Boston Beer Company jump-started America’s craft beer movement and made its founder, Jim Koch, a billionaire. But in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Koch warns craft’s run might be coming to an end.
Koch calls industry consolidation the number-one culprit. In 2008, federal antitrust regulators not only approved the MillerCoors joint venture, but they also gave the green light to InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch. That left two brewing giants in control of 90 percent of America’s domestic beer protection. Making matters worse, the federal government allowed the big brewers to buy craft breweries—and then fail to disclose that they were the new owners.
Those mega-mergers resulted in higher beer prices and pink slips for American workers, as well as consolidation among distributors. Today, in most markets, more than 90 percent of all beer is controlled by distributors who depend on either A-B InBev or MillerCoors for most of their volume. Those distributors have considerable power regarding promotion, shelf space, and marketing support for the brands they handle—and they have an incentive to give preferential treatment to craft brands the big brewers now own.
According to Koch, the key to saving American craft beer is stricter antitrust enforcement. He names China and South Africa as countries whose regulators imposed strict conditions on big brewery mergers to protect their domestic economies.
Twenty-five years ago today, South Africans voted overwhelmingly to end the practice of racial segregation called apartheid. The vote followed President F.W. de Klerk’s lifting of the ban on opposition parties and his release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years’ imprisonment.
And now….The Mash!
We begin near Dublin, where, if you have $29.5 million, you can be the new owner of the Guinness Beer Castle. The castle, aka Luggala, has 27 bedrooms and 18 full baths and sits on 5,000 acres of green rolling hills.
Two California drinkers have sued the maker of Kona Brewing Company’s beers. They allege that Kona falsely represented that the beers are brewed in Hawaii, when in fact they’re brewed on the mainland.
If you’re a golfer, this product is for you. “Big Beertha” looks like a driver, but functions as “the original golf beer bong”. It holds 12 ounces of liquid whose consumption can be viewed by onlookers through its clear acrylic shaft.
The Kansas City Royals have named Boulevard Brewing Company the first-ever craft beer partner of a major-league baseball team. Boulevard has been sold at Royals’ games for more than 20 years.
Last weekend at SXSW, Anheuser-Busch announced its “Bud on Mars” project. Challenges on the Red Planet include low gravity, lack of water, not enough sunlight to grow hops, and humans’ diminished sense of taste.
Shares in Japan’s big breweries could get a boost if the government follows through on revising the beer excise tax, which is based malt content. The result has been a flood of beers heavy with adjuncts like peas and soybeans.
Finally, Belgian scientists recently discovered the Trappist-1 system of possibly-habitable Earth-size planets some 40 light-years from Earth. They named the planets after monastic Trappist beers such as Rochefort, Orval, and Westvleteren.
You hardly need to be reminded that the brewing industry is heavily regulated, especially at the state level. Staff of the Brewers Association, the craft brewers’ industry trade group, have been busy sorting out state laws in several key areas and have summarized them on the BA’s website. The summaries include these six areas:
- Barrel cap laws, which restrict larger breweries’ ability to sell beer on-premises.
- Franchise laws, which spell out the circumstances under which a brewery may terminate its contractual relationship with a wholesaler.
- Growler laws, which specify who (breweries, brewpubs, and retailers) are allowed to fill growlers.
- Self-distribution laws, which provide whether a brewery may sell directly to retailers and, if so, how many barrels it may self-distribute.
- State excise tax rates.
- Laws specifying whether a brewery sell beer at retail and/or offer samples.
The Brewers Association cautions that its information should not be considered the final word on the law. If you notice something that needs to be updated (this being an odd-numbered year, state legislatures are hard at work), the BA would like to hear about it, and it has provided a feedback form.
On this day in 1875, the first-ever organized indoor game of ice hockey was played in Montreal. It featured two nine-member teams whose lineups included local college students. Instead of a ball, which was customary in outdoor games, the players used the ancestor of the modern hockey puck.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Chicago, where White Sox fans are rooting for their team to draft Clemson first baseman Seth Beer. Their campaign includes hashtags with excruciatingly bad puns on Beer’s name.
Uinta Brewing Company is packaging its Golden Ale—a beer meant to be enjoyed outdoors—in cans bearing images of our national parks. Yosemite National Park will be the first to appear on a can.
Budapest’s Mad Scientist Brewery has a deal for you. Adopt a dog from a local animal sanctuary, and the brewery will send you home with a case of its beer—even if your new best friend doesn’t drink.
