Beer is essential, of course, but in this case the question was whether brewing it is an "essential service" that could justify preventing brewery workers from going on strike. According to the Telegraph, a Lithuanian court ruled earlier this month that it is.
The ruling nullifies a vote by workers at a Carlsberg brewery to walk out in protest over pay and working conditions. According to the report, the ruling puts brewing "in the same category as medical supplies and drinking water," suggesting that the exception is meant for more basic necessities. But the company seems to have argued that a strike should not be allowed during its "high season" (St. Patrick's Day?), and the court agreed. Back the workers went for at least 30 days.
The leader of a British union that represents Carlsberg workers in the UK objected to the decision.
"This is probably the most ridiculous decision in the world," said Jennie Formby, who apparently does not read this blog or she'd know better. [See update below.] "Of course many people think beer is great," she continued, "but it does not save lives." Not even close, yes it is, and I bet it has, are my responses to her three points, but I would agree that calling it "vitally essential" for purposes of this kind of law is fairly ridiculous.
Which is not to say that we don't need a Strategic Pilsner Reserve in case our supplies are disrupted. Actually, I think we have one, it just became dangerously depleted during the Bush Administration.
In a statement, Carlsberg insisted that it had not actually argued that its business is "essential" to the nation. "We did not use those words," the statement said, "they were used by the lawyers." Okay, but the problem with that argument is that your lawyer is typically speaking on your behalf.
Update: An Australian informs me that in most of the English-speaking world (and maybe elsewhere too), Carlsberg uses (or has used) the slogan "Probably the best beer [or lager] in the world." If it uses that in the U.S., I haven't seen it, which is my excuse for why Jennie Formby's Carlsberg joke ("probably the most ridiculous decision in the world") went completely over my head. In my defense, while Carlsberg is sold in the U.S., to date it does not seem to have had a major presence here, so it may not have used that slogan here either. Regardless, apologies to Ms. Formby.
I would still bet that beer has saved at least two lives during its 5,000 (possibly 10,000) years of existence, so we continue to disagree on that.