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EDITORIALS & LETTERS 1997 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
December 1997/January 1998
That Was The Beer Year That Was

 
Chicken Little would have felt at home. Business analysts analyzed, observers observed, pundits punded and the bearded bards of economic prophecy prophecized. The sky, they proclaimed, was indeed falling. It was the end of the beer world as we knew it. The 50 percent per year growth rate of the microbrewing industry had slowed to a "mere" 27 percent growth rate and the much feared and oft-predicted "shake out" was at hand. Clearly the good times were past as we entered an era of darkness to the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And yet, a solid industry with a devoted if somewhat irascible consumer base continues to demand quality beverages and a warm comfortable environment in which to enjoy them. Beers of flavor, color and character have become commonplace, are enjoyed routinely and have become part of a quality lifestyle rather than an object of curious affectation and pernicious fashion.

The era of fanatic "beer geeks" seeking out anything new and exotic has evolved into a fairly stable market for beer lovers with highly developed purchasing patterns. The most successful brewers are focusing on core brands and shorter, more predictable (and profitable) distribution channels. Our craft beer segment continues to grow albeit at a slower rate.
Institute for Brewing Studies statistics indicate that new microbrewery openings for 1997 will probably be half that of 1996. They also project some 35 percent fewer brewpub openings this year compared with last year. Additionally, microbrewery and brewpub closings are expected to be at a much greater rate than ever before.

As used brewing equipment becomes more available, equipment manufacturers are finding a majority of new business in countries beyond the U.S. with a phenomenal growth rate for start-ups in Asia and South America.

This also was the year in which Anheuser-Busch, the "Microsoft" of the brewing industry, flexed its marketing muscle for market share, exerting enormous pressure on distributors to toe the line — the "Bud" line. And, like Microsoft, it has become subject to a Department of Justice probe into potential antitrust activities.

Consumers vote with their wallets and beer lovers have the ultimate clout by their insistence on supporting brewers of quality and integrity. It's a new brew world after all, and for those of us who appreciated finely crafted ales and lagers, we simply won't go back to bland homogeneous industrial brew. Gallo, the "Budweiser" of the wine world, figured out a long time ago that it is no longer a "Hearty Burgundy" world.

Our beer world has also changed dramatically and the breweries that are most successful will understand and cater to the growing cadre of "good beer" enthusiasts. Two pints a day, for you and everyone you know, that's all we ask.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Dec 1997/Jan 1998)

Dear Editor:
The Elliot Glacier Public House, located in beautiful downtown Parkdale, Oregon, is now open. The owner is Sinclair Kinsey, who, along with friend and head chef Bill Woodburn, has restored the historic Valley theater into a fine community gathering place.

Nestled in the picturesque upper Hood River Valley, Elliot Glacier Public House features a congenial atmosphere for outdoor enthusiasts, families and tourists alike. The beer menu features predominantly micro's from Oregon as well as locally produced wines. The brewery is located at 4945 Baseline Road in Parkdale, Oregon. It is probably a good idea to call ahead to check on hours they are open at: 541-352-1022.

Peter Gothro
Santa Cruz, CA

Dear Peter:
Sounds like a cool new place to go in Oregon — a state with a multitude of cool places to go. Thanks for the tip. — Ed.

Greetings and felicitations, Mr. Dalldorf:
So good to hear that one of my favourite beer publications (even if I do have to drive all the way to the left coast... most of the time... to find a copy on the store shelves) is going to nod in Hank Stewart's direction given his award at the GABF. I shall wait with bated breath to see the article when it comes my way.

I do hope that all is well with you, yours, and Team Celebrator as we pass through the lovely autumn months and head into winter. Keep in touch (insofar as your time and energies permit).

Peace & Joy!
Father Mack
New York, NY

Dear Father Mack:
We are quite proud of Hank on his award from Guild of Beer Writers for his article on you! You offer "heavenly inspiration." — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I'm working on a piece about growler sales in brewpubs. Someone told me to talk to that "Place in Portland... it's inside a big entertainment and recreation complex." You know bowling, arcades, etc. Does that ring any bells? My tipster could not remember the name of the pub. Also, have you ever heard a reliable etymology of the word "growler" used in this context?

