Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This Bud's for you...  

Not me. I can't stand the stuff. But my feelings pale in comparison to this critic:
I don’t drink Budweiser and never have. I’ve tasted it three times (a total of about 3 ounces), first while at the University of Maryland, once again in Myrtle Beach, SC, in 1984, and then again in Seattle, in 2005, at the urging of their distributor’s rep, who - correctly - observed that tasting a thing  21 years ago wasn’t giving it a fair shake. It tasted exactly the same: like a wet piece of the cardboard that comes in new dress shirts – and that’s not an original observation. I first read it on the website of the world’s foremost beer critic, Britain’s Michael Jackson. He had almost nothing positive to say about Bud. I don’t either.
Budweiser has always been far more about marketing than beer. The founder of Anheuser Busch, Adolphus Busch, refused to drink his own brew, calling it “that slop” (he was German, of course, so it came out “dot schlop”) and stuck to wine. AB first made its massive incursion into every American beer market not because Americans were clamoring for the fantastic beer but because the uber-financed new St. Louis brewery actually paid the rent for tavern owners who agreed to sell Bud and kick out all their competitors. (The source for all this – principally, along with a ton of my own research – is an article from Chicago journalist and author Edward McCleland, writing in Salon.com, which you can read here.) When AB was just  moving into its ascendance, there were over 100 small breweries making virtually the same beer as Bud, the mild, aggressively-inoffensive, watery Pilsner, a style that originated in Czechoslavakia as a ladies’ beer; a wimpy alternative for the delicate palates of proper Czech ladies who couldn’t stand the big German Alts and Lagers or the muscular Belgian ales. [More fun reading for Bud-haters]
While I do not stand with the "Over-regulation Hysterics" (more on this in my next TP column), I will grudgingly grant that beer distribution laws have to stand as one the absolute examples of bad, awful, economically perverse regulation. And it's hurting our beer choices just when things are looking up for suds-fans.

The measure is intended to limit the ability of brewers to own wholesale distributorships and restaurants. As explained by Open Market, its primary backer is MillerCoors, which claims to be trying to ward off an attempt by their main competitor, AB/InBev (Anheuser-Busch), to buy up beer distributors and squeeze out other companies’ products. But the state’s microbreweries may be the real victims of the provision.
“Wisconsin’s craft brewers are getting caught in some cross fire between MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch,” the Blue Cheddar Blog explains. If this thing goes forward, it will be much more difficult to start a new small beer brewing business with room to grow in one of the states that loves beer the most.”
“This motion was sold to the legislators by Miller/Coors and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association on the premise that it would protect Wisconsin from a hostile AB/InBev take over of many current Wisconsin wholesalers,” the blog continues. “This is simply a farce. Since InBev took over AB, they have had 16 opportunities to buy wholesalers and have passed 16 times. Here is the real truth….Miller/Coors and the WBDA are threatened by the growth that is happening in the craft beer industry. Craft is the only segment of beer that is growing, and it is growing by double digits.”
Wisconsin’s craft brewers, who were not consulted while the measure was being framed, account for only about 5% of sales, but their share is increasing. “Everything in this bill is designed to make it harder for small craft brewers to grow,” complained Deb Carey, a co-owner of New Glarus Brewing. “It is a slimy piece of legislation.”
“We are losing assets and we are losing control over our products,” Carey added. “This debate boils down to the fact that the wholesalers do not want a drop of beer going to market in Wisconsin without them making their 30 percent profit from it. That’s it.” [More]
You read that right - the largest chunk of profit in the lager-chain is distribution! Really makes sense, doesn't it?

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