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EDITORIALS & LETTERS 1996 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Dec 1996/Jan 1997)

Dear Celebrator:
The recent negative advertising campaign mounted by A-B against Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company should bring dispair to every lover of craft beer. It seems distinctly mean-spirited. By smearing a leader in craft brewing, in effect, all of us are soiled. I am no great fan of Jim Koch's marketing tactics, but in some primal way, he is a brother in brewing. Attack my family and you attack me. One thing is certain — no community should tolerate a bully in their midst.

John Hickenlooper
Denver, CO.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Oct/Nov 1996)

Dear Editor:
I am disappointed and distressed to see you persist in dedicating space to the promotion of these noxious stink-sticks. Any beer buff worthy of the name knows that smoking dulls the palate — one of its milder faults — and that pubs and restaurants across the continent are trying to comply with new health regulations that aspire to promote clean air. Why adulterate the Celebrator and jeopardize its hard-won credibility with these articles? Sure, each to his own... but why don't cigar smokers start their own magazine? I suspect the editorial board must have been smoking something else when they OK'd this topic.

Phil Atkinson
Victoria, BC

Dear Phil:
The prevalence of cigar-oriented beer events is not to be denied. We are simply reporting on the activity. By the way, cigar smokers do have several magazines of their own. We hope they mention beer. If the editorial board WAS smoking something else, they weren't sharing!— Ed.

Dear Editor:
We have just finished reading your August/September 1996 issue and as usual found it both informative and entertaining.

There is one article, "Consumer Reports Looks at Beer" by Bill Ward about which we would like to comment. First off, we admit to some bias. Full Sail Amber was listed as one of the top three craft brewers and one of only three with no off-flavors. Mr. Wald makes the point, "Unfortunately, the taste test used samples that were apparently purchased indiscriminately at retail." He goes on to say that this protocol "does not serve the public interest" and can hurt the industry.

It is not unfortunate that the samples were purchased indiscriminately. That is really the point. We brew beer for our customers, not for a tasting event. It is how our customer gets the beer that matters. Everything that we do at our brewery: our quality control program, our extended aging on all our beers, distributor management with tight code policies, legible code dating and limited geographic distribution are all part of our commitment that the customer gets the best beer possible at all times.

We have received numerous awards in our nine year history. We can assure you that there is none that we are as proud of as this "indiscriminate tasting" that shows we are doing a good job of getting the best beer possible out to our customer — the most important and discriminating judge we know.

Irene M. Firmat
James L. Emmerson
Full Sail Brewery
Hood River, OR.

August/September 1996
Support Your Local Micro Retailer

 

Safeway has instituted a program based on a certain amount of sales per week to maintain inclusion in its "set." Consequently, only the most popular and heavily advertised brands will maintain a position with the chain. Unique "niche" brewers are simply being left out — including classics like Chimay! Even local breweries are claiming exclusion from their local chain stores if they are not within a limited geographical distance of the store.

This seems an odd response to an industry that has shown tremendous growth in both consumer interest and dollar volume. Lucky Stores, under the enlightened guidance of chain buyer Don Brown, have given local beverage managers more flexibility in buying to reflect local demand. In the Pacific Northwest, Fred Meyers Stores have seemingly miles of shelf space dedicated to micro beers. Portland's Burlingame Grocery has a mind-boggling collection of beer. The Liquor Mart in Boulder, CO, has a huge refrigerated walk-in to keep all the beers displayed cold.

Steve Boone, who learned his trade with Safeway, the late Liquor Barn, and Cost Plus, has applied his considerable marketing skills to his start up Beverages, & More! which now has eight stores in California. Its beer set (and superb cigar selection) is pre-eminent in its region.

Local liquor stores with enlightened management are beginning to develop micro selections to reflect local clientele. You will occasionally pay a little more with the "little guy," but by developing a personal relationship with your neighborhood retailer, you can be assured of having the products you're most interested in buying. You will also know when fresh products arrive and usually be able to special order items that others might never carry.

Safeway is a business and its mission is to maximize profits. You, the consumer, will ultimately determine who is doing the job by voting with your dollars. Support your local retailer!

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Aug/Sep 1996)

Dear Editor:
Attached a small comment correcting a small error in the June/July issue of Celebrator. It is not true that in Britain breweries own the vast majority of outlets for their beers. This was the case 50 years ago, but over the years, brewers have generally shed pubs to individuals or to non-brewing groups — most recently following pressure from the anti-trust authorities.

