To understand why the Beer Institute, the trade association representing most of the nation's brewers, recently created the position of vice president of public affairs, one needs only to listen to the words of Kay Mattingly.

Beer companies, through advertising, "deliberately play to the young population," said Mattingly, president of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors in Arlington. "They begin to seduce them at such an early age, by making {ads} cutesy ... They glamorize the use of alcohol in all situations."

James Sanders, president of the Washington-based Beer Institute, sees it differently: "We feel that there should be a balanced answer to this propaganda."

Sanders's answer is Mahlon Anderson. With a newspaper background and a decade of experience in public relations, Anderson is no stranger to the communications field.

Flash back to 1981, when Anderson was hired for his first public relations job as spokesman for the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. Before he had a chance to settle in at the agency, which handles the appeals of federal workers who believe they have been unfairly punished or dismissed, President Ronald Reagan fired 12,000 air traffic controllers. All but 500 took their grievances to Anderson's agency.

Anderson then moved to the Department of Education, where he spent the last five years as an assistant press secretary to former education secretary William Bennett and later, press secretary and chief spokesman for former education secretary Lauro F. Cavazos.

Loye Miller, a former Bennett press secretary who hired Anderson in 1985, said Anderson made the public affairs division at the Department of Education more efficient by having its operations computerized. He also praised Anderson for levelheadedness and good humor.

Anderson, 41, said he had always planned a return to the private sector, so when it became clear that Cavazos was going to leave his post as education secretary, Anderson put some feelers out. That led to the job offer from the Beer Institute.

And now that he is on board, he is a company man, from the beer mug on his desk to the trade positions that flow from his mouth like, well, beer from a tap.

"If I thought that ending alcohol advertising would have a major impact on ending alcohol use by young people, I'd advocate it," Anderson said. "But look where we advertise. ... We advertise on sports events, where an enormous percentage of viewers are over 21. We don't advertise on Saturday morning cartoon shows."

He also dismisses the charge that beer companies glamorize alcohol use. "I don't think you will ever see a TV advertisement that would make you believe that because you drank beer you would enjoy sex and win women or men," he said. "We promote responsible use and we don't try to promote alcohol as a panacea for social problems."

Anderson will not be a Capitol Hill lobbyist for the industry because most beer companies do their own lobbying. The beer industry recently took one of its hardest hits on Capitol Hill with the passage of the beer excise tax, which doubled the tax on a six-pack from 16 to 32 cents.

Cary Baird, manager of federal government affairs for Coors Brewing Co., said that Coors, Anheuser-Busch Co. and Miller Brewing Co. have joined with the Beer Institute to form a public relations working group that will emphasize community programs and alcohol education by brewers. Anderson is the group's chairman.

"He's just a much-needed resource," Baird said of Anderson.