Asbury Park Brewery’s logo is inspired by the city’s famous Convention Hall. And fittingly for “Springsteen Country”, all of its owners have a connection to the music business.
A New York State lawmaker wants to allow municipalities to establish “recreation zones”, within which it would be legal to carry open containers of alcohol sold by bars and restaurants.
Cathay Pacific Airlines has added something new to its beer menu: Betsy, a beer brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000 feet, where passengers’ senses of taste and smell are diminished.
Finally, according to Amy Sherman of MLive.com, the funniest beer names from last weekend’s Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Festival were “Gnome Wrecker”, “Complete Nutter Madness”, and “Only Fools Russian”.
On this day in 1946, Colonel Juan Peron, founder of the political movement known as Peronism, was elected to his first term as President of Argentina. He and his wife, Eva Duarte, would later become the subject of the Broadway musical Evita.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Maryland, where craft brewers are concerned about Guinness’ plans to open a taproom at its new brewery. At the same time, retailers worry that raising the cap on how much breweries can sell on-premises will hurt their business.
This year’s beer trends include the “haze craze”: unfiltered and unpasteurized IPAs aka “New England IPAs”. These beers have a shorter shelf life, but are richer in both flavor and aroma.
Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company is paying off a Super Bowl bet by releasing 100 cans of SB51 beer. It’s described as “a soul crushing pale ale that will leave you deflated”.
Tomorrow, Cleveland’s Slovenian community celebrates Kurentovanje, its version of Mardi Gras. Festival-goers will dress up as giant fuzzy animals to scare winter away, and drink beer at the newly-opened Goldhorn Brewery.
Three machinists and designers are about to launch the Kramstein beer stein. This metal stein, which comes in two sizes, is designed to keep the drink cool and the drinker’s hands dry.
Martin Roper, who’s been CEO of the Boston Beer Company for 16 years, plans to step down next year. TheMotleyFool.com speculates on whether Roper’s successor can arrest the company’s recent sales slump.
Finally, the BrewDog brewery offers an unusual perk: a week’s “paw-ternity” leave to employees who adopt a new dog. It also allows employees to bring their dogs to work. The company’s founders worked under the watchful eye of their “brew dog”, Bracken.
On this day in 1785, the University of Georgia opened its doors. UGA is the first state-chartered university in the United States, and is the birthplace of the American system of public higher education.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Massachusetts, where the state’s top liquor regulator is “ready to put everything on the table” in an effort to modernize the liquor code. That includes lifting Draconian limits on the number of licenses a community can issue.
Craft beer—sort of—is on the shelves at Wal-Mart. Its brand name is Trouble, it’s apparently contract-brewed by Genesee Brewing, and it got panned by a panel of Washington Post staffers.
Jake Tuck of Eater magazine explains “beer poptimism”: a growing appreciation of beers that are “unassailably popular, widely accessible, and highly quaffable”. Yes, that means macro brews.
In Bishkek, the capital of Krygystan, two women have opened a craft brewery called Save the Ales. Much of the beer sold in that country consists of bland imports and watery local products.
A startup called Colorado Craft Distributors aims to serve “small but special” breweries looking to get their beer into liquor stores, bars, and restaurants along the state’s Front Range.
Brooklyn Brewery has made a beer using Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, the lager yeast isolated in 1883 by Emil Christian Hansen, a researcher at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen.
Finally, actor Matt Damon, the co-founder of Water.org, has joined forces with the brewer of Stella Artois beer to bring clean water to people in developing countries. Every pint of Stella sold in Britain guarantees someone a month’s supply of water.
On this day in 1888, the National Geographic Society was formed. The Society’s logo, a bright yellow box, appears on National Geographic magazine, which is published in 40 languages around the world.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Pennsylvania, where the beer police caught up with Travis John Miller, who was selling the contents of his beer cellar on Craigslist. Miller faces a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol without a license.
Swedish brewer Fredrik Tunedal, who often came home from work covered in malt dust, has released a Shower Beer. Its flavor profile includes a soapy taste, which Tunedal calls “on-point” for his product.
Keurig Green Mountain has partnered with Anheuser-Busch InBev to develop a line of instant beers—and other instant adult beverages—that Keurig owners can make at home.
The CEO of Constellation Brands, which imports Corona and Modelo beer, said that he doesn’t expect President-elect Donald Trump’s trade policy to raise the price of Mexican brands.
Despite a dismal 5-7 record, the University of Texas finished #1 in the country—in beer sales, that is. By season’s end, Longhorns fans spent $5.26 on alcohol for every fan in attendance.
Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, disputes studies showing that beer sales have fallen in states where recreational marijuana is legal. Watson argues that pot is just one of many variables affecting sales.
Finally, in Adelaide, Australia, the woman-owned Sparkke Change Beverage Company is putting feminist messages on cans of its beer. It’s an effort to start conversations in the country’s male-dominated beer culture.
Today, Christians celebrate The Feast of the Epiphany. In Louisiana, this means Carnival season is underway. The local tradition is to bake King Cakes; and the person who finds the doll in his or her slice must bake the next cake.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in France, where the Benedictine monks at the 1,367-year-old Abbey of Saint-Wandrille are back in the business of brewing. They’re the country’s only producers of truly monastic beer.
In an interview with Paste magazine, 21st Amendment Brewery’s Nico Freccia talked about the fine art of naming beers, and how the brewery’s odd names has become mainstream.
When Tim Kliegl turned 65, he celebrated in unusual fashion—namely, by running a mile, and trying a new beer, every day for an entire year. And he’s got the notes to prove it.
Staffers at Amazon.com’s Christmas party in Dublin were treated to a special beer from local micro Metalman Brewing. Grainne Walsh, Metalman’s founder, once worked as an engineer at Amazon.
The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended lowering the DUI threshold to .05 percent, and a Utah lawmaker wants his state to be first. The current threshold in all states is .08.
Rick Astley, whose song “Never Gonna Give You Up” was part of a popular Internet prank, plans to “roll” out a beer. The lager, which will be brewed by Mikkeller, has yet to be named.
Finally, the The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company will celebrate its 150th anniversary by joining forces with the famous Hofbräu München. The amber-colored, Marzen-style will be introduced in April.
On this day in 888 A.D., the Vikings began a siege of Paris after the city’s ruler, Count Odo, refused the invaders’ demand for tribute. The siege was the most important event in the reign of the then-French king who has an appropriate name for this day after Thanksgiving: Charles the Fat.
And now….The Mash!
We begin on YouTube, where a sunbathing woman texted a neighbor, asking him to send over a beverage. The neighbor obliged, delivering a can of beer to her by mini-drone.
Now that Oklahoma voted to allow full-strength beer sales in stores, a Tulsa newspaper called on state lawmakers to scrap other “puritanical anachronisms” that are still on the books.
Chicago welcomed its first contract brewery, Great Central Brewing Company. Next year, it will open a taproom offering a variety of Chicago-brewed beers.
An alliance called No Patents on Seeds has called on Carlsberg to give up its three patents on mutant strains of barley. The strains provide new enzymes to develop “more distinctive”, flavor-stable beers.
Lifelong friends Collin Poseley and Eggie Foust have created Craft Beer: The Board Game. It takes five minutes to learn, and it can be played while inebriated.
The rapper Ludacris, an Atlanta native, has opened his long-awaited Chicken & Beer restaurant at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Its menu is “Southern to the core”.
Finally, Ayla Bystrom-Williams, the owner of Honeymoon Brewery, beat out 13,000 competitors and won a $200,000 Miller Lite “Tap the Future” award. She’s one of the country’s few black female brewery owners.
Ninety years ago today, the first numbering system for U.S. highways was approved. The 21 numbered highways in the initial group included U.S. 60, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles; it was later renumbered and became the famous “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66.
And now…The Mash!
We begin at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, where hundreds of fans lined up to buy bottles of limited-edition “Big Hapi” beer, brewed to honor now-retired Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Beer aficionados reacted furiously to TV food and travel personality Anthony Bourdain’s comments likening the clientele at a San Francisco beer bar to the “(expletive deleted) Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
A court in Stuttgart, Germany, ruled that breweries can’t use the word “bekömmlich”—“wholesome” in English—in their advertising because European Union regulations prohibit health claims in alcohol ads.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will start canning its beers later this month. Brewery CEO Sam Calagione is now convinced that canning technology can deliver a consistent, high-quality product.
The YouTube channel Celebrities in Golf Carts is trying to bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials with a new sport called Beer Pong Golf.
Dissatisfied with local distributors, Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing created its own distributorship. It’s offering breweries friendlier contracts, more personal attention, and deliveries of fresher beer.
Finally, in 1987, a Heineken retailer spread the untrue rumor that Mexican brewery workers urinated in containers of Corona Extra beer. That resulted in a lawsuit, and a public statement denying the rumor. Ten years later, Corona surpassed Heineken as America’s number-one imported beer.