Brewers do dominate distribution and there are relatively few powerful independent distributors. And we would be the last to deny the market power of the largest companies. But all brewery-owned pubs together only amount to 24% of beer sales. Even if you add together brewer-owned pubs and those owned by non-brewing pub chains, they are still responsible for 45% of beer sales in bars. It's a weird set-up, but not totally without its advantages.

Yours sincerely,
Steve Cox
CAMRA Campaigns Manager
St. Albans, Herts., England

Dear Steve:
Thanks for setting us straight. Our "big guys" dominate distribution also which is becoming a real problem for the continued growth of the "craft beer" segment. — Ed.

Dear Beer Dudes:
I think one of us messed up. Either I lost the subscription slip or you never sent it, but I'm pretty sure it's about time to renew. So rather than take a chance of missing the next issue (I just received the latest), I'm taking the bull by the horns and enclosing my check for $14.95 for one more flavor and action-packed year of the United States' best beer publication.

Cheers,
David Pearson
Carle Place, NY

Dear David:
Wow! Thanks for the endorsement. You'll find it a bit easier to read the paper if you let go of the bull. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I just wanted to inform you of a mistake in Bill Abernathy's column, Oregon Trail, in regard to Nor'Wester's new 2-barrel research brewery at Oregon State University. And that is just it... Corvallis, OR., is the home of the Beavers and Oregon State University, NOT University of Oregon like mentioned in the Oregon Trail column. I am the quality control/quality assurance manager and brewing chemist of Nor'Wester AND a graduate of the Food Science and Technology department of Oregon State University, so I view this as a serious faux pas. So please let all of your readers know of this mistake and please correct it.

P.S. I take it Mr. Abernathy has not lived in Oregon long.

Micah Nasarow
Nor'Wester Brewing

Dear Micah:
Thanks for giving Mr. Abernathy a good slap. He needs it! What do you expect from a graduate of Reed? By the way, you misspelled "fox pass." — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Would it be possible to obtain a larger and better quality copy of the photo on page 41 of the June/July issue of Celebrator Beer News? Bob Hettmansberger, the assistant brewer at Heartland in NYC, shown in the picture, is a former student/employee of the Applied Research Lab at Penn State. We're interested in the careers of our former students.

P.S. During a recent trip to Seattle, I had the pleasure of experiencing Hale's Ales Special Bitter, which uses a nitrogen charged tap. It was truly excellent, similar to the authentic, hand-pumped British pub product.

Jon Eaton
Penn State University

Dear Jon:
Your photo has been sent. Glad we could help and that you feel one of your graduates becoming a brewer is a good thing! — Ed.

Dear Celebrator:
Sign me up. I run four to five marathons in California plus Boston every year, so after a fun 26.2 miles I desperately need to replenish vital bodily fluids with good beer and ale. Since you guys are the authorities on beer, I always check your magazine for the best places for post-race R&R. The San Francisco Marathon is coming up soon, so please send your current issue as soon as possible. I don't want to be left dying of thirst after all those hills.

Steve Marques
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Steve:
With all that running, would you consider taking an arm-load of Celebrators for distribution? — Ed.

June/July 2007
This Bud (Distributor) is NOT For You

 
Few craft beer lovers give much thought as to how the beer actually gets from the brewery to the retail shops where they go to purchase their favorite brews. Beer distributors are the middle "tier" in the sacred "three-tier system" that prevents breweries from controlling either distribution or retail. Federal law maintains that you can either produce, distribute or retail beer. In England the major breweries control p roduction and distribution AND own a vast majority of the pubs that sell the products. "Free houses" are the few independent pubs that can choose which beers they want to serve. The rest are "tied houses" that serve only the products from the breweries that own them.

Our system prohibits "tied houses" and encourages a free marketplace for distribution and retailing. Anheuser-Busch has developed a network of Budweiser distributors that are among the best in the industry. By bestowing virtual "fiefdoms" on worthy friends and employees in the form of distributorships, A-B assures the lucky recipient of a vastly lucrative business in exchange for brand loyalty.

In recent years, Bud distributors have been including the new and increasingly popular micro, or "craft," beers in their product portfolios to augment the mainstream Bud products that remain their stock-in-trade. Craft beers have become, more and more, a significant part of their profit center, considering the gross margins provided by the exotic (and mo re expensive) brews.

