Goose Island

Are Grocery Stores Abandoning Craft?

Portland, Oregon-based writer Jeff Alworth reports on a disturbing trend in beer retailing. Fred Meyer, his state’s dominant grocery store chain, is scaling back the craft beer selection and giving more shelf space to macro brews and “crafty” beers, the latter being craft labels acquired by big breweries.

On the surface, Fred Meyer’s decision doesn’t make sense. The chain stands to lose business to competing stores that offer a wide selection of local craft products. However, there are fewer alternatives outside Oregon’s larger cities. Alworth adds that Fred Meyer’s parent, Kroger Company, can improve its profit margin by using its buying power to negotiate low prices and cutting costs by paring its beer inventory.

Alworth warns that in localities where the big grocery chains dominate and the public isn’t as attuned to craft beer, “crafty” beers such as Goose Island—or even the big national brands—will become customers’ default choice. That’s bad news for small breweries, especially the newer ones.

Caveat Emptor

Brad Tuttle of Time magazine has a warning for beer drinkers: What you see on the label might not be true.

One example is deception as to a beer’s provenance. Tuttle mentions beers that are advertised as “Vermont ales” when in fact they’re brewed elsewhere. One brewer of “Vermont ale” is located in Berkeley, California; another is based in upstate New York.

“American” is a time-honored way to make products more appealing, and Budweiser exploited this tactic to the hilt by renaming Budweiser “America” last year. Problem is, the brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a conglomerate headquartered in Belgium.

Some beers try to pass themselves off as “imported”. Even though they bear foreign breweries’ names, they’re brewed in the U.S. A couple of years ago, Anheuser-Busch got slapped with a lawsuit over domestically-brewed Beck’s beer. A-B didn’t admit fault, but agreed to pay Beck’s drinkers up to $50 in the settlement; and the suit apparently made it more careful about advertising claims.

“Craft” is another possible source of deception. Here the legalities get trickier: the Brewers Association has laid down criteria for what breweries qualify as “craft”, but the BA’s definition isn’t universally accepted in the industry. That said, the mega-brewers behind Blue Moon (launched as an experiment by Coors Brewing) and Goose Island (acquired by A-B) haven’t gone out of their way to disclose those brands’ current ownership.

The Friday Mash (Trinidad and Tobago Edition)

Fifty years ago today, Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from Great Britain. This Caribbean island republic is the birthplace of calypso, steelpan, and soca music, chutney, and the limbo. A cold beer would go well with any or all of these.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Hyde Park, New York, where the Culinary Institute of America’s American Bounty Restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special black ale brewed by Tommy Keegan of Keegan Ales.

Craft beer in Kyrgyzstan? Writer Chris Rickleton, who lives in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, reports that the local beers aren’t bad at all, and that a couple of micros are open for business.

Three Portland, Oregon, women are planning to write a book titled Hop in the Saddle, a bicyclist’s guide to beer touring their city.

Now that Goose Island is part of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers, they will be available in all 50 states. The high-end Goose Island beers will continue to be made in Chicago.

The Yeastie Boys, a brewery in New Zealand, is a pioneer in open-source brewing. Bottles of its Digital IPA contain metallic blue QR codes which enable customers to brew their own versions of the ale.

Joshua Justice of the Houston Press lists the ten ugliest labels on beers sold in Texas. Some of the labels Justice can’t stand appear on bottles of very good beer.

Finally, iPhone users can play a new game that features bottlecaps from Michigan breweries. When you touch a bottlecap, the game gives you information about that brewery, including its location and a social media contact.

Beer…by the Numbers

  • Estimated value of craft beer exports: $23.4 million.
  • Average cost of a cheap beer in China: 1.87 yuan (30 U.S. cents).
  • Cost of a Budweiser in China: 6.13 yuan (98 U.S. cents).
  • Mexico’s per capita beer consumption in 1900: less than 1 liter.
  • Its per capita consumption a century later: 51.8 liters.
  • “Citizen Beer Blogs” on the Beer Bloggers’ Conference list: 1,416.
  • Citizen beer blogs outside the U.S.: 459.
  • Beer sales at U.S. convenience stores in 2011: $16.7 billion.
  • Increase over 2010: 1.3 percent.
  • Convenience stores’ share of U.S. beer sales: 17 percent.
  • American craft breweries’ exports in 2011: 110,000 barrels.
  • Increase over 2010: 86 percent.
  • Goose Island Beer Company’s expected production this year: 230,000 barrels.
  • Increase over 2010: 81 percent.
  • States into which Goose Island will expand this year: 9.
    Powered by WordPress