BREAKING NEWS: Trump to Implement Tariffs Critical to Beer Industry? (UPDATE)

Just like the tax bill that preceded it, the Trump Administration's latest economic policy could have a significant impact on the beer industry. President Trump announced tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum, potentially starting next week. The idea is, the tariffs will reduce cheap steel imports from countries like China and encourage more domestic metal production, which will create more jobs. Trump prefaced today's announcement with a morning tweet:

Of course, aluminum cans have always been a key beer storage device, but the cans have become more attractive to the craft beer industry in recent years due to the can's elimination of light pollution, which can be highly detrimental to craft beer. According to craft beer trade group The Brewers Association, the aluminum tariff could increase the cost of a case of cans by nearly a quarter. Trump is attempting to unilaterally impose these tariffs under "national security concerns" despite opposition from trade groups from various industries (including the BA), numerous U.S. businesses, and members of Congress, including members of his own party. Opponents say these tariffs will have unintended consequences, including price increases in products across many industries, as well as layoffs. 

MillerCoors summed up the beer industry's issues well with the following statement on Twitter:

 

 

Now, there is likely a fair chance these tariffs will not go through in their current form, or at least not survive long-term. Many in Trump's own administration have advocated for more targeted tariffs, the Brewers Association and others have questioned Trump's "national security" angle (especially in regards to aluminum imports), and the staunch Congressional and business opposition likely means Trump will be in for a fight on this issue in the coming days and weeks.

UPDATE, 3/2/18, 8:09am: So, according to news reports, President Trump's tariff announcements came as a bit of a surprise to the White House staff, who spent the rest of the day walking Trump's comments back, forward, and possibly even sideways. The policy does want to seem to be enacted by this administration, but it seems like the timing and exact numbers could still be in the air a bit. Again, it might be up to the groups listed above to work to get the policy modified. An additional item that may influence this policy are the threats of trade wars from other countries, where they tax U.S. exports into their countries in retaliation of the steel and aluminum taxes.

Six-Pack of News, Volume 29: A Frisky Start to 2018

2018 is only a month old, but there's been plenty going on in the beer world. I also want to give shout-outs to some expanding breweries related to my own local interests. But that will be later; let's get the bad news out of the way first.

A few notable breweries have fallen on hard times since the calendar flipped to 2018. Pabst Blue Ribbon may be the cheap beer of choice for many bars and restaurants across America, but the brewery seems to be undergoing a constant shedding of personnel since 2016, when they were temporarily buoyed by 2015's then-skyrocketing hard soda (Not Your Father's Root Beer, etc.) market. That niche offering came crashing down fast and hard, and Pabst just announced their latest round (and 2nd round in 2 years) of major layoffs. Under this layoff, Pabst will fire 50 employees and reduce their overall headcount by 70. Brewbound has all the details on the latest round of firings, as well as Pabst's overall roller-coaster ride of the last few years.

Obviously, one of the biggest news stories in the beer world was ABI's acquisition of Asheville, North Carolina's independent craft beer beacon, Wicked Weed Brewing. In response, the numerous breweries in the Charlotte area have created the Charlotte Independent Brewers Alliance (CIBA). The over 20 breweries across a 6-county area have been meeting informally for some time, but now have united into an official organization. Again, Brewbound has lots of details, including the official CIBA press release.

Related: Read all about the ABI/Wicked Weed transaction from last year!

The folks at Vinepair sure like their lists, and 2018 has been no exception. So let's talk beer tourism! First up is The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018, which includes 3 international cities. Seoul, South Korea is #6, and I'm sure it's a lovely city. I just don't know if it's a great idea to advocate visiting there, given the current political fragility of the Korean Peninsula. Anyway, if you are looking for something more specific than just a great beer city, check out Vinepair's 5 Hotels for Beer Lovers, which will point you to several boutique hotels across the United States that might be run by breweries or even found on the premises of breweries!

