I’m already getting a ton of emails, asking if I’m going to go ballistic – as I did with 10 Barrel and Ely**an – about New Belgium selling out to Kirin/Lion. Yeah, I do pretty splashy snark and they’re fun to read. Fun to write, too…
“…When twin brothers Chris and Jeremy Cox (10 Barrel Brewing) decided to brew their own beer, they were co-owners of a successful bar and grill in downtown Bend, Oregon. They didn’t have any direct experience brewing, but told anybody who’d listen about their deep passion for craft beers and their determination to break into the industry. That, as we see graphically now, was all bullshit. What the Brothers Cox were after was a Big Payday; a rosy dream of building a disposable enterprise that would eventually catch the eye of some huge mega-corp who would back a truck up to their loading dock and shovel dollar bills out the back until they buried Jeremy and Chris Cox in a sweet dream of Caribbean beaches and cold drinks with little umbrellas in them and hot and cold running babes.”
Or…this after the Ely**an whore-out…
“I’m not sad, today, especially. More like “tired” and certainly “disgusted”. I feel the same as I would if somebody told me that kindly old Mr. Jenkins, my next door neighbor for 25 years, was just featured on “To Catch A Predator”. In fact, I lived, while I was in high school, about two blocks from John Wayne Gacy, in suburban Chicago. I saw him playing a clown at children’s events. I actually spoke to him once. Years later, when all the horrors in his crawl space came to light, the feeling I had was just like this: shock, crashing disillusionment, and a jolt of stomach-turning revulsion. Elysian will no longer be mentioned in The Pour Fool, just as 10 Barrel will not. Tomorrow, I’m going back into my post panel to remove all past references to both. I cannot and will NEVER aid an abet the efforts of a company like AB/InBev and will correct it anytime I may do it inadvertently. Elysian is gone, as far as I’m concerned and if you think that’s just silly and “the beer will be fine, dude“, then you are an accomplice in the destruction of craft beer.”
Fun, right? Righteous anger: can’t beat it for waking up your slumbering hackles.
Spleen venting is powerfully cathartic and delivers a big ol’ zotz of adrenalin…but it’s too easy, too crass, so…I’m not erupting today and here’s why:
1. Kirin is not Anheuser Busch.
2. Large corporations WILL acquire smaller but very successful companies, in EVERY business category. Brewing is not immune. What matters is what those mega-corps do with the properties they acquire. If they run them ethically and help make the business better, that’s the best we can hope for. If, as in the case of Heineken and Lagunitas Brewing, they turn out to be assholes, the best move is just to stop buying their shit. Sadly, this rarely happens because there are enough of the young, stupid Brew Bros around (“Who cares who makes it if the beer’s good, Bro? Just chill and have a brew!”) to let sleazebags make a profit. We all know this breed of yard ape and we have no weapon against them.
I give every company but AB/InBev the benefit of the doubt.
We’ll see what happens with NB. But one thing is an ironclad certainty: as long as brewery owners care more about raking in the $$$ than the relationship between themselves and their loyal fans, these sell-outs will continue. My theory is that brewery owners talk a good game of pride in craft beer and not “selling out to Big Beer“, and many of them mean it and stick to their principles. But, as in every group of like-minded humans, there are the strong and principled and there are the weak and vulnerable. And the latter group sees that big payday being waved in front of them and gets the yips.
What we don’t read about nearly as much as we should are all the brewery owners who were enticed with that Mega-Check and said “No, I like my brewery and what we represent and we are NOT for sale.” THOSE are the backbone of craft beer and they should be rewarded with our thanks and our loyalty and our dollars. I wish more of them would speak up about those offers and why they declined. In the current climate of corporate raiders and Big Dogs trying to buy credibility they have little or no hope of ever earning legitimately within the craft community, we could all use some good news, for a change…
These folks below are the latest to cave. Let’s remember these names and faces.
(Lion Managing Director Matt Tapper, New Belgium Founder Kim Jordan, New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer.)