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Charles Selle: Beer not really a light liquid

Updated: April 17, 2011 2:24AM



Day-light saving time means we’re over the hump as far as winter’s concerned. Or at least as far as I’m concerned.

That’s one of the bonuses of switching the time change from the first Sunday in April to mid-March. The days just seem warmer, especially when they’re forecast to be nipping at 60 degrees the coming week.

Even though the skies may be cloudy, when it gets warm, a young man’s fancy turns lightly to beer.

It was Ben Franklin, after all, who is believed to have said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Or perhaps I have one of our Founding Fathers confused with Homer Simpson who waxed philosophically, “Beer is the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.”

Yes, other young men might consider more passing fancies, but with the spring equinox mere days away, beer fills my bill.

And not just any beer. Good, wholesome Illinois beer and all it entails, from the brewers, beer importers and distributors, to the restaurants, retailers and liquor stores.

Not only does this amber liquid, which many cultures proclaim a food rather than an alcoholic beverage, tasty, but in Illinois it directly or indirectly contributes $8.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. That’s what a new economic impact study commissioned by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute proclaims.

I used to think the Beer Institute was four guys on bar stools at a neighborhood pub ranking the heads on their beers. Now I find it actually exists and is one of the major beer groups, not to be confused with the beer food groups which include pretzels, pizza and beer nuts.

Not that I’m trying to peddle beer or want to be accused of fostering drunkards to get behind the wheel of their vehicles and drive willy-nilly across Lake County. But that $8.2 billion is a lot of money, a lot of beer.

Some of those billions comes in the form of payroll — more than $2.8 billion in wages in benefits for the nearly 71,981 jobs the beer industry generates in Illinois. According to the study, beer directly employs 43,054 Illinoisans, paying them more than $1.2 billion in wages. The state’s 97 beer distributors employ 3,348, while another 1,100 people work for brewers and importers. Beer sales support 38,637 retail employees, including those beer men you see weaving through the aisles at the ballpark.

Plus, according to the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, beer folks supply nearly 5,000 different labels of beer to the state’s beer-consuming public. So many beers, so little time.

The study also notes the industry contributes $1.6 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes to Illinois and municipal coffers. Waukegan is brewing up some of that after recently slapping a 1 percent sales tax on packaged goods and alcoholic beverages sold in restaurants.

If Illinois is any indication, extrapolate those billions nationwide and beer isn’t a lightweight in the economic scheme of things. Which says a lot about on what we spend our money as warm weather ensues.



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