The Disney Parks in Orlando, FL and Anaheim, CA are ever-evolving family destinations, but there is an ever-growing group of more...grown-up (read: "alcohol-based") opportunities at both resorts. WDW News Today is reporting on the latest round of changes to Anaheim's Downtown Disney dining and shopping district at the Disneyland Resort. Notable among the changes is a Ballast Point Brewing Company brewpub/restaurant space, which will include the first-ever brewery on a Disney property.

Finally, some congrats are due to breweries in my old and new hometowns. First checked out Crystal Ball Brewing Company in West York, PA in 2016. While they made some quality beers, the tasting room set-up and accessibility was lacking. CBBC was always aware of this, and have now rectified the situation with the opening of #CBBCity (as they want to call it). Their new space is located in the heart of York City, which is far more accessible, and offers local spirits (thanks to Pennsylvania's revamped liquor laws) and food from their next door neighbor, Issac's Deli. The York Daily Record has more on CBBC's journey. Next, congratulations to Columbia, SC's original craft brewery, the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery, on finally opening their new production space at Owens Field, Columbia's small-plane airstrip. Hunter-Gatherer restored an historic airplane hanger into an expanded production space and tasting room that opened it's doors in the middle of January. (Courtesy: Columbia's Free Times weekly)

Commentary: Beer Fests Showing Signs of the Bursting Bubble?

Gerald Jowers of my local Columbia, SC alt-weekly paper, the Free Times, wrote earlier this week about the problems being encountered by beer festivals in various cities in the Carolinas, specifically pointing to Charlotte’s declining Oktoberfest and recently-cancelled festivals in Charleston and Columbia. Jowers is wondering whether “beer festivals [have] run their course”. And, of course, the answer, on the whole, is no. But we will likely see a culling of some of these festivals, and I believe we are seeing the first sign of the impending craft beer bubble burst.

The craft beer industry, and its many fans, have been celebrating the opening of the 6,000th brewery in the United States, an impressive milestone. Thing is, many craft beer commentators have been awaiting the bursting of the craft beer bubble since we reached the FIVE THOUSANDTH brewery opened in 2015. The fact that such a niche industry is opening an average of more than one brewery per day should raise some alarms, as could the declining year-to-year growth in the craft beer market. I say “could” because it can also be argued that such double-digit percentage gains from the early 2010s were unsustainable in any economy, to say nothing of craft beer still FAR outpacing it’s bigger macro brothers (who have seen declining SALES, not GROWTH, for years). I tend to lean towards the latter sentiment.

A real indication of the bursting bubble may now be coming from the festival and event market, which looks to be becoming over saturated. In his article, Jowers points to the decline of Charlotte’s Oktoberfest. Now, it's entirely possible this festival just fell on some bad luck and/or hard times: increased government scrutiny, bad weather, inconvenient construction. But a quick glance at the Charlotte, NC tourist website reveals that Oktoberfest is one of TWENTY festivals that prominently feature craft beer held in Charlotte alone! That doesn’t even take into account events held within driving distance, such as a number of South Carolina festivals or events held in the Raleigh or Asheville (arguably the East Coast craft beer Mecca) areas. To me, Charlotte and much of North Carolina seems ripe for over saturation of the event market. Here in Columbia, Jowers mentions the cancelled Cream of the Crop festival, which is typically held in March in conjunction with Soda City Suds Week (one of TWO craft beer celebration weeks held in Columbia, in back-to-back months, no less). Yet that same organization, F2T Productions, is running a beer-and-BBQ event next month AND the same venue, City Roots, will be hosting another beer festival JUST TWO WEEKS before Cream’s formerly scheduled event! These are just two out of at least five events happening in the first quarter of 2018, and that doesn’t even mention the numerous events set to be held in conjunction with the aforementioned craft beer celebration weeks being held in February AND March! The Columbia area has a good number of people, but has always been a bit behind the times on the craft beer scene. This scene has exploded in the last 5 years, perhaps exploded too far.

