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A small leak can drain a great keg

The title of this post comes from a tweet by @NormskiBrewer, who was celebrating Misquote Ben Franklin Day. You see, dear readers, Ben Franklin was a cool guy. He did a lot politically, scientifically and socially. My dad told me he used to sunbathe nude. One thing he did not do, however, is ever say ‘Beer is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy.’ Here’s the actual quote, from a letter to Abbe Morellet:

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

So it was declared that every March 30th would be Misquote Ben Franklin Day. I do apologize for not joining in on the festivities, or even posting this yesterday so you could join in as well. Next year?

Now with more beechwood! /easyjoke

On to more srs bsns. The big hullabaloo this week was the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev was buying Goose Island. According to the press release, the two Goose Island brewpubs are not part of the deal, ‘but will continue in operation, offering consumers an opportunity to sample Goose Island’s award-winning specialty beers and food selections.’ I’m not entirely sure what that means.

I’m going to attempt to not travel too far down the rabbit hole. If people would like a more in depth post on the intricacies of brewery ownerships and mergers, please comment on this post and say so. Fair warning: you might get one eventually.

This is disappointing news to us because it’s yet another in a series of smaller breweries being bought by larger ones. The core of our mission and philosophy is that small, local breweries are a great thing, and so being completely bought out by the largest brewing company in the United States, which had merged with the second largest brewing company in the world, which itself had come from a merger between large brewing companies in Belgium and Brazil (the merger with AB making it the largest in the world in the process), well, that’s not small or local by quite a long shot.

Another way of looking at it is that as long as the beer remains good, well, who cares? That’s a valid point. Whether or not a beer’s provenance matters is a gray area begging to be discussed, and it has been in various places on the internet already. Again: if you’d like to here, let us know, and also again: we claim that it does. Goose Island is not going to become some zombie Locutus, or at least we doubt it is, but when you buy Matilda your money is now going to an international behemoth instead of a Chicago business, and that’s unfortunate.

Well, sort of: you see, 42% Goose Island was already owned by the Craft Brewers Alliance, a conglomeration also consisting of Redhook, Kona Brewing Co and Widmer Brothers, which was also partially owned by AB already. (A similar conglomerate is North American Breweries, which consists of neighboring breweries Genesee and Dundee as well as Pyramid, Magic Hat and MacTarnahan’s. Thus ends our journey down the rabbit hole)

Flying towards our party

Andy Crouch, presents the acquisition as a good thing: essentially, it shows that AB InBev is serious about craft beer and is eschewing their halfassed faux craft past in favor of a legitimate, quality product. It doubtlessly shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the craft movement has made waves: the industry is making good money, and they want some.

Erik Lars Myers, who’s currently in the process of starting Mystery Brewing but writing on his personal blog Top Fermented, meanwhile, has a sobering thesis: that craft brewers aren’t competing against the big boys, they’re competing against each other. That Community Beer Works has more to fear from Sierra Nevada and even Southern Tier than Labatt’s.

In most bars – and I’m not talking about the swanky beer bars that know their shit inside and out, but just your average bar – if there’s a craft tap, 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be by one of those super-regional breweries. And those super-regionals? They make good beer. Some of them make great, wonderful, outstanding, amazing beer. What’s more? It’s well-known, sought-after beer that consumers aren’t just buying because it’s there. They’re looking for it. They want it and ask for it.

Now, I reject this, at least partially, because our goal is not to muscle in on Flying Bison’s market, or Southern Tier’s, or anyone else’s: our goal is to take the person drinking Labatt’s and show them that hey, yeah, it might cost a bit more, but you’re paying for quality, craftsmanship and local jobs. That’s not to say we’re going to be catering to the lowest common denominator or releasing a light American pilsner (April Fool’s Day isn’t until tomorrow). Our thesis is that people who drink macro lager exclusively also love locally produced craft beer: they just might not know it yet.

One final quote, from Half Acre, another Chicago brewery:

From where I sit, this industry is pretty great. Compared to all the truly horrible crap that happens in business — the really terrible, sweat shop, working children to the bone, chemical rampant, human atrocity kind of crap — this is pretty good.

I didn’t say I was done link dumping you to oblivion yet, though: one last juicy rumor from Anthony ‘So do you guys in Buffalo have pig roasts all the time‘ Bourdain*, who tweeted that the reason that Dogfish Head’s Discovery channel reality show Brewmasters was canceled because ‘big beer threatened to pull ads.’

Rousing rabbles

This, predictably, caused a bit of a stir. has an extensive list of updates as people comment (or don’t), and a screenshot of the original tweets. It seemed legit, as No Reservations uses the same production team as the ill fated DFH show. The brewery’s comments amount to ‘no comment,’ with what I’m interpreting as a wink and a nod: essentially, ‘we can’t tell you yes but we’re sure as hell not denying it.’ Discovery blames the cancellation on poor audience reception, which seems like a fairly predictable response.

Next week: less drama, hopefully more CBW excitement.

* I know I sure as hell don’t. I don’t know what those crazy South Buffalo people do with their weekends.