distributors

The Friday Mash (Road Atlas Edition)

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.

The Friday Mash (Tool Time Edition)

On this day in 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall saw chimpanzees creating tools in a national park in Tanzania. It was the first time anyone had seen animals do that, and it exploded the long-standing belief that humans were the only species capable of tool-making.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Norcia, Italy, where last week’s earthquake destroyed the historic Basilica of St. Benedict. Sixteen years ago, American monks acquired the basilica and set up a brewing operation to raise funds for its restoration.

Last year’s freakishly warm winter grabbed the attention of hops farmers in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Fearing that global warming will bring on more such winters, they’re looking for ways to use less water growing the hops and less energy drying them.

An Israeli start-up called Glassify is selling beer glasses with an embedded microchip in the base. The chip can link to a smartphone app and send demographic information back to breweries, while offering consumers product promotions in return.

Texas authorities are looking for Achilles Salazar, a forklift operator who stole 719 twelve-packs of Dos Equis beer—$90,000 worth—from the distributor he worked for. A law-enforcement officer described the size of the heist as “most unusual”.

In Colorado, a driverless truck delivered a load of beer from Budweiser’s Fort Collins brewery to Colorado Springs. The truck was operated by Otto, a company owned by the ride-sharing company Uber.

Long Root Ale is the first beer to use kernza, the trade name for a type of wheat that originated in Asia. Because kernza is a perennial, it’s easier on the environment because farmers don’t have to plow up their land and re-plant the crop every year.

Finally, ten years after the Big Buck Brewery in Auburn Hills, Michigan, closed its doors, a local beer distributor bought the 50-foot-tall bottle that stood outside the establishment. It will be be transported to the distributor’s headquarters and repainted as a Bud Light bottle.

More About That Big Beer Merger

Bob Pease of the Brewers Association has sobering news for craft beer lovers. In a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, Pease warned that the coming merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will have an impact on your local beer selection that you hadn’t expected.

The problem is rooted in the three-tier system of liquor regulation, which forces craft breweries to sell their beer through distributors. In some states, the law allows big breweries to own distributors. Making matters worse, the distribution industry has undergone consolidation, and many areas of the country are served by a handful of distributors.

A-B, which controls 45 percent of the U.S. beer industry, has been particularly aggressive, buying five independent distributors—a move that has led to a Justice Department investigation. The brewery also compensates its distributors using a formula that in effect penalizes them for handling craft brands rather than A-B brands. That, too, is being investigated.

Pease hopes that the when the Justice Department gives final approval to the InBev-SAB merger, it will take steps to keep the beer market competitive. He points out that in 2013, it prohibited A-B InBev from interfering with independent distributors that sold Mexico’s Modelo beer. Pease urges Justice to give craft brand distributors similar protection, require A-B to reduce its stake in distributors, and bar compensation systems that favor A-B’s own brands.

Pennsylvania Eases the Dreaded “Case Rule”

Beer lovers who live in Pennsylvania, or who pass through it, are aware of the dreaded “Case Rule.” Most of the beer sold in the Keystone State is sold by “distributors” who, by law, can’t sell you less than 24 bottles or cans–a big problem if you want to sample the local micro products. Six- and 12-packs are available at bars and delis, but some establishments have been known to charge sky-high prices.

That’s about to change, at least a little. The Liquor Control Board has issued an advisory opinion that allows distributors to sell “original containers” with 128 or more ounces of beer. In plain English, that means 12-packs. It’s a step in the right direction.

Beer in the Legislatures

These items caught Ludwig’s attention:

In Indiana, the state’s convenience store association has gone to court to overturn a state law that prohibits them from selling cold beer. Liquor stores are the only sellers allowed to do so.

Beer is back on the agenda North Carolina. A bill that would allow grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers to sell and refill growlers passed the House by a wide margin.

Both houses of the Illinois General Assembly have passed a bill that would require Anheuser-Busch to divest itself of a minority interest in a Chicago-based distributor.

Beer…by the Numbers

  • Entries in this year’s World Beer Cup: 3,921.
  • Categories in which medals were awarded: 95.
  • Countries represented in this year’s competition: 54.
  • Anheuser-Busch distributors in the U.S.: more than 500.
  • Distributors actually owned by ABInBev: 14.
  • Distributor’s profit on the sale of a case of beer: $4.
  • Most expensive major league park for beer: Fenway Park, Boston (60.4 cents per ounce).
  • Second most expensive park: Busch Stadium, St. Louis (56.2 cents per ounce).
  • Cheapest park: Chase Field, Phoenix (28.6 cents per ounce).
  • American craft breweries that can their beer: 179.
  • Craft beers available in cans: 561.
  • Styles of beer available in cans: 73.
  • Australia’s per capita beer consumption in 2011: 4.23 liters.
  • Years since its per capita consumption has been that low: 65.
  • Its peak per capita beer consumption: 9.2 liters, in 1975.
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