Cyber-attack prompts beer shortage, panic

LOS ANGELES – Experts warned that a cyber-attack against the world’s largest beer brewers last week has led to a dramatic decrease in the amount of ale projected to be produced this year and prompted a run on beer that has left aficionados scrambling for the world’s remaining supply of suds.

The unprecedented act of espionage or terrorism – authorities are still trying to determine which – crippled the computer networks of the ‘Big Five’ beer conglomerates, including household brands such as Bud and Heineken, which together accounted for more than 50 percent of brewing around the globe and dominated the industry as late as last Wednesday, but whose dwindling production has caused widespread panic throughout the alcoholic beverage market.

The attack not only threatens the stability of the once-robust beer trade, but also the entertainment, hospitality and tourism industries, said Dale Johnson, spokesman for the alcoholic beverage association.

“Unfortunately, it’s taken a fear of this magnitude to help us see the real value that fermented booze brings to our society, in that many people are finding it difficult to even get up in the morning and go to work without knowing how they will get their next six-pack,” said Johnson. “My only hope is that the party poopers who have forced this scarcity upon us are brought to justice quickly, and that things turn around in time for the Super Bowl. Picture this: no beer or beer commercials.”

Meanwhile, organizations that have long advocated for responsible alcohol consumption or abstinence all together expressed relief with the news.

“I bet the endless flow of domestic abuse cases, drunk driving accidents, and work-related injuries will to reduce to a trickle along with the spent beer taps,” said Angela DeFries, whose group CLEAR hopes to raise the drinking age to 30 or reinstate prohibition, whichever they can achieve first. “Alcohol is an absolute menace to society. Too bad it’s such big business. In a sane world, a healthy population would take priority over addiction and profit.”

Many beer drinkers, however, dismissed DeFries’ remarks.

“There is no study that shows alcohol itself poses a serious public health problem and that it could be successfully banned,” said Robert Smith, a philosophy professor. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For many people, beer is relief from an otherwise mundane existence. Along with guns and porn, I suspect it’s something that humans will have to learn to live with in moderation in order to lead more productive, fulfilling lives.”

Is the glass half-empty, or full? Beer drinkers ponder the fate of their favorite drink.

Are these glasses half full, or half empty? Beer drinkers ponder the fate of their favorite drink.

So far, no individual or organization has come forward and claimed responsibility for the cyber-attack, but authorities said many leads are being investigated.

One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said evidence suggests ‘religious extremists’ might have spread the computer virus in order to ‘force sobriety on billions of beer-drinking enemies.’

The official also said that craft brewers themselves might be responsible for the attack and ‘creating the current market conditions’ associated with it.

Barrel shipments of craft beer rose more than 20 percent in the last fiscal year, and they continue to outpace the sales growth of their once more-established competitors.

“Maybe there’s a connection,” said the official. “Maybe the craft brewers are in cahoots with each other to ruin watered-down beer makers forever.”

The suggestion, however, seems to have only caused further turmoil within an already volatile beer market.

Arnold Gates, 32, a frequent patron of the MacLeod’s brewery in Van Nuys, said craft brewers need not pursue desperate measures to prove their product is superior.

“We don’t need viruses to conquer the beer market, we have taste buds,” said Gates. “One sip from one unique beer that suits one individual’s taste is all it takes to win countless converts. There is coffee beer, fruity beer, root beer – you name it. What do the majors offer? They can’t compete with such a wide selection, that’s why they’ve been trying to buy out the craft breweries, at least before this market mishap. The age of good ale has arrived, and the dark times for beer are never coming back.”

Jeremiah Livingston, 33, plumber, does not agree with Gates’ analysis.

“These self-described beer connoisseurs think they speak for everybody, but they don’t speak for me,” said Livingston. “I can only handle one or two of those fancy beers before I have to switch to something lighter, like Coors, so I personally would never make a habit out of drinking that fancy stuff. If Coors really goes in short supply, I’d just stop drinking beer all together. The benefits probably would out-weigh the buzz. I’d drop a few pounds and be more motivated to play with the kids. My wife and I’d get along better. We’d have more sex.”

Meanwhile, the major beer suppliers’ reduced production forecast for this year is expected to cause at least short-term havoc for the average suds-sipper.

Arnold Chase, 28, a medical equipment sales consultant, said the highlight of his week is Friday, when his grind comes to a halt, at least for a while.

“I like to hit up happy hour and wash away the stress of the work week — like trying to explain to a cardiologist why the vascular dilator he just bought from my company stopped working during his open-heart surgery,” said Chase. “Beer helps me forget the annoying pains of my job and enjoy my weekend, so I am ready to return to work Monday and do the same crappy job all over again. I don’t know what I will do if this beer run lasts – take up yoga? Seriously, I’d probably start to question the meaning of life. I have no idea where that’d lead, nor do I want to know. Beer, what would life be like without you?”

J.J. Barnes, Jan. 18, 2016

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