Drinking for the Buzz

Last week I made an argument that craft brewing has encouraged a competing culture of drinking that focused on the flavor, not the buzz. This guy didn't get the memo:
The lawsuit claims that Deschutes Brewery allowed Joseph Umphery unlimited access to beer in a keg room at the back of its bottling plant and at its brew pub in Bend....

According to the suit, on Feb. 22, 2008, Umphery drank 10 to 13 beers at the keg room and brew pub, then five to seven more beers at a strip club called "The Fan" in Redmond even though he was visibly drunk, the lawsuit alleges. A bouncer told him to leave for arguing with another customer, then helped him to his 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass, according to the suit.

As he drove home along U.S. 20, Umphery slammed into the rear-end of a 2003 Toyota 4-Runner, driven by Brian Vajda. Vajda and three passengers were injured when the SUV rolled several times, crashed through a "guard fence," and hit a pine tree, according to the suit.
Afterward, police measured Umphery's blood alcohol level at .29%--almost four times the legal limit. I have no idea what the facts are around Deschutes' culpability here (Gary Fish disputes the claim.) I guess that's a question the courts will answer. (Though I'm betting Deschutes' employee policy is about to get a lot more strict.) Yet a few amazing details spring from the article.
  • Deschutes is being held responsible for Umphery's drunkenness, despite the fact that after he left the brewery he went to a strip club and continued to drink. (The strip club is also named in the lawsuit.) Fascinating.
  • He was sentenced to six years in prison for the crime.
  • In addition to the time, Umphery will have to pay $384,000 in restitution. Given that the current personal median income for males is about $39,000, he could lose half his pre-tax income, earn the median salary, and not pay this off for 20 years.
When I was doing my research into consumption levels and the effect of craft beer, I discovered that the one clear, measurable outcome has been the precipitous drop of alcohol-related deaths in America. With consequences this dire (and I'm agnostic about whether they've struck the right balance), it's no wonder. Amazing.
Jeff AlworthNews11 Comments