No, beer festivals have not “run their course”. The market exploded, and has likely passed its point of sustainability. I would not be surprised to see, over the next 5-10 years, a fair reduction in craft breweries—I feel like a number in the 4000-5000 range would be good—and a significant culling in the number of beer-featured events, which in some cities can be occurring every other weekend. I don’t expect a catastrophic collapse of the craft beer industry, unless driven by outside economic factors. But I do see an industry that will soon be ripe for a…correction.

Beer News: Tax Bill Passed in U.S. Senate Includes Good News for Craft Brewers

The tax bill passed Friday night in the United States Senate may be subject to a deep partisan divide, but it does include tax relief for smaller craft brewers in the United States. The Senate passed an amended version of House Resolution 1, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 51-49, with all affirmative votes coming from the majority Republican Party, which holds 52 out of the 100 seats in the Senate (outgoing Republican Tennessee Senator Bob Corker joined the Democrats in opposition to the bill).

Included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), a piece of legislation that has been backed by industry trade and advocacy groups for years but has languished in the Congress. The CBMTRA will slash taxes by half on the first 60,000 barrels produced by brewers who make fewer than 2 million barrels a year. Other tax reductions are included on up to the first 6 million barrels produced by other brewers. Brewbound has more details, including quotes from the President of the United States and members of various trade groups.

Due to Senate amendments to the bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now goes to a House/Senate reconciliation committee, where members of the two chambers will work to create a bill that can be passed by the entire Congress. The bill may also still be in danger should opponents of the bill effectively work to change the minds of some Senators or Congressmen. It should be noted that while the Republicans have roughly a 40-seat majority in the House of Representatives, they only control the Senate 52-48. Assuming no Democrats will support this bill, Republicans can only afford two "Nay" votes to pass this legislation (in the event of a 50-50 tie, Republican Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill). Constituent advocacy in the coming days may convince a few key swing Republican Senators to change their stance in backing this bill.

BREAKING NEWS: San Franciscans Steamed at Anchor? Legendary Bay Area Craft Brewery Cashes In/Sells Out

San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company, a pioneer (and originator/founder?) of today's independent craft beer industry with over a century of history, has been bought by Japan's Sapporo Holdings Limited for a reported $85 million. As is typical in these matters, the brewery claims that the beer, which at this point will still be brewed at its facility in the city, will be unaffected by the transaction. SFGate.com, the online sister site of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, has plenty of coverage on the reported acquisition, including comments from Anchor's owners. Brewbound (among others) is reporting the sale price.

Redhook just decided to blow up the concept of a calendar

This is exact time of the year, I'm usually getting ready to bemoan the early entry of fall & Octoberfest beers onto the market. Boston Beer/Sam Adams is usually the biggest culprit, but it's not unusual to see several such beers on shelves before August 1st. I will say that it seems like virtually everyone has taken the advice and pushed back their fall beer distribution, even if just for a couple of weeks.

Redhook Brewery, however, decided to go in the other direction, as I saw this in the grocery store earlier this week:

Winterhook. Winterhook! Redhook impressively blew past the fall holidays and pushed straight into the winter months! IN JULY!

Commentary: ABI Not Doing Anyone Any Favors With Their BA Response

In last week’s news roundup, I noted the latest volleys fired in the conflict between craft beer and Big Beer. The non-profit craft beer trade group The Brewers Association unveiled a "Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft" logo that can be displayed on packaging, websites, in taprooms, and elsewhere. Craft beer DOES have a specific definition from the Brewers Association, mostly centered around ownership stakes, and this logo can help better-inform customers about who is making the beer they choose to drink. A-B InBev’s High End, the group of former craft brewers now under the ABI umbrella, responded to the new logo by releasing a video featuring the head of the High End as well as the founders of Wicked Weed, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and others. In this video, these gentlemen spend more than 4 minutes trying convince us, the consumers of craft beer, how they continue to be JUST LIKE the little guy brewing in a small warehouse space in YOUR VERY OWN hometown. Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed, the latest brewery to “sell out to the Evil Empire”, even dares to STILL unironically refer to Wicked Weed as a “smaller independent”.