Sal Emma
Palermo, NJ

Dear Sal:
Nothing rings any bells (see letter above). Can't imagine a "recreation complex" in Portland unless you're talking about Edgefield Manor. A "growler" used to be a bucket that the wife or kid would use to fetch a pail of beer for the old man (back when that was politically correct). Check out Hank Williams "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It." Like Will Rogers, I never met an etymologist I didn't like.— Ed.

October/November 1997
Nor'Wester Goes Down Ugly

 
It is unfortunate that the multi-layered investor-driven mega-micros of Jim Bernau's Nor'Wester group were unable to sustain some semblance of potential profitability during the lengthy legal contortions necessary to bring United Craft Breweries to fruition. It is even more unfortunate that Mr. Bernau's defunct organizations chose to further soil the image of the microbrewing industry in its horrendous collapse.

In a company press release on the collapse of Bernau's deal with Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, the statement "Nor'Wester, a part of the troubled microbrewing industry, has seen its financial performance decline" is true enough, but the "troubled microbrewing industry" remains a small part of a very large and growing segment. It was Mr. Bernau's group that seems to have been a large part of the "troubled microbrewing industry!" The forces of "natural selection" are at work. Those truly focused on beer, and less on creating floating paper fantasies with other people's money, seem better able to prevail.

Legislative Fall-Out Following Princess Diana's Death

During the long weeks since the death of the Princess of Wales, lots of information has been released concerning the apparent extremely-high blood alcohol level (BAL) of the driver of the car, Henri Paul. While information has gradually come to light that Paul may not have been the heavy drinker as first described and that Ritz Hotel video footage does not show Paul displaying any indications of obvious inebriation, there is still a mystery of how to account for the discrepancy between his alleged modest drinking habits, his demeanor that night, and the French authority's high BAC reports.

Proponents of moderate alcohol consumption have been frustrated by attempts of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NJ) to use the tragic accident to justify proposing legislation lowering drunk-driving arrest threshold standards to .08-percent BAC. According to a September 4 PRNewswire from the American Beverage Institute, U.S. Department of Transportation research has shown that nearly two-thirds of alcohol-related fatalities involve BAC of .14 percent or higher. According to the proposed new BAC standard, it would be illegal for a 120-pound woman to drive after drinking two six-ounce glasses of wine over a two hour period.

France has some of the harshest anti- "drink driving" laws in the world, criminalizing driving with only .05-percent BAC! Stricter laws and penalties appear to have nothing to do with preventing such tragedies. Such a tragedy, however, seems fair game and most useful to legislators whose motives seem more anti-alcohol than anti-drunk driving.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Oct/Nov 1997)

Dear Mr. Dalldorf:
I am a Hayward City Council member who also happens to be a homebrewer, and I just wanted to say how pleased I am that you are publishing Celebrator Beer News in Hayward. On those occasions when I go or my wife goes into the Brewmaster supply shop in San Leandro, we usually pick up a copy of your publication. It is excellent, and a credit to our fair city and beer-loving populace. Keep up the good work.

Cheers,
Ron Hulteen
Hayward, CA.

Dear Ron:
Wow! A homie homebrewer! I should add you to my paper route and deliver Celebrator to you direct! I promise to get it on the porch every time!!! — Ed.

Dear Celebrator Beer News:
I reported statistics from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in my publication — ALE BrewsGram — recently, that caused some unexpected reactions and opinions from my readers and a pointed editorial in the last issue of the Celebrator.

The subject is a serious one — operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. According to the CHP, there were 1,254 deaths and 35,654 people injured in motor vehicle accidents attributed to alcohol in the state of California during 1996. I ran the statistics under the headline "36,908 More Reasons To Think When You Drink." Many of my readers (and of the Celebrator's) quickly pointed out that neo-prohibitionist pencil pushers attribute "alcohol related" motor vehicle accidents to crashes where neither driver was under the influence of alcohol, but a passenger had alcohol in his or her bloodstream.

I can see the point, and I agree with it. Statistics can be twisted and misused. So let's do this. We'll chop off, say, half of those dead people and, oh, what the hay, let's get rid of 15,000 of those pesky "injuries" too, probably just bruises on a passenger with one beer in his or her system anyway, right? Now that ought to tidy up those neo-prohibitionist numbers! Let's see, that only leaves 627 wives, grandfathers, children, sisters, husbands, grandmothers, brothers, cousins and best friends dead at the hands of "real" drunk drivers. The really good news is, with these "real" numbers, only 20,654 people were maimed, paralyzed or just received a stitch or a broken bone.

