, but on an alcohol basis, holds up well against wine: Beer volume still outsells wine volume by 8.5X despite the fact that a typical beer that’s 4% alcohol is only three or four times weaker than a typical wine.

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To sum up: The total amount of beer consumed by Americans is in structural decline, and there are more wine-drinkers than there used to be. But beer is still the most popular boozy beverage in America and overall sales are holding up, thanks in part to the emergence of craft beers.

 The Death of Beer Has Been Greatly Exaggerated – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic.


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Robotic bartender assembles personalized drinks, monitors alcohol consumption, and takes social mixing to a whole new level | Robohub

Robotic bartender assembles personalized drinks, monitors alcohol consumption, and takes social mixing to a whole new level

by Hallie Siegel
May 16, 2013

You’re at a busy bar. You order your personalized cocktail through a smart phone app; a drink dispenser measures out the beverage according to your instructions and a Kuka robotic arm give it a shake (or stir), while another garnishes it with a slice of lemon; the made-to-order concoction is delivered to your waiting hand via a slick little ten-lane conveyor belt. MakrShakr_LucasWerthein_0104

Makr Shakr Kuka robotic arm holding a martini shaker. Photo credit: Lucas Werthein.

The ‘mixology system’ tracks your order from start to finish: a large display behind the bar shows you the number of drinks ahead of yours in the queue, the current wait time, and lets you know when your drink is ready to be picked up. It also shows you what’s popular to drink tonight among both the ladies and the gents in the crowd, and lets you influence drinking trends in realtime by incorporating your suggested tweaks on popular recipes.

This clearly isn’t your parents’ neighbourhood watering hole, but it could be your kids’ — or even yours if you are lucky enough to be at the Google I/O After Hours event tonight in San Francisco. Welcome to Makr Shakr, a bar for the ‘sense-able city’ of tomorrow.

Drink as digitally/socially fabricated meme

Makr Shakr is one of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab projects, where the goal is to study and anticipate how sensor technologies can inform and transform our built environments. The project’s creators say that it’s not about trying to replace bartenders with robots, or even about drinking; it’s about exploring the dynamics of consumption and social networks in the context of sensor and digital fabrication technologies. In other words, its a mini-lab for learning about how we, the social creatures that we are, might interact with each other and our environments in the sensor-augmented cities of tomorrow.

According to project leader Yaniv Turgeman, Makr Shakr was conceived as part research project, part art installation, part social experiment: ”It is a research platform aimed at the third industrial revolution, where anyone can design, produce and influence culture. It’s also an installation meant to provoke and question our relationship with technology and creation … we’re experimenting with the idea of social co-creation and consumption.” Given Makr Shakr’s fundamental connection to crowdsourcing and social networks, it’s no wonder, then, that the project was invited to this year’s Google I/O event as a feature project.

As I write this article, Turgeman is busy with last minute preparations for Makr Shakr’s official launch at tonight’s Google I/O After Hours party, but I managed to track him down for a phone interview earlier this afternoon. He explained to me that point of the project was to take the phenomenon of maker culture and learn whether (and how) we can leverage it to socially create “bottom up culture”.

The SENSEable City Lab has many social and sensor networking projects at various stages of development (including elaborate plans for a World Expo 2015 project that will explore how social connectivity can be used to influence the production, distribution, preparation, consumption and recycling of food), but when Google first approached the lab about developing a project specifically for the 2013 I/O event, the team chose Makr Shakr because drinking is a social and relatively discrete (and therefor easy to parameterize) activity; in other words, it’s an ideal context for studying how people interact with digitally-mediated social networks.

“Drinking happens to be a very social activity,” Turgeman said. “At a bar, you’re looking to meet people. You might think ‘hey that’s a great drink I just invented’ and want to share it or iterate on it … by exploring the realtime behavioural dynamics in this situation, maybe we can learn something about how people interact with and influence each other’s consumption habits.”


Makr Shakr’s data visualization, showing the number of drinks in the queue, current wait time, drinks made and other details. Credit: Superuber Visualizations.

Digital fabrication is an important theme at the SENSEable City Lab, which regularly partners with industry in order to contextualize researchers where they can conduct real-world experiments. The kind of personalized, just-in-time digital fabrication and delivery exemplified by Makr Shakr (the ‘third industrial revolution’ Turgeman refered to earlier in our conversation) is one that demands that big time players from the food and beverage sector take note. And some already have — in 2009 Coca-Cola launched Freestyle, a touchscreen-operated beverage dispenser that offers more than 100 of the company’s brands in a single dispensing device. But the big idea of Turgeman’s project is not to study delivery systems for custom drinks, it’s to study how cultural memes are created and promoted, and this is surely of interest to major brands like Coke and Bacardi, which are the main sponsors of the project.