Indeed, of everyone in this video (in which they seemingly dragged all of these guys to their “crafty wall” at ABI HQ to do their talking heads), Dickinson seems to be the most clueless--perhaps he’s just still in that star-eyed honeymoon phase. He advocates growing the beer industry as a whole, which will mean that “everybody’s got a great space in the market”. Of course, this sounds like a great idea! But use of the phrase “space in the market” is an unfortunate one, as it amplifies one of ABI’s biggest bullying tactics. ABI will use bribes—I’m sorry, “incentives”—to occupy as much shelf SPACE as possible in superMARKETS, beer distributors, and other shops. The amount of ABI-dedicated shelf space grows all the time, forcing true independent craft beer off of the shelves of those same retailers. Now, if this is all being done legally, and there is some question to that, then so be it—the laws should be changed, usually in state legislatures. But that's another commentary for another day. And Walt Dickinson and ABI should not be talking about how hard they are working for EVERYBODY, because this is a straight-up lie.

Dickinson’s (and others’) next fallacy is that beer is dying because of the ongoing beer “civil war”, and that market share is continually being lost to wine and liquor, whom Dickinson equates to a massive armada poised to wipe out all the entire beer industry while the various beer factions all also work to destroy each other with ole' timey muskets. Now, ABI’s market share absolutely is dwindling, and wine and liquor MAY BE picking up some of that, and perhaps those two are gaining ground overall. But craft beer is also growing, and despite ABI’s continual attempts to warm up to craft beer enthusiasts (this video isn’t their first “Kum-Ba-Ya” attempt), craft beer IS the biggest threat to ABI. If it weren't they wouldn't be buying up so many craft breweries.

Elsewhere, Garrett Wales of 10 Barrel claims that the Brewers Association is limiting customer choice by putting a label on a bottle. Going back to the bullying/bribery for space issue, there is no doubt that ABI are the ones limiting choice by putting more and more of their own brands on retail shelf space. Supporting independent craft brewers IS a factor many beer drinkers use in decided which beer to drink next—it may not be a critical or deciding factor, but it DOES influence people’s decisions, no matter what Felipe Szpigel, ABI’s High End head, says. This isn’t limited to beer—you see “buy local” initiatives for all kinds of products. In the spirit of Walt Dickinson earlier in the video, Szpigel later again tries to refer to the High End members as “small business[es]”, which is laughable.

Finally, like many others, I don’t quite understand why ABI continually tries to equate themselves to the small, independent craft breweries. I would imagine that a great deal of the demographic they are targeting, craft beer drinkers, are more educated about what they are drinking. And they can see right through ABI's ruse when they see their favorite brewery get swallowed up by Big Beer, which leads to some sort of production problem (see High End original Goose Island’s BCBS contamination problems in 2015), or they can no longer get their favorite craft beer at the supermarket because that market got paid to give ABI more space to hold Golden Road and Wicked Weed. We all can easily see through this level of falsity. ABI insists on being the “Evil Empire”—they are buying up these former craft breweries to try to hold on to market share. They need to stop trying to kowtow to the little guys and their fans.

A Very Brief Wicked Weed Update...

I have no intention of continuing to beat a dead horse, here, but I found it very interesting that Wicked Weed, which had never sniffed the Columbia, SC market before, will magically be having a launch event at the local art museum sponsored by KW Beverage, the local Budweiser distributor! It only took a month! What were the odds???

 

If you will permit me a brief moment of straight-up opinion, I'm fairly disappointed in local dive bar The Whig and the Columbia Museum of Art for supporting this, and pouring salt on such a fresh wound to the craft beer community.

The Funk Collective Update: More Details, Participating Breweries, and More

On Wednesday, I told you about a new sour and rare beer festival that is being presented by 2 South Carolina breweries and one SC-based bottle shop/beer curator. Now, Birds Fly South, Revelry, and The Community Tap have released more information on The Funk Collective, a two-day invitational event to be held this July in Greenville, SC.

For starters, the two breweries, will alternate years of hosting the festival. Greenville-based Birds Fly South is hosting this year, with the festival moving to Charleston, home of Revelry Brewing, next year.