Aren't these numbers just as horrific, though? Don't they make the hair on the back of your head stand up? If not, why not? Why are people arguing over numbers instead of arguing over who is going to be the designated driver?

Sincerely,
Terry Soloman, Publisher
Ale & Lager Examiner
ALE BrewsGram

Dear Terry:
No one is arguing over numbers — just the method by which the very real problem of drunk driving is presented. One death by a drunk driver is one too many! The problem is the motives of interests who promulgate erroneous statistics "padded" with data like "alcohol-related." Their goal is to eliminate drunk driving by promoting hysteria through anti-alcohol statements like the above and through "zero tolerance" for any alcohol. We choose not to reprint such deceptive data and encourage other responsible publications to do the same. We highly endorse the designated driver concept and oppose efforts to combat "drunk" driving by penalizing and criminalizing moderate drinkers. France's harsh anti-"drink driving" laws did nothing to prevent Princess Diana's tragic death. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I saw a Coors commercial on TV recently. I was in a bar and the sound was turned off. Knowing the supposed rules for invoking the name of the GABF and use of the medal in advertising (year of award, medal {gold, silver or bronze}, and style category), I watched the commercial carefully and looked for these important criteria. I did not see them. The commercial clearly made it appear as if Coors won THE medal and thus was THE winner of the GABF. Is anyone else bothered by this??

I am not attempting to discuss whether or not Coors deserves a medal in a particular category (that is for the judges to decide) or whether such a category should exist (that is another discussion). I am very distressed that this level of advertising is permitted to take place. The name of GABF is being diluted if there is ANY advertising in which it is not PAINFULLY clear that there are many medals, categories and years for awards. Most people do not study broadcast or print media to see these details. Any normal viewer of the commercial would have no choice but to come to the conclusion that Coors WON the GABF. As it turns out, the commercial does comply with the GABF rules when the sound is turned on.

The GABF has been a tremendous source of education, awareness, P/R and recognition of quality brewing for both the public and the brewing community. I highly laud the accomplishments of the GABF in moving the causes of great beer forward.

Yet, I can remember a Red Dog billboard alongside the freeway that showed the GABF medal with the bottle and the words "The Winner" in huge print. The required info of category and year were written so small that the freeway passer-by had NO hope of ever being able to read it. I have no particular beef with Coors or Miller brands, just with those particular ads.

My suggestion is this: Take another look at the advertising requirements for the GABF and decide whether or not the name should be allowed to be used when it is in a format that allows for the possibility of consumer confusion, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. That is, should a commercial be allowed that when viewed with the sound off, the full message is not clear? Should a billboard be allowed that, when a driver passes by at a normal speed, the full message cannot be read? Close the loopholes, or the GABF and all past, present and future medal winners will (and probably to some extent already have) find that the significance of the award is sharply diminished and diluted.

Nevertheless, I happen to be looking very forward to attending the GABF this year as a participant. If our brewery wins a medal, I will be proud.

Greg "No Relation" Koch,
President & Co-Founder
Stone Brewing Co.
San Marcos, CA

Dear Greg "No Relation":
Excellent point and good solution! I'm sure the GABF folx never thought that their awards would be the focus in national TV advertising. Now that they are, it presents something of a paradox: The craft-brewing world derives increased awareness in the popular media for the GABF and its judgings but certain breweries are perceived as being the only victors in a national competition. Your suggestion for reform should leave us the former while ameliorating the latter. BTW, how many "Kochs" does it take to spoil a broth? — Ed.

August/September 1997
Guinness Merger Being Attacked

 
Guinness Plc and Grand Metropolitan recently announced plans to merge, creating one of the largest beverage groups in the world. Louis Vuitton/Moet Hennessy (LVMH) Chair Bernard Arnault, a Guinness shareholder, is reputed to be buying up Guinness stock and GrandMet stock so as to finally be part of this conglomerate.

As a consequence of Arnault's actions, the European Commission announced that it had begun a full anti-trust probe into the proposed merger, stating its concern about the impact of the merger on the spirits sector. (The combined share of the merged companies would be over 40 percent in some European countries, and there would be overlaps in the gin and vodka markets.) (BeerWeek, June 2, 1997) BeerWeek contacted Michael Jackson to ask his opinion of the matter. He faxed us this reply:

OPINION: by Michael Jackson

Does a luggage-and-drinks company make more sense than a drinks-and-food company? Aren't conglomerates a discredited idea from the 1960's? If I hear the word "synergy" once more, I shall strangle the spokesman before his corporation murders its own products.