In this context, Makr Shakr takes personalized branding to a whole new level. Says Turgeman: “The magic moment will be watching the formation of a bottom-up bar culture, as we close the loop between co-curating and co-producing in real time.” It’s not hard to imagine that, if Makr Shakr one day goes mainstream, advertisers and big brands will want a piece of the action. But as top-heavy players in a bottom-up world, the question that lingers is, will we let them?

Bottom up culture, or Bottoms up culture?

Makr Shakr beverage ready for pick up. Photo credit: Max Tomasinelli.

It’s not clear to me during our phone interview whether Turgeman sees the pun in his ‘bottom up’ approach to influencing drinking culture, but it does get me prodding him about the claims on the Makr Shakr website that the system promotes responsible drinking by allowing people to self-monitor their alcohol consumption.

While this feature won’t be operational during the Google I/O event (they are expecting a crowd of 5000+ and didn’t want to overextend the system tonight) Turgeman explained that, yes, Makr Shakr can be used to track a person’s alcohol consumption. There’s no breathalizer unit to blow into (too uncouth, I imagine, not to mention the privacy issues and ick-factor); instead the system estimates your blood alcohol levels based on weight and height information you provide when you install the app on your phone, and the number of drinks that the system has served you.

The Makr Shakr phone app displays your blood alcohol level over time in a chart, but it also uses three simple icons to tell you whether you are safe “to drive, to walk or to talk,” because, as Turgeman points out, numbers might be meaningless to you, especially after a few drinks. “Sometimes you think you’re safe to drive when you’re not. When you’re being social, it’s hard to keep track of how many drinks you’ve had,” says Turgeman, and since that data is so easy to capture, “it’s a no-brainer that of course we should let people know.”  He also assures me that, as discretion is a must for bartenders, all data from the Makr Shakr app is anonymous (though users are able to share their age, gender, nationality, nickname and photo or avatar for social networking if they want to).

Though Makr Shakr will not demand that you turn over your car keys and order you a taxi if you’re over the legal limit, Turgeman says that it’s not a stretch that future iterations could interface with taxi-service apps like Uber.

I’m told that Makr Shakr doesn’t take tips, but I’ll tip my hat to its makers all the same.


Makr Shakr at it’s unveiling in Milan. Photo credit: Max Tomasinelli.

[Credits: Project concept and design by MIT Senseable City Lab; Implementation bycarlorattiassociati | walter nicolino & carlo ratti; Main partners – Coca-Cola and Barcardi. Technical partners – Kuka, Pentagram, SuperUber; Media partners – Domus, Wired; Videos by MyBossWas; Event in collaboration with Meet the Media Guru, and endorsed by: Comune di Milano, World Expo Milano 2015 – Energy for Life. Feeding the Planet. Photos: Lucas Werthein, Max Tomasinelli, My Boss Was. Full credits available at

 Robotic bartender assembles personalized drinks, monitors alcohol consumption, and takes social mixing to a whole new level | Robohub.

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Honey, Can You Bring Me a Beer? | breezespeaks

Honey, Can You Bring Me a Beer

by breezespeaks


Every morning Dave Sims awoke promptly at seven.  It was a deeply ingrained habit, and even without an alarm clock, it never changed.  After a quick pit stop in the bathroom, he wandered into the kitchen, where his wife was busy making coffee.

“Good morning,” said his wife.

“Hi, Hon,” replied Dave.  “Coffee ready?”

“In a minute.  Want something to eat?”

“Nah, just coffee.  Did you get the paper?”

“We had to cancel it, remember?”  His wife looked at him quizzically.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said.  “I guess I’m becoming forgetful in my old age.”

“You’re not old,” his wife scolded him.  “You’re only fifty.”

“But I feel old.”

“Well you’re not.”

Dave made his way into the living room and turned on the television.  Sitting in an easy chair, he surfed through channels until he found a news station.  It was covering a high school shooting that had occurred the day before.  So far, nine students had died.

“Oh God,” he called to his wife.  “The body count at that school in Florida is up to nine.”

“That’s a shame,” said his wife.  “Those poor families.  You would think a kid is safe in school.”

“Not anymore,” he said.  “This country is going down fast.  Guns might not kill people, but kids with guns sure do.”

“Why don’t you turn on something else,” she said, entering the room.  She handed him his coffee.


“Really,” she continued.  “That stuff bothers you, and you have enough on your mind.”

“It does, and I do, but I like to know what’s going on.”

“Give me the remote and I’ll change it.  Or better yet, let’s turn it off.”  She sounded exasperated.  “Why don’t we talk, okay?”  She had been getting exasperated with him often, of late.

“Okay,” he said, turning it off.

“What’s your plan for today?”

“I saw a few jobs posted. Figured I’d apply.”

“Good,” said his wife.  “Heard anything from your friends at the office?”

“Not a word,” he replied.  “I’ve become persona non grata there.”

“Well, don’t worry about it. They’re useless anyways.  I’m going to go shopping with Linda later on, by the way.”

“Do we have the money?”

“I’m just going to look, I won’t buy anything.”

“Then what’s the point of going?”

“Just something to do, I guess.”