On Friday, July 7th will be the Upstate (next year Coastal) Brewery Showcase, a VIP-only event for 150-200 people and will feature about 15 breweries offering their sour beers for tasting, along with a limited group of rare bottles from across the country.

 

The Funk Collective main festival will be held on Saturday, July 8th. Over 30 breweries from across the country have committed to attending the festival, which will also feature sour beers.

Tickets for the Saturday Festival only or the Friday/Saturday combination are available here. Also found on that page is a current list of participating breweries for each session. It appears that Friday-only tickets, intended to be a VIP Experience, are not available.

Most importantly, this festival will donate all of its net proceeds to Asheville, North Carolina's Eblen-Kimmel Charities, the original benefiting group Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational, and an unintended victim of the WW/ABI acquisition. Since their mass-pullout from WW's now-postponed and "evolving" event, many craft breweries have donated to Eblen-Kimmel as a show of support to a charity that should not be forced into hardship because of Wicked Weed's decision. The Funk Collective event will be another way to help that group.

South Carolina's Craft Beer Community Taking Advantage of Wicked Weed's Event Issues

One thing that was affected by the Wicked Weed/ABI fallout from earlier this month was July's Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational, a sour beer event that was supposed to feature some 70 breweries from across the country. Once the acquisition news was released, most of the independent craft breweries backed out, and WW announced their intent to postpone, reschedule, and "evolve" the Invitational, which is likely just code for "maybe people will care less about the acquisition in 4 months."

Well, yesterday, some members of the South Carolina craft beer community saw a sour beer-sized hole in the beer festival schedule, and jumped on the opportunity. Greenville's Birds Fly South Ale Project is partnering with Charleston's Revelry Brewing Company and Greenville-based bottle shop and beer curator The Community Tap to put on The Funk Collective, a two-day show featuring funky and sour beers.

Day One of the event will consist of "local artisan food & brews and rare bottles", while Day Two will be the main festival, which will feature funky and sour beers from over 25 breweries. Most importantly, this festival will donate all of its net proceeds to Asheville, North Carolina's Eblen-Kimmel Charities, the original benefiting group of the Funkatorium Invitational, and an unintended victim of Wicked Weed's decision. Since their pullouts from the WW event, many craft breweries have donated to Eblen-Kimmel as a show of support to a charity that should not be forced into hardship because of Wicked Weed's decision. The Funk Collective event will be another way to help that group.

Birds Fly South's Ames Webb released the following statement on the event:

This gathering of funky brewers isn’t a statement on the WW decision. All of the good in the craft community should be highlighted. We founded the Funk Collective with Revelry Brewing Co. because the funk and sour community is strong and we need to continue to come together and celebrate it.

The event will be held on July 7 and 8. Participating breweries and more information will be released later this week, and I will keep you apprised of the latest on this festival.

AB-InBev Continues to Throw Its Weight Around

I swear, I don't want to be this guy forever. But the wave's still going, so I'm riding it.

It's fair to say AB-InBev has had a mixed bag of press this past week or so. While the entire craft beer world is fairly pissed at them, the stock price seems to have spiked in reaction to the Wicked Weed acquisition. After all this, they decided their next step was to continue their bullying ways.

Paste Magazine has picked up on public comments from several independent craft brewers that among the assets ABI picked up in 2015's SAB-Miller acquisition were SAB-controlled hop farms in South Africa. South Africa is a unique and growing region for hops, and many of these hops were set to be sold to independent craft brewers, but ABI recently decided to pull them from the market and use them exclusively in their own High End brands to give them a distinct advantage.

Paste has all the breweries' comments and more, including a response from ABI, where they blame the pullback on low crop yields.

 

In non-ABI news, stay tuned tonight for a brand-new Beers in Review AND a new video review tomorrow!

Update Update: Wicked Weed Event NOT Dead, Feels Happy, Thinks It'll Go For a Walk

On Sunday, I noted the mass exodus of breweries from Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational, in response to WW's recent acquisition information. Well, WW is doing its best "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" impression, because the Invitation is not dead, but it will take a new form.

