Remember the Starbucks "red cup controversy" of yesteryear?
Plus: The State of the Boozeletter™, Fingers year-in-review, 2021 teaser + more
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I depend on readers to underwrite the labor that goes into producing this newsletter. Thanks for reading!—Dave.
Sirs and madams, Eves and Adams:
Happy holidays! People are saying Merry Christmas again, but Christmas is over now, and who cares anyway because this was always just meaningless culture-war bullshit meant to distract the proles while robbing us blind via various means-tested “stimulus” packages, privatized healthcare “products,” and Prime Day-style orgies of material excess. (Mission: accomplished!) So, uh… happy holidays it is!
“I think the silent majority is sick and tired of consistently being bullied to be quiet about our beliefs,” brayed former evangelist pastor-turned-conservative fameball Joshua Feuerstein on CNN air back on November 9th, 2015. Starbucks, he continued, was “essentially trying to remove Christ out of Christmas and Christmas out of society!”
Later that very same day, Donald Trump, former reality star-turned longshot presidential candidate, echoed this grievance at a campaign rally:
“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?” Trump told a crowd in Springfield, Illinois, on Monday. “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you. That I can tell you.”
Of course most things have gotten worse since the halcyon days of late 2015, and our man Feuerstein is very much one of them, having since grown into quite the right-wing social-media MAGA flogger. Lately he’s been hard at work promoting conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine, Black Lives Matter, the 2020 presidential election, et cetera to his 222,000 followers on Instagram. Neat!
In August, Facebook apparently shut down one of his pages (with 2.6M followers) when Feuerstein used it to call Kyle Rittenhouse—alleged murderer and teenaged cause célèbre of racist hogs nationwide—a “hero,” and threatened to “organize and free him” from police custody. (Recall that this summer, Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with felony homicide for killing two people in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin with an assault rifle that may have been purchased illegally.)
What a truly shocking turn of events, who could have seen this coming, etc. To put it in the syntax of an already-tired 2020 meme:
How it started: Half a decade ago, cable news aired a random right-wing “hate-pastor” sputtering sweatily about “Judeo-Christian principles” and promising a coffee-cup crusade. A fringe GOP presidential candidate opportunistically adopted the cause in a transparent attempt to shore up support with Christian evangelicals.
How it’s going: The pastor has since become terrifyingly adept at using social-media platforms (both owned by a company increasingly regarded as an existential threat to democracy, mind you) to pitch conspiracy and political violence to an audience that seems intent on taking the “war” part of “culture war” literally. After four years as president, the one-time candidate is threatening a peaceful transition of power, and has lately been taking meetings with QAnon disciples who are “beg[ging] for dictatorship.”
Is there a lesson to be learned here? Probably. Do I regret spending precious minutes of my holiday vacation googling details about Joshua Feuerstein and Kyle Rittenhouse? Definitely. Where was I going with this? Shit, who knows. (At least it was vaguely beverage-related, via the coffee?)
Happy holidays to you and yours. And now: it’s State of the Boozeletter time!
#SOTB2020: Time it was, and what a time it was
I published the first edition of Fingers on May 25th, 2020. I started out with a cobbled together list of ~200 friends, family, and enemies I had assembled over a decade of working In Media™, most of which I assumed would unsubscribe once I started blasting them with demented cover letters to White Claw and lefty critiques of James Carville’s bourbon preferences. I set what seemed like an insurmountable goal: build the Fingers list to 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year.
OK Dave, you old bitch, I said to myself, let’s see if you have what it takes to become newsletter royalty. (I didn’t really say this but you get the idea.) For the past seven months, I published weekly-ish, mixing original labor reporting with author interviews, cultural commentary with freewheeling aggregations of beverage industry bullshit. If it was even vaguely related to drinking culture or being online, and it interested me personally, I pursued it.
2020, an old bitch if there ever was one, is coming to a close. It’s time for the reckoning. And though I have hardly joined the hallowed ranks of the Substackerati with their six-figure hauls in my half-year of publishing Fingers, I am pleased to report, dear reader, that we very much fuckin’ DID IT:
We blew past 1,000 subscribers in mid-December, thanks in no small part to Luke O’Neil—he of Welcome to Hell World—naming Fingers one of his favorite newsletters of 2020 in a year-end review for The Discontents. (Anyone who hasn’t yet should subscribe to WTHW for indispensable point-of-view journalism on the American wasteland. It’s always remarkable stuff, and usually grimly funny, too.)
