Six-Pack of News, Volume 19: Featuring The High and Mighty Sierra Nevada

Hello, everyone! I have a fresh batch of news all ready for you! Let's do it!

Yesterday, Switchback Brewing Company in Vermont has established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, in which 100 percent of company stock will be placed into a trust and distributed annually to employees based on salary. Switchback joins a number of significant craft breweries, including Deschutes, Left Hand, and New Belgium, who have gone the ESOP route, turning the breweries employees into the sole stockholders. Brewbound has all the details.

Zach Fowle at Draft Magazine notes many breweries' decisions to reduce or eliminate the use of 22-25 oz. "bomber" bottles from their stock in favor of smaller bottles. I will have more on this in a commentary piece this weekend, so stay tuned!

A recent Harris Poll of 2100 adults nationwide found that 38% of "legal drinking age consumers" prefer beer to wine or spirits. Wine was the preferred beverage of 31% of poll respondents, only good enough for 2nd place--sorry, Mom and Dad.

In addition to noting the Harris Poll above, and covering the Switchback news, Brewbound also posted an excellent round-up of some state legislative news, including laws in three states that would loosen direct sales rules in various forms. In addition, the state of Nebraska wants to limit craft breweries' off-site taproom and retail opportunities, while Virginia wants to exempt taxes paid on hops, malt, barley, and wheat that are grown in-state.

The Coloradoan newspaper notes that canned craft beer earned over 17% of the national share of packaged craft beer in 2016, roughly tripling their share since 2013. The Coloradoan is all over this news, because Longmont, Colorado's Oskar Blues Brewery was one of the craft beer canning pioneers, canning their beers since 2002.

Finally, Sierra Nevada Vice President Brian Grossman addressed an assembled group of international brewers at Sierra Nevada's new production facility in Asheville, North Carolina and dramatically proclaimed craft beer "a dying art form". Now, of course, he was trying to make a point about how the start-up cost to start a brewery has become relatively cheap so any Joe Schmo, especially a Schmo who hasn't done the homework necessary in the art of brewing, can just start a brewery. And these Schmos can put out beer of questionable quality. And because Schmos Brew is small, they will immediately be labelled "craft", and their reputation for crappy beer will affect the entire craft beer industry. The point is fair, but I feel Grossman's whole sentiment is fairly overly dramatic. I believe the quality-based capitalism of the craft beer community, and I believe in their/our ability to self-enforce through our choices. The industry recently hit 5000 domestic craft breweries. I imagine a fair number of these are still fairly new (1-3 years) and might still be going through their initial seed money. But if these relatively new breweries are putting out crap, they won't last. And I wouldn't be surprised to see that craft brewery number dip back under 5000. Which might not be a bad thing, really. It could be a matter of the community ridding itself of the inferior product.

Despite all that, I have two words for Brian Grossman: C'mon, man.

(The link above also includes an in-depth interview with Grossman, courtesy of Good Beer Hunting.)