As to Guinness, despite some dumbing down of its most famous product, executives there are still proud that it is by far the world's biggest-selling specialty beer, and they are still doing a great job with it in international markets. They have also done a wonderful job of releasing single-malts that were not available under the distilleries' previous ownership, and have enjoyed astonishing success with Lagavulin, one of the most characterful drinks in the world. It is a company that really understands its products.

GrandMet's antecedence includes Watney's Red Barrel, a product so bogus that it destroyed a brewery and provoked the beer revolution. The company has not really established any of its malts. It is really most at home with Smirnoff — i.e., heavily-marketed neutral alcohol.

If a product-oriented company is reversed into a marketing-oriented company, will that mean synergy or destruction?

(Michael Jackson, renowned as the "Beer Hunter," is a beer and spirits writer and historian living in London, England)

June/July 1997
It's a Beer World Afterall

 
A recent blurb in Newsweek about Twentysomethings in a trendy New York bar ordering Schaefer Lager because "they've never had beer in a can" is both distressing and predictable (and, in some small measure, may have contributed to Zip City's demise — see Shyer interview on page 44 of this issue). Some of us who were seeking out and enjoying "craft" beer before there was such a term are aghast at such a "de-evolution" of the beer culture. Fritz Maytag's passionate rescue of the Anchor Brewing Co. in '65 and Jack MacAllufe's pioneering work in the mid-1970s, established the groundwork for an explosion of small-batch, all-malt brewing that has resulted in the multi-billion-dollar craft-beer industry of today.

Full-flavored characterful beer is now easy to find (if not ubiquitous) and has become big business. With so many entrepreneurs jumping into the micro marketing mash tun, it's little wonder that some will falter, possibly drown and be cast out with the trub (Rhino Chasers a most recent example).

In the interest of marketplace survival, some craft brewers have sought "alliances" with the biggies (e.g. Redhook and A-B). Some biggies have created their own stealth micros (e.g. Miller and Red Dog) or contract brews (e.g. Coors and Blue Moon).

The short-lived era of brewing IPO's quickly demonstrated to Wall Street that beer is a poor investment. The need to expand production has caused a few venerable brands to experience financial crisis — creating opportunities for better financed and more shrewdly managed companies to acquire well- known and respected brands (e.g. UB Group and Mendocino Brewing Co.).

What does all this mean for the quality of the beer? Will the "bean counters" influence the brewers? The answer, as always, will be in the bottle. Our industry grew by some 27 percent in 1996 (according to Institute for Brewing Studies' stats), a healthy growth rate for most industries — but half the growth of the previous four years. Real beer is here to stay. Its quality and availability (supply) will be determined by your standards and willingness to pay for quality (demand).

You, as an informed and knowledgeable consumer, will ultimately determine who will succeed and who will be left for the shelves of the collectors of breweriana. Remember, two pints a day, that's all we ask. Pass it on.

April/May 1997
Real Beer Drinkers Wanted: Two Pints a Day is All We Ask

 
The craft beer industry is at a crossroads. In less than 15 years we have gone from virtually no "craft beer" to today's staggering array of brands and styles, with even more on the way. The opportunities for the craft beer drinker to find great beer at great prices has never been better. The proliferation of product, however, has resulted in something of a price war among producers eager to make sales in a crowded marketplace with a finite consumer base. Discounts and distress pricing by cash-strapped brewers has become more frequent, causing a slowdown in sales for more established and solid brands, causing them to look for new customers as well.

Our craft beer segment of the huge American beer market has grown rapidly in the last five years, but current data indicate a slowdown that the industry didn't predict and simply isn't ready for. Production schedules are based on predicted sales, which have gone flatter than yesterday's Bud. New producers and expanding industry veterans (see "Micros Go Macro" in this issue) promise even more great beer in the pipeline by summer. Obviously, we have a problem.

You, as a Celebrator Beer News reader, have an important, dare we say vital, role in all of this. You are the "beer intelligensia" — the craft beer cognoscenti, if you will. You actually READ about beer. You think about beer. You make it a point to learn about its origins, characteristics and qualities. You are the one your friends turn to when they want to know more about beer or need a recommendation. You influence the beer opinions of many others. By encouraging your friends to make craft beer a part of their lifestyle, you are helping to "grow the category," which will in turn assure more and better variety of that which we love so much — fresh craft beer.