Earlier today, Wicked Weed released a statement saying the Invitational will continue in an "evolved" form that will take place in September. Roughly 55 breweries (including virtually all independent craft breweries) pulled out of the Invitational, originally scheduled for July. Is Wicked Weed hoping some time will heal wounds and bring some of the exiting breweries back into the fold? Or will Wicked Weed truly be able to "evolve" this event into something else--something that will not need the participation of non-Big Beer brewers?

Update: Could Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational Be Dying? Or Dead?

Talk about the story that just won't die.

As I documented on May 4th, a casualty of Wicked Weed's acquisition news could have been their upcoming Funkatorium Invitational this July. It appears that this event is, indeed, dying. In the day after Wednesday's acquisition news, a slow trickle of breweries announced their intentions to withdraw from the Invitational, including South Carolina's Birds Fly South Ale Project. Later that Thursday the trickle of exiting breweries turned into a river, and word is over 50 breweries have pulled out of the event. Porch Drinking has a comprehensive list of breweries that have withdrawn.

By some people's estimations, only 13 legitimate craft breweries remain committed to (or at least haven't yet pulled out of) the event. There are a handful of additional breweries still committed, all of which are owned by larger corporations, including a couple of Wicked Weed's new ABI brothers. All told, just 19 of about 70 original breweries remain a part of the event. It is worth noting that Wicked Weed reiterated its commitment to the event on Thursday, but have not commented further after the wave of retractions.

More on this story as it develops.

Commentary: No, Heineken is NOT Anheuser-Busch

Frankly, I had hoped to be well past the point of talking about acquisitions and buyouts and the like by this point in time. But the beer world had other ideas, as hot on the heels of Wednesday’s Wicked Weed news and fallout came word Thursday that Amsterdam, Netherlands-based Heineken B.V. purchased the remaining portion of California’s Lagunitas Brewing Company. Heineken now completely owns the brewery after purchasing a 50% stake in 2015. (Report courtesy Brewbound.) Of course, this immediately spurred reaction comparing this transaction with the Wicked Weed/A-B InBev acquisition news that had taken the beer world by storm the previous day. There is some fair sentiment about buying American-owned beers, if that’s what is important to a person. But it would be a blazing overreaction AND oversimplification to equally react to these two transactions.

It is important to keep in mind that Lagunitas is no novice of the craft beer world. They have spent nearly a quarter-century in the game, and are the 9th-largest brewery in the United States, according to The Brewers Association. While ABI has a couple of craft beer long-timers in their High End group, most notably original High Ender Goose Island, many of their acquisitions have been around for roughly a decade or less. Wicked Weed pushes this issue, having only been in business for about five years. In my view, the group at Lagunitas has put extreme levels of blood, sweat, and tears into their brewery, and it shows in the nationwide success of their brand. They obviously see major backing as a necessary next step for their goals, such as opening a European brewery, as mentioned in Lagunitas founder Tony Magee’s letter on the matter. After 24 years, I believe Lagunitas has earned the right to see where this next step takes them. Wicked Weed can make no such claim, having only been in the craft beer industry for a handful of years.

Additionally, unlike the Wicked Weed news, this is not an out-of-left-field partnership. As mentioned earlier, Heineken acquired the first half of Lagunitas in 2015, and instead of feared homogenization, Lagunitas has continued in their eccentric ways, releasing beers like Aunt Sally and The Waldo’s that ARE out of left field. The leaders of Lagunitas already know what to expect from their new bosses at Heineken, and vice versa, because the breweries have already been working together for nearly two years! Had there been any consternation about this partnership, it likely would have shown itself by now, and the next step of this purchase would not have happened.

Finally, quite simply, Heineken IS NOT ABI! When I look at Budweiser, I don’t really see Elysian, Goose Island, or now Wicked Weed all that much. I see the pale lager-led bullies that use their immense financial resources to turn state laws in their favor and bribe their way into more and more shelf space at your local supermarket. While I may not be a big fan of Heineken beer, it IS a major global brand, having their claws in major world entities like Formula 1 racing and UEFA Champions League football (soccer), as well as partnering with major media opportunities. But their non-Lagunitas beer portfolio consists of all international brands (Amstel, Tecate, and more) that, while adequately-represented in the United States, have not assimilated the beer industry like ABI has. That makes the Lagunitas news much easier for me to swallow.