Then Augie Busch III took a vacation in Hawaii. After a visit to a local Bud house, they had to scrape old Augie off the ceiling when he saw how much non-Bud beer was being warehoused there. The word has gone out to Bud distributors e verywhere: There will be zero tolerance for "craft" beers not owned by A-B. This has already cost some major craft brewers (e.g., Sierra Nevada, Pyramid and Full Sail) distribution in certain major markets.

Future distribution choices look bleak at best. Miller and Coors warehouses provide good coverage but may have priorities similar to A-B's. Wine distributors offer good coverage but have extensive "books" of non-beer products and usually require significant support (money) from the breweries to promote their beers. Independent, or "micro," distributors can be enthusiastic about the craft category but often lack capital and/or cold storage for the more fragile craft beer.

To add insult to injury, the Oregon Brewers Guild was in lock-step with Anheuser-Busch and Redhook in its appeal to the BATF for new labeling rules that would require contract brewers to divulge the brewery and location where their beers are made. (That was the rule several years ago until A-B petitioned for the current non-disclosure.)

It is becoming obvious that "craft brewers" (the all-malt "real beer" dudes) have more in common with each other than with the "800-pound gorilla" that pretty much does what it wants for its own benefit. A-B has in effect said to its distributors, "You want craft beer? We'll make our own or buy them for you." With retail stores cutting back on micro sets and distributors dropping labels on orders from St. Louis, the formerly rosy future of the rapidly growing craft beer industry is starting to look grim.

Ours has always been an industry built on the demand for quality brewing by an educated and enthusiastic consumer. We must continue to do our part to demand quality and variety from the craft beer industry. The supply side will hopefully persevere in meeting our demand.

The moral: When you get in bed with an 800-pound gorilla, be careful he don't roll over.

April/May 1996
NBWA vs. BOMs vs. ATF vs. U & Me

 

The National Beer Wholesalers Association's legislative priorities for 1996 include the elimination of beer-of-the-month clubs in the U.S. The reason? They say only 14 s tates consider the practice legal, most state governments never collect excise or sales tax on the transactions, the "three-tier system" is violated, and there are no safeguards to keep shipments from underage consumers. Poppycock!

Not only do 14 states have reciprocity agreements making the process very legal; most other states can't be bothered with the tiny trade in what amounts to "promotional samples" to introduce people to microbrewed beer. A few states (like Texas, Virginia, Kentucky and Florida) have chosen to take a hard line on the interstate shipment of beer and wine through "clubs." Kentucky is proposing to make the shipper subject to a felony with up to five years in jail and a fine of $20,000! Naturally, since the Kentucky legislators don't want to offend their constituents, it' s only a crime to ship it, not to order it or receive it!

Just whose ox is being gored here? These laws are clearly anti-consumer and pro-big brewer and beer wholesaler. With the possible exception of Beer Across America, the "Budweiser" of beer clubs, which often ships contract-brewed "virtual reality" microbrews, the amount of beer shipped point-to-point is minuscule compared to the millions of gallons handled by the beer wholesalers annually. Excise taxes are paid by the producer, and sales taxes are to be collected as per normal interstate transactions. And the idea that underage thrill-seekers would pay beer-of-the-month-club prices for two six-packs of microbrews that get delivered weeks later is ludicrous.

Our friends at the NBWA have a great amount of real work to do this legislative session, confronting potential federal excise tax increases, dealing with attempts at "equalization" and many other noble issues in the industry's and consumer's interest. Putting beer-of-the-month clubs out of business will add little to the wholesaler's coffers and be a tremendous disservice to beer lovers everywhere.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Apr/May 1996)

Dear Tom:
What a terrific format! As always, the Celebrator is way ahead of the pack. Congratulations to you and all at the Celebrator for such an awesome publication. And, Happy Eighth!

A Celebrator fan forever,
Marcia Schirmer, Director
Great American Beer Festival
Boulder, CO

Dear Marcia:
OK, OK, you got the job, sheez! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I guess I have to admit that this past weekend I finally had an opportunity to get through my stacks of important beer-related reading materials, and I'm writing to congratulate you on the "new" ten-year-old Celebrator Beer News. You know that your publication has been getting better and better with each issue, and now the new format makes it even easier to read. There is so much great new information to absorb, and with the new format I can sneak it into boring meetings with the bankers and read every word. Keep up the great work!!

Best regards,
Tom Leavitt, President
Merchant du Vin
Seattle, WA

Dear Tom:
Isn't "boring meetings with the bankers" redundant? — Ed.

Dear Mr. D:
Not to belabor a point, but one thing has come of your error in placing the Alcatraz Brewing Co. erroneously in Ohio. We have found out, from all corners, how well your rag is distributed and read.