The mass-market national brands want you back. You represent an attractive target, both for their "traditional" light lagers, and for their ever-increasing production of "specialty" brews designed for the only segment of the beer market that is still showing some growth — the craft beer market.

Their frustration can be seen in their response to the craft beer "renaissance." Budweiser's attack on Sam Adams is a sad example. Ad Age magazine called Miller's new ads "an attack on microbrews." Their tag line "It's Time For A Good Old MACRO-BREW," is, in reality, an admission that their product is "low-brow" and blue-collar. Another ad serves to further "dumb down" the image of beer. This tag line in print and on television says, "It's Time For Beer To Stop Acting Like Wine." Is it? Remember, wine wasn't always "fighting varietals," exotic appellations and Wine Spectator recommendations. Indeed, there was a time when the vast majority of wine sold in this country was simple "jug wine" brought to you by Messrs. Ernest and Julio. Think of yesterday's Gallo as the Anheuser-Busch of today. The wine scene has changed (for the better) and so will the beer scene.

It is perhaps time for "Big Guy" brewers to understand that beer can be more than light fizzy sparkling rice and corn water. Maybe it's time Miller (and the other "Big Guys") stopped acting like Homer Simpson. "Mmmmmm..... Beeeeer!" Maybe years from now we'll hear Homer say, "Mmmmicro.... Beeeeer!"

When that day comes it will be because you got involved and made a difference. Just two pints a day, that's all we ask. Pass it on.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Apr/May 1997)

Dear Editor:
I enjoyed your Dec/Jan 1996 editorial. What it boils down to, I think, is that in a $50 billion/year industry many people will try ANYTHING to make the extra buck. I agree with your assessment of legally defining a microbrewery, though. The microbrewed beer lover's best defense, of course, is the offense of walking/driving to the closest brewpub and drinking beers drawn from a keg you KNOW was filled with recently made microcrafted beer.

Jay Maurer
Saratoga, CA

Dear Jay:
You got it, partner. More beer enthusiasts like you, and we got ourselves an industry! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I was heartened by your editorial on the recent Dateline piece on craft brews. They are making a mistake by attacking brewers like Samuel Adams. People who buy Sam Adams, like me, are willing to pay a little extra money for a better beer. Bud greatly insults the intelligence of beer drinkers by insinuating that we are fooled by the labels. I've known for years that Sam Adams is contract-brewed, and the consistent quality of their product has kept me coming back for more. What matters are the ingredients, the recipe, and the time and effort involved in the process.

Ken Klemm
Santa Monica, CA

Dear Ken:
Have you ever thought of doing public relations for Sam Adams? — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I love your publication. This is my first time at your site, only my second time on the web, but I collect every issue I can get from you guys. Napa Valley Brewery (in Calistoga) is where I got my last issue. Much props to them for an outstanding dinner, continental breakfast, a great room with a view, and a most hearty barleywine that is by far one of the best this season. It is from your publication that I got their name and location. All the ads and all the up-to-date stories on new things happening make your publication vital to the people who want to try new breweries but don't know where to start looking for them. I now know where to look if I want to try something new — the Celebrator Beer News.

Pete Farrimond
Sacramento, CA

Dear Pete:
Have you ever considered doing public relations for the Celebrator? BTW, what's "props?" — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I've decided to stop walking away with your great publication from the local brewpub and become a paying subscriber. Keep up the good work.

David Ross
Vancouver, WA

Dear David:
So, YOU'RE the one that's been walking away with all the Celebrators! Glad we finally got you in our family of subscribers. Pass it on! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Regarding the Toronado's 4th Annual Belgian Beer Festival: It mentions that the Chimay Red was paired with aged 1990 Chimay Red and that half of the 1990 version was spoiled and the other half was not aged well. The only Chimay that is recommended to be aged is the Chimay Blue (Grande Reserve). Chimay Blue is not sold until it is mature enough to serve, but it will continue to mellow in the bottle and can be stored for several years. It is recommended to be stored in an upright position, away from light, at a natural temperature — not in the refrigerator. Hopefully at the 5th Annual Belgian Beer Festival, patrons of the Toronado can enjoy aged Chimay Blue.