Read the full press release on the news here.

South Carolina-based Brewery (Among Others) Pulls Out of Wicked Weed Event (UPDATED with additional commentary)

UPDATE, 9:13PM: In addition to everything below, I would also like to add the following article from the Craft Beer Joe blog. He does a nice job taking on this issue from many different sides.

One of the potentially significant casualties in this Wicked Weed acquisition by ABI is an upcoming Wicked Weed event called the Funkatorium Invitational. To be held this July, the Invitational was an opportunity for brewers from across the country to come together and celebrate one of Wicked Weed's biggest successes: the development of the sour beer.

In light of yesterday's news, outlets are reporting that at least a dozen of the 70 breweries scheduled to appear at this event have now pulled out. Despite the setbacks, which may continue in the coming days, Wicked Weed remains committed to the event, but is offering refunds to those who desire them.

Among the pullouts is the Greenville, South Carolina-based Birds Fly South Ale Project. As a South Carolina-based blogger, I was eager to hear their plans on the Invitational specifically, as well as their thoughts on the matter as a whole. I reached out yesterday, and this afternoon, BFS's Ames Webb responded to me with their public statement, which is now available on their website:

In the southeast and across the nation small breweries face significant limitations and challenges because of the economic and legislative efforts put forth by large breweries and distributors. These initiatives create an environment that stagnates innovation, collaboration, and creativity. Smaller operations constantly must find ways to work within these damaging state-level policies, and the results are a severe limitation in financial, cultural, and quality-of-product growth.
At the beginning of this Birds Fly South journey we want to take the culture lessons that have been passed down from our craft brewery friends and mentors to establish an identity our Greenville community and our BFS Flock can be proud of for years to come.
As such, Birds Fly South has decided to withdraw our scheduled participation in the upcoming Wicked Weed festival. This decision is not related to the individuals who work in the extensive Wicked Weed family, and does not come without our entire team involved. We are all trying to make the best choices for ourselves and our families. We understand this is a business decision for Wicked Weed, however we simply cannot participate with the direct lobby group that is influencing SC laws that in turn negatively impact our closest friends.
Our choice is to stand strong in unison with small independent craft breweries. To us this means focusing on what we need to do locally in support of smaller, independent brewers. The concepts and spirit of this craft beer fellowship are the foundation of who we are: an alliance of talented makers, united in our passions, ethics, and practices.

BFS makes an excellent point about ABI's actions that "negatively impact our closest friends". ABI won't only utilize their lobbying resources on state lawmakers all across this country, they use their significant financial resources to strong arm their way into more and more shelf space in grocery stores, gas stations, distributors, and more, ALL at the expense of independent craft brewers and their (in some areas) dwindling commercial footprint. I also love use of the word "fellowship" in the final paragraph.

Anyway, my personal thanks to Birds Fly South for their cooperation. I will post more on this ongoing story as needed.

More Wicked Weed fallout (UPDATED)

First off, if you are interested, here is the press release straight-up. It was included in Brewbound's article I posted earlier today, but the above presents the release without comment, editorializing, or further information.

One thing I failed to note in my video was the fact that about a week ago, Wicked Weed announced on Facebook that their brewpub would be closed today until 5pm for "staff training". No word on whether this covered the Funkatorium as well, or if this announcement was anticipated and the training was related. But it sure feels that way.

Ben Dofflemyer at the Asheville Blog makes a very good point about the likely all-along intentions of Wicked Weed's investors, and covers some of the local and state craft beer industry reaction to Wicked Weed's decision.