Cheers!

Michael Merriman, Corporate Beverage Manager
California Cafe Restaurants & Alcatraz Brewing Co.
Corte Madera, CA

Dear Mr. M:
What's black and white and read all over? A convict escaping from Alcatraz with a Celebrator in his hand. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Congratulations on the eighth anniversary of Celebrator Beer News. (Where does the time go?) I was especially delighted to see an article by the one and only Bret Nickels, the first person around to link beer and news together in a timely, well-written periodical. Bret' s efforts were instrumental in tying the California beer geeks (sorry, enthusiasts) into a community and raising everyone' s consciousness about the product we all love. I hope to see more from Bret in future issues. Best wishes for many more years of beer news and views.

Jerry Burke
Castro Valley, CA

Dear Jerry:
Bret is just finishing up a Master's program in Canada, and we hope to get more regular contributions from him when he's not having a stroke. — Ed.

Dear Tom:
I recently tucked a copy of your latest issue under my arm and traipsed around the Pacific Northwest for a holiday beer cruise. What good fortune to find myself in Eugene, OR, with a copy of James Shea' s article on the Eugene Scene. With the article and your Hop Spots page, I managed to visit all the brewpubs and a few good bars. I also found a new bar that deserves mention in the Celebrator. Sam Bond' s Garage, Pub & Cafe serves only craft beers (Mad River, Grant's, Anchor, Deschutes, Widmer, etc.) and other drinks to its patrons while they enjoy live music and entertainment as well as food.

Salud,
Bill Metzger
Southwest Brewing News
Great Lakes Brewing News

Dear Bill:
Thanks for the tip on Sam Bond's Garage. Since you're only editing and publishing TWO brewspapers, you might as well start contributing to this one as well! — Ed.

Dear Celebrator:
Many thanks for the February/March issue. And a most hearty congratulations on your 8th anniversary. I very much like the "new look." The West Virginia Brewing Company brewpub has been an outstanding addition to these thirsty hills. Their various ales, and a phine Pilsener to boot, rival many of the Bay Area's best brews sampled during my doctoral days at Berkeley.

Cheers!
Stephan Weiler
Assistant Professor
West Virginia University

Dear Stephan:
Thanks for the good words and the tip on WVBC. What kind of beers do they have? Appalachian Spring Bock? Dueling Banjos Pale? Coal Miner's Daughter Dark? — Ed.

Dear Tom:
CONGRATS on your 8th Anniversary issue. Looks good, reads better. Looking forward to at least 8 more years of the Celebrator!!

Cheers,
Terry Solomon
Ale & Lager Examiner
White Plains, NY

Dear Terry:
So we gotta do this for eight more years? — Ed.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Feb/Mar 1996)

Dear Mr. Dalldorf:
In your August/September edition of the Celebrator, you mentioned in the "Spent Grains" section that Full Sail recently came out with a new concept of using a seasonal six-pack. We just wanted to point out that Otter Creek has been using this technique of one six-pack with different seasonals since the summer of 1993. It has been great for us, and we wish Full Sail the best.

P.S. Keep up the good work. I love the Celebrator.

Thanks again,
Andy Morse

Dear Andy:
We hope we didn't imply that Full Sail invented the concept -- only that they are popularizing it on the West Coast. By the way, we have enjoyed other innovations from your brewery over the years, most especially your "smoked" brews. You really Otter brew more! I suppose it would be too much to hope for you to make an Otter Creek Kriek? — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Please see my check and address as attached for a two-year subscription to the Celebrator Beer News. I' m an engineer for Boeing, a novice homebrewer and a micro (or pico) beer enthusiast. I need to get involved on the next level... whatever that might be...? Maybe reading your publication will help...

Jon Courtright
Seattle, WA

Dear Jon:
(Yeow! My first "Dear Jon" letter!) We're not quite sure what the "next level" might be either. But as a Celebratorsubscriber, you'll be among the first to know. (Or, if you find out, be sure to let us know!) — Ed.

Dear Celebrator Folks:
Hi. I am looking forward to reading the next issue of your phine phrothy publication. Many thanks for your interesting brewspaper, which at least keeps some of the Western spirit in this displaced Bay Area native.

Cheers!
Stephan Weiler
Assistant Professor
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV

Dear Stephan:
Glad the Celebrator could "phind" its way to Morgantown. Keep that "Western spirit" intact, and if you can't find any good local brew, brew some of your own! — Ed.

 

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