Gina Beck
Manneken-Brussel Imports, Inc.
Austin, TX

Dear Gina:
Thanks for setting the record straight for bottle-aging Chimay products. Here at the Celebrator we don't seem to be able to keep them around that long. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I just got married, and we had a unique wedding. We had a contest with a 5-gallon entry ante. The entire wedding was done in Safari Theme. We even gave away home-brewed "Matrimonial Magma" hot sauce as gifts for the guests. Would you be interested in a "how-to" piece on beer-tasting weddings?

Paul Anderson
Campbell, CA

Dear Paul:
Ah, no. But we sure would like an invite to the next one! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I found your Fritz Maytag interview to be a true inspiration. As I am currently building a 1.3-barrel system, I found Fritz's views on quality, ethics and vision right in line with my own. Coincidentally, a week after your February issue appeared in Chico, the local newspaper published an exposè on Anheuser-Busch's cheap attempt to copy Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale with their Pacific Ridge, produced at their "small Fairfield Brewhouse." Anheuser-Busch, you should be ashamed of your greediness and deception. Real beer — love it or lose it!

Effervescently yours,
Jim Irick
Chico, CA

Dear Jim:
Have you ever thought of doing public relations for Sierra Nevada? — Ed.

February/March 1997
The New Year in Beer

 
As we begin our 10th year of publishing the Celebrator Beer News, we can't help but reflect on the past nine years of covering a developing industry that brings unusual and richly flavored beer to a small but appreciative (and, at times, forgiving) audience of beer enthusiasts. Founding publishers Bret and Julie Nickels began by targeting a tiny group of hard-core beer lovers in California, a state that at the time had barely two-dozen brewpubs and microbreweries. This audience has grown tremendously along with the circulation and scope of this news magazine. Today, the Celebrator Beer News is available nationwide and has a growing foreign distribution as well.

Our mission remains the same — to cover news and events related to the creation and enjoyment of quality craft beer. Our vision of a country dotted with small breweries is coming to fruition as we near the 1,000-brewery mark. The quality and character of beer produced today has never been better. Yesterday's "seat of the pants" brewers are applying sophisticated principles of brewing techniques to assure quality and stability to their stylistically diverse brewing activities.

Today's concern is not so much for the quality of the product but for the viability of what is now a very large and growing industry. We have seen small breweries grow to regional status, regional breweries become national, and some of our biggest breweries acquire smaller ones and/or introduce their own versions of "craft beer." For the consumer, there hasn't been a better time to find richly flavorful beer in the mass marketplace at competitive prices. Indeed, special promotions, coupons and warehouse pricing are providing craft-beer lovers with bargains like never before. The margins to pay for all this growth, however, are being squeezed. Many breweries with significant debt are finding dwindling profits on ever-increasing production.

Beer stocks were very successful in 1994-95. Today, the securities brokers of Wall Street seem to have soured on the once glamorous stock of the brewing industry as the novelty and quick profits declined. The long-range planning necessary for solid growth now seems to be sacrificed to bottom-line quarterly goals. Beer distributors, crucial to the success of the growing breweries, are undergoing a massive consolidation and realignment of their product holdings. Anheuser-Busch brought unprecedented pressure on their distributors to carry only A-B owned or controlled products in an orgy of what Pyramid Breweries CEO George Hancock called "ethnic cleansing."

Clearly, the blush is off the hop vine as we close out the decade. Anheuser-Busch is aggressively seeking market share with stated goals of 60 percent of the whole beer pie by 2005 (they have 45 percent now) and 40 percent of all specialty products. To this end, they have launched their own "craft beers," attacked contract brewing (see CBN Editorial 12/96), cracked down on their own distributors (see CBN Editorial 6/96), and directed their considerable ad muscle toward issues instead of brand I.D. Should they succeed, the "ethnic cleansing" will not just be of brands in a warehouse but of the smaller breweries themselves.

Meanwhile, the combatants are trimming down for battle. A-B has put a freeze on hiring (mainly to enhance earnings), and Miller laid off a significant part of their office staff (as parent Philip Morris seems to have lost interest in beer and looks for a suitor). Industry veteran Pabst pulled the plug on their historic brewery in Milwaukee, Mile High closed in Denver, while Northwest brewers like Widmer, Pyramid, Portland and BridgePort have "down-sized" production crews.
This year in California alone, many new regional-sized breweries will begin production. Pyramid, Gordon Biersch, Mendocino, Sonoma Mountain (a Benzinger Family Winery venture), Anderson Valley and Bohemian all plan to open 15,000 to 80,000+ barrel (annual production) facilities. There are several more projects on the drawing boards. The potential for a "Craft Beer Flood of '97" is great.