Ben's post notes Jester King Brewery's decision to no longer offer Wicked Weed beers at their Austin, Texas tasting room. Here is a full statement on the matter as a whole from Jester King. It's also worth noting that Jester King has pulled out of Wicked Weed's Funkatorium Invitational event, currently scheduled for July 8th. It will be interesting to see if other breweries follow suit. As a South Carolina-based blogger, I have reached out to Greenville, SC's Birds Fly South Ale Project for comment on the matter. I believe they are the only brewery on the invitation list. I will update if I get a response.

WRAL's article includes a statement from the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild.

Huntington Beach, California's Beechwood BBQ & Brewing documents the recent time when they inadvertently did an interview for The High End's (A-B InBev's "craft" beer arm) new blogging venture, The Beer Necessities, how that venture shows the duplicitous nature of ABI and other megabeer corporations.

In the interest of some balance, because I admit I've fallen pretty hard on one side of this issue right now, is an Uproxx article from last week (published in response to BrewDog's receipt of capital from Pabst Blue Ribbon's parent company) about the pros and cons of "selling out".

Finally tonight, Chris Furnari at Brewbound has much more on this deal, including comments from Wicked Weed's group and the President of A-B's High End group.

If there is more reporting later in the week, I will make additional blog posts.

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It has been a hell of a day. In over 1 1/2 years of beer blogging, it's easily been my busiest, most prolific day--and this was supposed to be a day off from work! I won't say it was fun--frankly, for me personally, the news was highly disappointing. But I loved the engagement on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day. My great thanks for all of that engagement, AND to everyone who has checked out the website and the livestream video. We should all do this again sometime. Just for a less-crappy reason.

BREAKING: Wicked Weed to be Bought by Anheuser-Busch

BREAKING NEWS--Asheville, North Carolina's exciting and innovative Wicked Weed Brewery has announced that they will be becoming a part of the High End, Anheuser-Busch's group of assimilated former craft breweries that have tried to utilize A-B InBev's massive resources to improve and increase their beer production, to mixed (at best) results. Wicked Weed has 4 production and taproom facilities in Asheville, including the Funkatorium, the East Coast's only taproom and production facility dedicated to sour beers and similar styles. Many news services are reporting on this story, including Brewbound, who has the official press release and more coverage.

I will have more details and commentary on this story later today.

Six-Pack of News, Volume 21: Bud Light Weighing Heavily on A-B InBev

It really seems like a lot of the "news" on the various beer news sites right now is nothing more than glorified or enhanced press releases for breweries' various new or returning offerings. I want to stay away from that in these news aggregation posts, as it is an easy out that can lead to ignorance of REAL beer news. Maybe beer release posts could become their own thing in the future. We'll see. Anyway, let's get to the beer news!

In one of the early Six-Packs of News, I noted Stone Brewery's efforts to build a hotel that is set to open in 2018. Well, Scottish brewers BrewDog have expanded their plans to open a brewery Columbus, Ohio to include a crowdfunding campaign to open up a beer hotel with ALL of the beer amenities. Craftbeer.com has all the awesome details, which includes IPA hot tubs and the ultimate shower beer set-up!

Also from craftbeer.com, a major newspaper printing error calls the indy cred of Maui Brewing Company in to question.

The folks at Vinepair sure like their lists, and today is no exception, as they help out the craft beer novices and neophytes of the world with the 7-Step Method to Tasting Beer.

Bryan Roth at Good Beer Hunting recently published an excellent profile on Asheville, North Carolina's Highland Brewing Company.

Intermittently in these Six-Packs, we've discussed financials from various breweries, as well from the craft beer segment of the beer industry AND the beer industry as a whole. Well, A-B InBev reported their 4th quarter and fiscal year 2016 numbers, and reported "mid-single digit" declines in Budweiser and Bud Light sales. Despite this, Budweiser as a core brand did increase global revenue by just under 3%, and other brands like Stella Artois, Michelob Ultra, and the High End beer group reported strong growth. Brewbound has all the details.

Finally, in local news, Columbia's own River Rat Brewery will be celebrating its 3rd birthday THIS SATURDAY! Congratulations, River Rat! I plan on checking out their birthday party and covering it for the website, so stay tuned this weekend and next week! (Free Times)