I’ll spare the sappy schlock about What It Means To Me To Have Your Support As An Independent Writer In These Trying Times, but suffice to say: it means a lot, and I appreciate you reading, sharing, commenting, and generally coming along for the ride. With just a few days left on the calendar, we’re closing in on the stretch goal of 1075, so if you enjoy Fingers, please tell your friends/neighbors/problematic faves to subscribe:
For those of you who are relatively new here, I’ve assembled links to some of my favorite Fingers pieces from 2020, organized into three categories: Original Reporting, Good Blogs, and Interviews. Check ‘em out below. And of course, don’t forget to:
Follow Fingers on Instagram, where I have yet to make any Reels but will eventually succumb to intense pressure from the platform to begin doing so.
Check out The Fingers Reading Room, where you can shop the books that I’m reading about drinks, food, climate change, gentrification, and more. Having launched this Bookshop storefront in October 2020, it’s already racked up a staggering $9.40 in affiliate fees for the war chest here at HQ. We’re rich, baby! I’m buying a (very-small) hot tub! Everybody gets laid!
Thanks to each and every one of you for spending part of your week with Fingers. I’m very humbled by your attention to this project, and writing for you has been a true joy in an otherwise mostly joyless year. In 2021, I’ll be adding a paid-subscription tier for those of you who want to lend Fingers some financial support. Stay tuned for that, and for a a small announcement about the new gig I’ll be starting soon, too. Until then, wear a mask, stay safe, and tip the ever-loving bejesus out of your F&B pals.
And happy holidays,
aka DINFONTAY, aka DJ Disappoint Your Parents aka your fearless Fingers editor
Fingers: 2020 in review
Hard seltzer, “soft math,” and campaign cash: Coors Seltzer says "restore America's rivers." In the past election cycle, its parent company donated $55,000 to anti-clean water lawmakers.
Take a hike, Anheuser-Busch: The world's biggest beer company has donated $131,000 to reelect anti-environment lawmakers while its brands celebrate American wilderness
Bud Light Seltzer’s no good, very bad job: The brand's 'Chief Meme Officer' gimmick devalues creative labor at a precarious moment for American workers
Arise, Surly workers: Inside the mid-pandemic union-busting campaign at Minneapolis' popular brewery restaurant
Gentrivitalization by brewery: Do craft breweries really "revitalize dying neighborhoods"? Let's ask an expert!
$200 an ounce, and I feel not-fine: Notes on James Carville's expensive whiskey and obsolete centrism
Hire me, White Claw: The hard seltzer juggernaut's lead marketer is gone. Here's my application to replace him.
A brief history of Tesla Tequila, which exists: Plus: White Claw in SC, Waffle House's new beer, the State of The Boozeletter™, and more
Hell is empty, all the #DewGaritas are here: On the liquified marketing gimmicks being hustled down our willing gullets by The Brands™
Who’s got the bar-tab Venmo?: When journalists get laid off, other journalists get 'em drunk.
“Honor and respect” and hard seltzer: You catch the fizzy wave, or you drown in the stagnant shallows. Plus: stickers!
Does White Claw have a white supremacy problem?: The leader of President Trump's favorite far-right group seems pretty into the hard seltzer brand
“You’re always going to be the underdog:” Former workers from Surly Beer Hall and Spyhouse Coffee Roasters on union election losses and lessons learned
“We’ve put so much faith in this idea that when we get to the suburbs, it’s gonna be better:” The Fingers interview with Jason Diamond on 'The Sprawl', 'The Swimmer', and getting drunk in the suburbs
"I spent my furlough days sending money to others who had been furloughed:" Fingers speaks with reporter Paige Cornwell about the Journalist Furlough Fund, and why American media workers need a better safety net
"I think we have a debt to pay:” Fingers speaks with J Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D., about building pipelines and burning down institutions in the U.S. craft beer industry
Home is where the protests are: Fingers speaks with North Charleston chef & writer Amethyst Ganaway on livestreaming protests from across the country, homesickness, and more
“If you’re gonna be about it, then be about it:” Afro Beer Chick talks to Fingers about being a black craft beer lover right now.