Even the term "craft beer" is unclear. The Institute for Brewing Studies has chosen to define the term with new guidelines, wherein Redhook is (26 percent owned by A-B/10 percent owned by GE) and Celis and Shipyard are not (majority owned by Miller). As the brewing industry gathers in Seattle this March for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, we are sure there will be more debate on this subject.

As consumers, however, we show the industry what we like by voting with our dollars. Buying richly flavorful beer and insisting on high quality fresh products sends a message that cannot be denied or misinterpreted. As the "beer Cadre," we have a responsibility to support our local brewers and positively influence the buying decisions of our friends. Now is not the time to "cheap out" or compromise our buying decisions for marketing gimmicks. Our motto for '97: "Real Beer — Love It or Lose It."

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Feb/Mar 1997)

Dear Editor:
Please allow me to make a correction to your "The Year in Beer Publications" story from the December/January 1996/97 issue of the Celebrator.

BeerMAG, the short-lived magazine that I was hired to edit, folded not after one issue but before it ever got going. Problems arose with the financing of the publication and the result was that the first issue — which had already been written and edited — never even made it to press. It was a most unfortunate development, not only because the beer industry was denied a new magazine, but because the great efforts of many talented writers never saw the light of publication. I am, however, working hard to make sure that all involved receive full compensation for their work.

Sincerely,
Steve Beaumont

Dear Editor:
Great editorial about the dateline story. I never saw the Dateline program that aired on October 13, 1996, but saw plenty of the promos, which were unbelievable... "Those high priced microbrews Americans are spending millions on... before you take your next sip, there's something you should know!"

From that little blurb, I thought that microbrews must cause cancer, use pig urine as the main ingredient or something horrible. Then I read your editorial on what the segment was about. I'm sure it was just coincidental that those promos ran during the football season and World Series — when the ads for Budweiser run.

Imagine how quick the Anheuser-Busch army of lawyers and commercial account representatives would have attacked NBC if the promo had been, "Those Budweiser beers that Americans are spending millions on... before you take your next sip, there's something you should know.." They would have had the promo canceled in a heart beat.

And while I don't think that this is some great conspiracy by the top brass of Anheuser-Busch and NBC, you can bet your ass they got special consideration and Dateline made sure they didn't do anything to truly rustle their feathers. I'd never heard the term "drive by journalism," but you hit the nail on the head. I really dig your mag, keep up the good work.

Thanks
T. Sean Shannon
Glendale, CA

Dear T. Sean:
We hope we don't hear the term "Drive-by Journalism" used in connection with the beer industry again. But without eternal vigilance... — Ed.

Dear Editor:
In response to the December/January 1996/97 Celebrator Beer News article "NBC/BUD v. Sam."

OH PLEASE! Let's not confuse the issue at hand. The point being made is that there are breweries mislabeling and misrepresenting their product to the public with the intention to cash in on the increasing interest in microbrewed/handcrafted beer. Is this right or wrong? Definitely wrong, and that's why you saw the support of the small breweries like Deschutes. The Kessler Brewing Company in Helena, MT, can be classified as a small brewery, and we whole heartedly agree that there is a problem. Of course Bud is digging up dirt for their own reasons — to gain more market share. Why wouldn't they? The thing is, on the base issue, they are right!

Oh, by the way, those full-page ads on the front-inside and back covers of the December/January 1996/97 seem very interesting with respect to the comments made in the editorial.

Sincerely,
Todd Daniels, President
Kessler Brewing Company

Dear Todd:
Re-read the editorial and perhaps you'll discover that the "issue of mislabeling" pales in comparison to the issue of journalistic ethics in a one-sided "hit piece" that directly targets YOUR market. As to advertising influencing our editorial, did you miss the full -page four-color ad from A-B on page 67? — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Alright, what is going on here? You tease us with a picture of ELVIRA on page 3 with something about the "ELVIRA CONTROVERSY" on page 41, but there's absolutely nothing about it on that page?

Eric Predoehl
San Jose, CA

Dear Eric:
Er, well, you see, it was 'sposed to go on page 41 (GABF) but wound up in Hop Caen (page 45). Sorry about that! — Ed.

 

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