February 9, 2015 by hummelb23
Just to forewarn you, this is strictly an opinion blog post. Everything you read from this point forward is my opinion and is in no relation tied to any of the breweries I may mention. Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
I was talking to my wife the other day about this blog and mentioned how I haven’t posted in about a month. She looked at me funny and told me that I hadn’t posted since NOVEMBER! I had no idea. For those that care, I apologize. For those that don’t, cool. But as the title states, a lot of things have gone down in the world of craft beer and I wanted to share my thoughts of each of them. I will try my best to summarize my thoughts so I don’t ramble.
I am going to start with one that hits close to home. The naming fiasco of New England Brewing Company’s (Woodbridge, CT) double IPA, Gandhi Bot. This beer is one of my favorite DIPAs and has become nationally, and now internationally, known as a solid beer that to some, carries an offensive name and can design. Early in January, a South Asian lawyer filed a lawsuit against the beer. The lawsuit alleged that the beer violated an Indian law and disrespected the name of the well respected Mahatma Gandhi who is depicted as a robot on the can. After a good month of bad press, apologies from the brewery and countless posts on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter etc. by people from both the U.S. and India, the brewery finally decided to give in and change the name. The name changing process can take up to three months and began almost immediately.
When I first heard the news of the lawsuit that was filed against NEBCO, I thought it was silly and was initiated by some lawyer half a world away from CT who has nothing better to do than find offensive things on the internet about the Indian people and file lawsuits against these things. I mean, the lawsuit was filed in India, what could really happen? Also, the beer has been in production with that name for a good five plus years and the Indians living in the U.S., let alone CT, are now offended by the name? Seemed a bit outrageous. Little did I know how big this thing would become. I’m talking national news big. My thought is, I understand the reason for the commotion, but why did it take five years to finally come up? I am relatively neutral on this whole thing but I think that the brewery did the right thing changing the name. I am sure they want to be known for their awesome beer and not for some silly offensive name and can design. Those of us who have fallen in love with this beautiful DIPA will always call it Gandhi Bot, no matter what they change it to. But honestly, people should be focusing more on the other major situations going on in the world and not getting all up in arms about a beer from a small brewery in a small town in one of the smallest states in the U.S. Like I said, neutral…
Next up on the major “while I was away” news is the Anheuser Busch InBev purchase of Elysian Brewing Company of Seattle, Washington in January. This seemed to be another run of the mill “if you can’t beat them, buy them” strategy by AB InBev but then just two weeks later, the Super Bowl happened. That’s when AB InBev basically put their foot in their mouth and took a shot at all craft brewers and the people that drink craft beer. TWO WEEKS AFTER BUYING ELYSIAN! This prompted a wave of backlash from the craft beer community as well as from the owner of Elysian himself who took to Twitter to show his frustration. He tweeted:
“I find it kind of incredible that ABI would be so tone-deaf as to pretty directly (even if unwittingly) call out one of the breweries they have recently acquired, even as that brewery is dealing with the anger of the beer community in reaction to the sale.It doesn’t make our job any easier, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel any better about a deal I didn’t even want to happen. It’s made a difficult situation even more painful.” – Dick Cantwell, Elysian Brewing co founder
Needless to say, the ad spawned spoofs, tweets, Facebook comments and a whole rash of other social media and other media rants from those in the beer community. My take is that AB InBev knows that they make a flagship beer that is not looked upon in a very kind light. It is better known as a frat party beer than a beer you choose to crack open and relax with after a tough day at the office. They understand this and instead tried to play the card of “we know who we are, but do these craft breweries really know who they are and the type of people that drink their beer.” The assumption is that craft beer drinkers are snooty and think their beer choice is better than everyone else’s. I for one can say that I will drink an AB InBev beer every now and then and I could care less if others in the craft beer community look at me any differently. I could assume that most of, if not all of the craft beer community feels the same way. Who cares!?!?! You drink what you like and if you haven’t been exposed to what else is out there, than it’s up to you to make the choice to go explore or to stick with what you know. Just like any other thing in the world; wine, food, candy etc.
Finally, my last point is the one that has been bothering me the most lately. So, I figured this would be the forum to share my opinion. The growth in craft beer has been great. Breweries are popping up all over the country and craft beer drinkers have so many choices, you may never try every single beer that is offered in your lifetime. But with this growth comes some scarcity. These scarce and rare beers are often referred to as “white whales”. Beers that are released in limited quantities and sold on a first come first serve basis. Though, my grief isn’t with the rare beers, it is more what the rare beers cause. That ripple effect has led to lines….long lines at breweries a reputation of releasing these rare beers at any point. Now don’t get my wrong, I think it is great that these beers are out there but the fact that I cannot go to my local brewery for a growler fill of my favorite IPA without waiting in a 3 hour line is ridiculous. It is definitely not the breweries fault but the fact that this is a growing trend among breweries throughout the country. People are coming from out of town, out of state and sometimes out of the country to these breweries and in turn suck it dry for the locals who would frequent the brewery without any issues only a year ago. Not only that, some of the people in line may be what are referred to as “mules”. These “mules” are people who are either hired or volunteer to get a fill (or three) of beer that someone else, who is most likely also in line, wanted to in turn cheat the system of growler limits. This is where that rare beer or even the common beers dry up so quickly because those people are cheating the system and in reality, cheating the other people that are waiting in line to get their fill. These cheaters will then go and trade or sell their extra beer online to make a profit or grab a white whale from somewhere across the country. I know that there is no real way to police this action, but for those of us that know it goes on, it is a real turn off to attempt to make the trip to the brewery to even try and get a fill of their favorite IPA.
Maybe I am just looking at it the wrong way, but the enormous growth of this industry within the last year or so has started to show some ugliness that was not necessarily there before. For me, what was once a nice hobby and passion has slowly started to become a business and a fight. My hope is that things will begin to calm down and the playing field will start to level out amongst the craft beer community. I mean, not all of us are able to get to a bottle release at 2pm on a Wednesday….
Anyway, those were a few of the events that seemed to have popped up over the last three months. As I said, this is all strictly opinion but I hope that my take on these three topics has helped you better understand where the craft beer community currently stands and where I believe we are heading.
Next time, we will get back to reviewing some quality, hopefully not hard to find, brews!