San Diego Beer, Local & Independent!

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Independent Beer and the Scumbags who attack it; Know your Enemies.

I’m not going to sugar coat things. I’m pissed off.

I have tried to write this blog with a gentle touch. With precision, with a use of eloquent vocabulary, with pithy commentary and clever word play. Yet, it eludes me. Not because I’m incapable of finding those words, but because they do not fit. They do not accurately reflect the  tone and intentions with which the author wants to convey his feelings and emotions on the topic. I am an angry individual.

From day one, the intentions of this blog/website were never to spread a message of negativity or to disparage any person or persons. It is something that I held firm for a long time. If I didn’t like something, or someplace or someone, I would simply choose not to write about it. It was as simple as that.

Things have changed. Dramatically.

First, we can start with some good news. Exciting news.

A few weeks ago the San Diego Brewers Guild had announced the creation of a window decal that would be displayed in the windows of San Diego Breweries that qualified as local and independently owned breweries in the city and county of San Diego. It was a move designed to help provide some clarity in the wake of mega-corporation owned, i.e. AB-InBev, !0 Barrel Brewing, opening its doors in the downtown neighborhood of East Village, almost directly across the street from local heroes Monkey Paw Brewing. It was a well received move on the local level.

Then, early this past week, the Brewer’s Association, a nationally recognized organization for craft breweries with over 3,800 members nationally, announced a logo of their own. This logo would not only be available to its paid members but to all breweries who meet the criteria of an independent brewery. The goal of this logo: to be placed on any and all of a brewery’s packaging formats. Six pack holders, cases, individual bottles and cans, it was all acceptable and was yet again, a way to help the consumer have some clarity on which brewery is truly independent and which are owned as part of a corporate machine.

Here is where we need to be most clear on things. Beer geeks like myself, perhaps like you and many of your friends. We follow these type of stories. We stay up to date on brewery acquisitions, whether by Big Beer brands like Ab-InBev or Heineken or other. We do it through beer news websites, podcasts, blogs, and even simple word of mouth. These moves by the SD Brewers Guild and the Brewer’s Association have a lot more to do with informing the average, non-beer geek consumer about where they are going and what they are purchasing. It is about giving useful information so that an average person can make an informed choice about where they spend their hard earned money.

The breweries that are owned by Big Beer Corporations are proponents of keeping this sort of information hidden. Obfuscation is the name of the game for them; keep consumers in the dark. Let them think they are drinking a local brand and never bother to correct them. Keep the consumer in the dark.

That sort of mentality cannot be allowed. Information is power.

All in all, logo announcements were a good thing. Was it the perfect solution? Maybe, maybe not, only time will really tell if there is any sort of an impact from either logo. The most important aspect is that the information exists for people to see and to process on their own.

All seemed well and good. At least for a few days.

Later in the week, High End, the portfolio in which InBev lists its “craft” brewery properties, decided to make a video with many of its formerly independent members making all sorts of bold statements that essentially equaled an attack on the Brewers Association and an attempt to discredit them and to confuse consumers by alluding to something they consider far more serious, an imaginary war with Wine & Spirits consumers.

This is what has set me off. This is what has my blood boiling.

I’m not sharing the video. It can be found easily enough online. It only makes me want to punch things until my knuckles are bloody.

As to what some of these “High End” members refer to as the “real issue” with wine and spirits sales…Well, I can only say this: As someone who works in a retail environment around beer, wine and spirits I can honestly say, with 100% conviction, wine and spirits drinkers/consumers could seriously not give one single FUCK as to what is happening in the beer world. They don’t care. This is a non-issue and High End is simply trying to distract from the topic at hand.

As for these brewer’s themselves…well, I don’t know them. I don’t know their situations or their histories, but I would strongly suspect that at one point they all had one thing in common; When they first started their brewery, it had something to do with the fact that they didn’t like the beer options that were available to them as consumers. They demanded more out of a beverage that that loved. They wanted change and they wanted a better beer so much that they decided to become home brewers and eventually that small success lead them to the idea that they could open their own business built on something they had a passion for, something that was against the establishment but they knew that people wanted and would respond to. So they did it. They succeeded. They created breweries that helped to change the game with Big Beer Corporations and I would imagine they were pretty damn proud of themselves, and rightly so.

But something happened.

Maybe it was simply they wanted out of debt. Or they wanted financial security. Maybe they wanted a way to grow their brewery and wanted to take the simple route to doing so. Maybe they got bored, or maybe they didn’t want the headaches that came with owning and running a growing business and brand. Whatever the reason was the simple truth is that dollar signs persuaded them. Money became an important issue and it offered them a way to escape or ease whatever it was that gave them concerns. They sold their souls for money. They sold their passion for a payday.  Even more, you can see them betray everything they once stood for in a video online.

Let’s not be crazy. Money is a powerful tool. A number with the right amount of zeros behind it can change they way a lot of people feel about a lot of things. Changing your principals and your core beliefs has to come with a big price tag.

One year ago. Two years ago. Five years ago. 10 years ago. I don’t believe any one of these people would be saying what they are saying now. To attack the Brewers Association, a group they had once been proud members of, for trying to provide consumers with information, is a move that is beyond disgusting. These are people who have turned their back on the beer community. They have turned their backs on everything that they once believed in and were previously happily a part of. These people are awful, they are traitors and they do not deserve your support or your patronage. They are now part of a corporate machine that exits to squash any and all local and small business. They are simply corporate schills and not to be trusted or believed. Big Beer like AB In-Bev exists to crush competition and to exert dominance over the beer market. They think that because they now have a portfolio of “craft” beer brands, they can mislead and regain market presence by diminishing what the Brewers Association is trying to do. It is our job to stop them.

Your neighborhood has better beer. It’s local. It’s independent and it deserves your support much more than these clowns, and I’m putting it out there:

David Buhler of Elysian Brewing: You are a scumbag and a traitor.

Walt Dickenson of Wicked Weed: You are a scumbag and a traitor.

Garrett Wales of 10 Barrel: You are a scumbag and a traitor.

Andy Ingram of Four Peaks: You are a scumbag and a traitor.

Steve Crandall of Devil’s Backbone: You are a scumbag and a traitor.

As consumers we demand better. We demand honestly and transparency. I stand with the Brewers Association. I hope you do as well.

Make your next beer and Indie Beer!