Booze dynasties, now in podcast form
A new collab, drinking & droning, ghost kitchen hard seltzer, and a good tweet!
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Well folks it was only a matter of time: like all aspiring, Substack-enabled media grifters, your fearless Fingers editor has started a podcast. Together with Meredith Haggerty, the publisher of Heir Mail, I’m proud to present the pilot episode of Ain’t Nothin’ But A Family Thing, a joint pod adventure exploring the wealth, history, and family drama of the world's biggest beverage dynasties.
In our first outing, Meredith and I acquaint ourselves with one branch of the mighty Busch beer family tree, who we met by watching MTV’s deeply forgettable reality vehicle, Busch Family Brewed. Well, actually, that’s how she met them. I already sort of knew them via William Knoedelseder’s excellent book-length Busch exposé Bitter Brew, which was handy because my free MTV streaming trial expired after the first episode of BFB and there was no way in hell I was going to pay for the remaining nine episodes.
Check out the pod right here and let us know what you think. We’re new to the pod game, so all suggestions/feedback are encouraged and appreciated. On that note, please forgive the audio quality; I edited this thing myself, which represents the entirety of my podcast editing experience.
And of course, I highly encourage you to subscribe to Heir Mail, Meredith’s delightful weekly dispatch aggregating all the Google Alerts she’s received with the word “heiress” in them over the course of the week. If this sounds like a brilliant concept for a newsletter, that’s because it is. I love it! You’ll love it! Stay tuned for more Ain’t Nothin’ But A Family Thing!
Drinking & droning
This tweet of a fake PSA from a police department about people drilling their “anti-drug activity drones” with beer bottles went very viral the other day. You used to see this sort of thing a lot on Photoshop forums back before the internet stopped being fun.
Hoax or not, this photo is inspiring. It offers a vision of the future where average Americans have finally become horrified enough by this country’s technologically advanced, profit-oriented, cartoonishly discriminatory police state to take matters (read: empty beer bottles) into their own hands. Imagine!
Unfortunately, the bad half of that future is already becoming reality. Cops do use aerial drones to surveil American citizens, some of them equipped with artificial intelligence. And in February of this year, the NYPD sent one of those terrifying, Boston Dynamics robot K-9s to respond to a burglary call in the Bronx, which understandably freaked out and angered residents there.
“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” one cop told the New York Post, referring to the semi-autonomous droid operated by the country’s largest, often “unchecked” police force. Absolutely no reason not to trust the police on this, because they always tell the truth! But despite this reassurance, a lot of people are worried anyway, including Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, who wrote:
One of the things that makes these robots so unnerving is that everybody implicitly understands that the possibility of weaponizing them will continue to hang out there like a tempting forbidden fruit for law enforcement.
Yes! Everybody does implicitly understand that! Except for the city councils that keep funding the police, because these things cost like $75,000 apiece. That’s a lotta dimp for a robotic cop creature that maybe, for now, can still be disabled by simply removing its battery.
What does the Boston Dynamics helldog have to do with drinking? Ah, so glad you asked. Michelob Ultra is pushing its organic hard seltzer, well, hard as it tries to carve a piece of last year’s $4.1B U.S. market, which means a big ol’ advertising campaign from our pals at the brand’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev. After giving us Don Cheadle during the Super Bowl, Mich Ultra has gone a slightly more alienating route for the spring ad effort:
Holy smokes! They hired the helldog to do some Skynet jokes! I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been so strung out with the pandemic for the past year, but I honestly sort of forgot about the potential future in which sentient machines take over the world and destroy humanity. Glad to be back. I know it’s just an ad, but can you imagine if fucking Mich Ultra hard seltzer was responsible for sparking a robot uprising? Now I unfortunately kinda can! Anyway, I don’t think empty beer bottles or even full cans of hard seltzer are going to destroy this thing, so I guess I’m going to get drunk and try to learn the battery trick now.
Hard seltzer ghost kitchen
Ever since I started writing this story for VinePair about the impending rise of celebrity-licensed hard seltzers (rapper Travis Scott, megachef Gordon Ramsay, and country-pop star Luke Bryan are each involved in lines, with more presumably on the way) I’ve had this phrase stuck in my head: hard seltzer ghost kitchen. Five years ago it would have been gibberish, just four words smashed together in no particular order, “cellar door” type shit.
But these days, two of the hottest businesses in American food and drink are hard seltzers and ghost kitchens (there are a bunch of different sub-genres but generally speaking these are commissary kitchens that fulfill orders strictly via delivery, with no brick-and-mortar presence and brands that exist solely online.) These things are obviously very different in that one is a packaged beverage, the other a prepared-food business, but reporting that piece got me thinking about one point of overlap: because they’re not anchored to place or process or anything in particular, both hard seltzer and ghost kitchens are almost purely expressions of marketing.
No matter what Instagram would have you believe, Travis Scott is not brewing CACTI any more than Wiz Kalifa is cooking HotBox by Wiz. They’re hardly involved, and why should they be? Insulated from the boring realities of life offline, both hard seltzers and ghost kitchens are prime vehicles for American celebrity—conventional or otherwise. To wit, YouTube star MrBeast launched a burger ghost concept in December and has already sold over a million sandwiches. And lo, just the other day, I got a pitch in about Alani Seltz, a new brand from fitness influencer Katy Hearn. Expect more of this on both fronts, dear reader. I certainly do.
And finally, a good tweet feat. vintage Budweiser & lacrosse
This comes courtesy of Sarah Solomon, a Friend of Fingers and the author of Guac Is Extra But So Am I: The Reluctant Adult’s Handbook.
I’d be a lot less reluctant about being an adult if it meant being driven around in a luxury touring convertible crushing Buds in Take Ivy duds. (Please don’t sue me, dads.)
White Label and custom crush are huge in cannabis and wine industries, but is that something that historically has any reach in beer or malted bev? all my experiences with licensed beer are like "colabs" etc. with specific, known brewers.