A Boston band comes up with a novel way to disseminate music, while the seedy side of the three-tier system is exposed, and A-B InBev continues its craft acquisition spree. Oh, and we look at election results and how they pertain to beer. Get the full stories in this week’s craft beer roundup.
National: Beer makes America great
Though the presidential race certainly led to much anxiety-induced tippling, there were a few notable election results related to craft beer. In Oklahoma, SQ 792 will relax ABV caps at convenience and grocery stores, allowing them to sell beer above 3.2% while also allowing wine and liquor stores to have up to two locations and sell non-alcoholic items. Up in Maine, Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Portland’s Rising Tide Brewing Co., will represent the city’s District 43 in the Maine House of Representatives. The Democrat is also the president of the Maine Brewers Guild. Meanwhile in New York, Constellation Brands CEO, Rob Sands, was forced to address the possible impact a Donald Trump presidency could have on the producer of Corona. Stock in the company dropped 8% in the wake of Trump’s triumph, who some might recall proposed building a wall along the Mexican border.
Boston: The music is in the beer?
In a world of digital downloads and music streaming, how do you get people to appreciate the tangible pleasures of owning an album? Release it on a craft beer can, obviously. Music and light project, The Lights Out, has teamed up with Somerville’s Aeronaut Brewing Co. to create T.R.I.P., a conceptual album/adventure beer hybrid. The album is a collection of stories about traveling through parallel realities and the beer—an Imperial Session IPA (“a paradox in a can”)—“is adventure fuel for a journey between dimensions,” according to the press release and trailer. “We designed this beer to pair with the album,” said Aeronaut CEO, Ben Holmes. “It’s packed with galaxy hops, clocks in at 7.5% ABV and is refreshing to drink.” The album is only available by following the directions on the label. “Just do what the beer tells you to. When has that ever gone wrong…” said The Lights Out guitarist, Adam Ritchie, with a grin.
Massachusetts: Foul called on pay-to-play scheme
Shelton Brothers Inc.—importer of revered brands such as Cantillon and Fantôme—has filed suit against Craft Brewers Guild, claiming the distributor’s “unfair and illegal” practices resulted in loss of sales equaling $1.7 million. Based out of Everett, Mass., the Craft Brewers Guild was fined a hefty $2.6 million earlier this year for a pay-to-play scandal that incentivized bars to prioritize its brands over those from other distributors. In a statement published by the Boston Globe, Shelton Brothers claimed: “These big distributors have framed themselves as friends to small brewers and beer drinkers, all the while using unfair practices like illegal pay-to-play schemes to control the market. They’re limiting access and choice to line their own pockets at the expense of brewers . . . and consumers. We’re hoping this lawsuit will free our products from being held hostage.”
Houston: A-B’s craft portfolio grows by one
Anheuser-Busch announced an agreement to acquire Karbach Brewing Co. The Houston brewery will join A-B’s “The High End” division that focuses on craft and import brands. “We are so grateful for the growth we’ve experienced in this first phase of Karbach, but we have maxed out our growth potential on our own, and a partnership with The High End will open doors to keep innovating and experimenting with our unique styles and continue to expand,” said Karbach co-founder, Chuck Robertson, in a press release. “While we are joining a talented and innovative group of craft breweries in The High End, Karbach will retain a high level of independence, and the existing management and brewing teams will continue to drive culture and strategy, all while having fun building our brands.” Karbach opened in 2011 and two years later was producing 17,000 barrels annually. A-B believes the brewery can expand to 150,000 barrels a year by 2019.
National: More choice, not less
Speaking of A-B InBev, Brewers Association president and CEO, Bob Peace, has responded to the macrobrewer’s assessment that consumers “get a bit tired of choice” as vocalized by CEO Carlos Brito. “I had to ask myself what he’s been drinking,” mused Peace in a piece penned on the BA website. He cited a recent Nielsen study that found 58% of American craft beer drinkers crave more flavor options and 65% said they are drinking more craft beer because it offers more variety. “Like any growing industry, the competition and market pressures craft brewers face are real. But the answer to that is to make the highest quality beer possible to win over fans—not to limit supply and reduce those fans’ options,” he concluded.