What do American beer and making love in a small canoe have in common? They are both f…..g close to water. Or so goes the old story. And if you restrict “beer” to Budweiser, Miller, and Coors, you’d be entirely correct. I’m fully cognizant, some might even say painfully aware, of the existence of the “Light” versions of those beers, but as this is a family blog, I shall refrain from mentioning those abominations again.

However, if you expand your sphere of beer beyond the “Axis of Evil”, you’ll discover a plethora of excellent beers made by smaller breweries. These are also often called craft beers over here. Sure, they are mostly along the lines of ale, pale ale, or IPA, but since those are exactly the kinds of beers I like, I sure don’t mind. Yes, the beers really are good and at least here in California, they seem to be widely available. “They” doesn’t really refer to any particular breweries, but it’s more of a term for expressing the excellent availability of beers from local and slightly more distant small breweries anywhere I’ve seen here. In fact, the selection of beers here seems to be at least on par with most other countries I’ve experienced, if not even better. So much for the canoes…

Yet, it’s nice to see a country where the relationship to alcohol is even more twisted than in Finland. Sure, Finland is putting up a good fight, but I still think the US has managed to beat us in this “race”. They key difference in the approach in the two countries is that the US focuses on the “who” and Finland focuses on the “where” (and to a lesser extent the “when”). Obviously, when you’re well past the legal drinking age, like yours truly, the focus on the “who” can become a major pain. According to Wikipedia:

The United States of America is one of only three developed countries in the world who have a nationwide drinking age of over 18, the other two are Iceland (20) and Japan (20).

The US needing to be bigger and better than the rest, has set the limit to 21. California is, in my experience, among the more sensible states, meaning that they accept foreign driver’s license, if they even ask anything, and don’t insist on foreigners having their passports to get a drink (I’m looking at you Boston…)

However, there’s an interesting twist to all of this. See, when you buy beer (or any other alcohol), apparently the cashier is supposed to check your ID and enter your date of birth in the register. At least it gets printed on the receipts, but the funny thing is that in most of the cases, it’s not my date of birth. 🙂 I’ve bought beer or wine from 5 different shops during this stay and only in Target have I needed to show ID. (Well, in the Korean supermarket we’ve gone to, I had to show ID once, but on most times not.) Every other shop the cashier just enters some random, sufficiently old date of birth and does not bother with asking for my ID. (I suspect it’s the cashier’s own date of birth, since the ages seem to sort of match, but if any authorities ever checked, this would definitely be suspicious; maybe nobody checks?) Target was an interesting case, though. This happened both in San Diego as well as here locally, which is logical since they use the same system in all places. The system offers the possibility for the cashier to scan the barcode on my driver’s license. Finnish license has a barcode, but obviously it doesn’t scan correctly. The backup is for the cashier to enter the date of birth manually, but this will then require a supervisor to come there and confirm it.

So, for someone already past 40 in age, this whole thing is just ridiculous. However, Finland’s counter with the concept of “alcohol serving area” is impressive in its stupidity. Sure, US has its open container laws which effectively enforce the concept of “alcohol serving area”, but in places like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or San Diego Zoo, you can buy a beer and walk around all over the place with it. Not possible in Finland. To take a concrete example, there was a story in the newspapers in Finland in the spring about a food court-like setting with two restaurants, A and B. Earlier, neither sold beer or wine, so you could sit at any table you wanted. Now, both are allowed to sell beer and wine and they both must have their own, dedicated sitting areas, even though we’re still within the same, supposedly closed, food court area. Simply boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Still, for someone well over the legal drinking age, focusing on the “who” does seem more ridiculous, hence I declare US the winner in this contest. Your mileage may vary.


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