After that, both sat pensively and drank their coffees.  A clock in the corner ticked loudly in the background.  A bird flew past their big picture window, and two squirrels chased each other through the front yard.  The sun was shining, but it was a chilly spring day, and the heater clicked on.  After a second cup of coffee Dave stood up.

“Well, I better get moving.  Those jobs aren’t going to find me if I just sit here.”

“Good luck, dear,” said his wife.

Dave put his empty cup in the kitchen and made his way to the den, which was actually a second bedroom they never used.  Sitting before the computer, he logged on, and began applying to jobs while still in his bathrobe.  Companies no longer wanted people to apply in person; they preferred the anonymity of the internet.  He thought it a rotten way to look for work, but what could he do?  He sent his resume to three or four different openings, but didn’t hold out much hope.  Since he began applying, only one company had even acknowledged receipt of his resume, and it noted that two hundred and sixty-one other people had applied for the same position.  Good luck with that, he had thought.  It was discouraging.

After a while, he started to surf the net.  Between the television and the net, he did a lot of surfing, so much so that he joked to himself he should be in better shape.  He might have lost his job, but he hadn’t lost his sense of humor, or so he thought.


Around noon his wife popped her head in and announced that she was heading out with Linda to go shopping.

“Don’t spend too much,” he said.

“Of course not,” she smiled.

She was growing worried about her husband.   He had not been himself lately.  He worried constantly about money, and was easily angered.  He cursed out everyone; politicians, neighborhood kids, bad drivers, rude shoppers, former bosses and most anyone with which he crossed paths.  She thought he might one day explode.

After his wife left, Dave wandered through the house aimlessly.  He turned on the television again, but used it as background noise.  He made himself a tuna sandwich for lunch, noting that even tuna was getting expensive.

The doorbell rang, and he ventured to answer it.  Who the hell is this, he thought to himself?  It turned out to be two Jehovah’s Witnesses, coming to preach.  Before they could get out three words, he stopped them dead in their tracks.

“Sorry,” he said.  “Not interested.”

“Not interested in the word of God?” asked one of them.

“Not unless he’s hiring,” Dave answered.  With that he closed the door.

Dave plopped himself in front of the television and, remote control in hand, began shooting through the channels.  He marveled that, even with hundreds of channels, there was never anything on.  And cable was getting expensive, so much so that it was becoming a luxury, one that he might eventually have to get rid of.  When you’re unemployed, many things become luxuries.


Dave’s wife returned home near to three o’clock, empty-handed.

“Did you have a good time?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.  “Linda treated me to lunch.”

“Oh great, she’s helping out the poor folks now?”

“You know Linda’s not like that.  She was just being nice.”

“I know,” he said.  “Sorry.”

“You have to stop being so defensive,” she scolded.  “Linda is one of our true friends.  She knows it’s not your fault you lost your job.”

“I didn’t lose it,” he corrected her.  “It’s still there.  They just hired someone for less money.”

“Either way, you need to let it go.”

Dave continued to channel surf, while his wife busied herself in the kitchen.  She could smell the tuna Dave had for lunch.  It was their last can.  She washed out the bowl he used by hand, as the dishwasher was broken.

“Hon, what’s for dinner,” Dave asked from the other room.

“Spaghetti,” she answered.

“And meatballs?” he asked hopefully.

“Not tonight.”

Dave turned off the TV and went back to the computer.  Maybe some jobs were posted since last he looked.  Finding nothing new, he again resorted to surfing.

“Hon, can you bring me a beer,” he called out to the kitchen.  Beer, too, was becoming a luxury, but one he refused to give up.

“Yes dear, be right there.”

He heard her pop the top off, and she soon appeared with a beer in her hand.

“Here you are,” she said.  She placed it on the desk by the keyboard.

“Thanks, hon.”

“Any luck today?” she inquired.

“Nope,” was his one word answer.


Supper was a mostly silent affair, with both participants lost in thought.  He worried about money, while his wife worried about him.  After dinner, he grabbed another beer and turned on the TV for the umpteenth time that day, while she cleaned the kitchen.  After she was done she joined him in the living room.

“Anything good on tonight?” she asked.

“Probably not,” he answered, after finishing his beer.  “There never is.”

They watched television for a while, mostly reruns, when she began to grow bored.

“You’re right, there’s nothing on.  I’m going to go finish my book,” she said, rising from the couch.

“Can you get me another beer while you’re up?”

“Yes dear.”

She returned with his beer.  She didn’t mind if he drank a few beers, as it seemed to mellow him out, but lately a few had become too many.

“I’m going to go read.  Don’t stay up too late, and don’t drink too much.”

“I won’t, honey.”

“Good night,” she said.

“Night, honey.”

As she left the room, Dave sat quietly in his easy chair, sipping the beer.  It appeared as if he were watching TV, but his mind was elsewhere, and the ticking clock in the corner seemed to grow louder by the second.

Honey, Can You Bring Me a Beer? | breezespeaks.

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