Tag Archives: north carolina beer legislation

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 6/2/17

Today, as I catch up to the world of beer news from my month away, I read this article about the continuing fight between North Carolina craft brewers, the large distributors, and the state legislature.

Apparently, and to no one’s shock, AB used to put language in their franchise agreements stating that the distributor agrees to push AB products above all else.  Now, the article rightly points out that this type of agreement is illegal under new laws and a consent agreement between ABInbev and the department of justice.

However, as we all know there is the law as it is written, there is the law as it is enforced, and there is the law as it is practiced.  Everyone in the beer world knows that while not requiring distributors to sell their products above all else, AB incentivises them with money if they hit certain levels of distribution.

Even if one believes that the franchise law changes and the consent agreement make these type of actions illegal, they signal a clear mindset that pervades AB and it distributors.  That is the zero-sum win at all costs mindset.  It is becoming increasingly clear that AB is not interested in a robust beer industry.  It is interested in controlling the beer industry for its own profit.

ABInbev and other big beer companies are a Leviathan whose main concern is feeding itself and growing ever larger.  Not through malice, but through its hardwired survival instinct, this beast devours all in its path.

How do you deal with such a beast? The same way you eat an elephant. One bite at a time.  It starts with beer drinkers making decisions every day with every purchase.  However, it goes beyond that.  It means individuals have to press their elected representatives to not allow large companies to trample and devour smaller companies for the sake of convenience and profit.

If you are a craft beer fan who lives in North Carolina and your state representative or senator has aligned himself against craft brewers and with the large distributors and big beer, you must let your unhappiness be known.  It is only through direct local action, that the world can change and Leviathan be defeated.

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 3/4/17

The One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, is a cheat.  It is a quick way for me to come up with a topic to write about daily without having to do too much brainstorming.  So, when I can’t find an article I want to write about, it makes it kind of hard.

Anyway, here is an article about…wait for it…the NC distribution cap fight.  At least this one finally puts a number on all the money the N.C. Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association and individual distributors have given to NC legislators.  The total is almost $1.5 million.  That should explain all you need to know as to why progress has been slow.

I’ve been following this story since it started gaining steam 3 years ago, and I’m tired of talking about it.  However, I think the distributors are more afraid of the big beer companies pulling out of their contracts and distributing themselves.  That is a more realistic fear than the one of all these small brewers distributing their own wares.  It isn’t that much more realistic, but more realistic.

I just get tired of political fights whose conclusion is inevitable.  If the Supreme Court hadn’t stepped in, we would still be in a 40-year battle to finally get to marriage equality.  This is a much smaller and less important issue, but the conclusion is inevitable.  The politicians want to vote to raise the cap, but they get a lot of money from its opponents.  Eventually, the politician’s beliefs will win out and they will vote to raise the cap.  Wholesalers should spend less time worrying about how to stop the cap and more time trying to build good relationships with brewers.

Last thing, the distributors who treat brewers as if they are doing them a favor by distributing their beer are the ones who should worry.  I think the biggest change raising the cap will initiate is making distribution contracts fairer and forcing some distributors to treat brewers more as partners.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/23/16

Back to work. Thank god.

  • Of course, the rate of growth slowed. It is idiotic to think a 22% increase every year was sustainable in any business.  Many in the industry scoff at the idea of saturation, but it is real and it will happen.  To think that level of growth was sustainable for a long period and/or that saturation in certain markets will not happen is a fundamental misunderstanding of business.  No matter how in demand your product is, eventually, it will stop being the next big thing. I’ve been saying this for two years, there will be a moment soon when many of the breweries that opened in the last three years will close.  Many of them will be brewers that make great beer, but have horrible business plans and many of them will have great business plans but horrible beer.
  • Here is one of the OGs of craft beer writing asking the question, “Why do I drink craft beer?” There are many facets to that answer. It is one I have been thinking about lately.  I plan on answering (or attempt to answer) that and why critics are/are not necessary for a blog post next week.
  • Distributors worrying that increasing the self-distribution cap is somehow going to cut into their business is understandable but overstated. Most breweries don’t want to self-distribute at a certain point because self-distribution becomes a second business they didn’t sign up for when they started making beer.  Many of the brewers I’ve met and talked to that do self-distribution, want a distributor so that they can expand their footprint without having to worry about trucks, drivers, and sales reps.  That is why I think along with increasing the distribution cap, the laws governing the contracts between brewers and distributors should also be changed to make it easier for brewers to get out of contracts with bad distributors.
  • Brewers have been adding fruit, lemonade, and other things to beer for hundreds of years. Sours are as traditional to beer culture as pilsners.  The idea that beer that doesn’t taste like beer is some new trend is absurd.  Maybe the addition of watermelon or habanero peppers is new, but not by much.  Coco Chanel once said something like, “Fashion is temporary, but style is forever.”  Use trends to augment your business, not define it.
  • Never go into a craft beer bar and ask a bartender to just give you their favorite. That can really badly for you.  Trust me, I’ve seen it.  Everyone’s palate and predilections are different.  Don’t assume your favorite flavor is the same as anyone’s.  Now, there is scientific research that tells us why.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/19/15

I’m a little late on the Five Articles today.  It’s worth it though because I get a little extra sleep and I found a bounty of good stories to pick from for today’s list.  Get ready for a laws and money.

  • As consolidation looms, more and more breweries are starting to seek out capital investors to fund their expansion plans. Brooklyn Brewery is just the latest.  An aside about the consolidation I’ve been talking about in this space for a few weeks.  I think we are headed to a place where because of consolidation and the growing influx of capital investors, breweries will either be really, really big, as in regional or larger, or really, really small, as in your neighborhood brewery.
  • Change and growth are scary things and in Colorado brewing, it is really scary. A good point is made by the Colorado Brewer’s Guild spokesman in this article.  Craft beer is a big business and to expect everyone to have pure beer motives as they enter the business and to not expect the big brewers to notice is naive.  The nature of the beer business as a whole is changing and the nature of craft beer is changing along with it.
  • Drunk college students do stupid things no matter what country you are in as this report from Germany shows.
  • Here is the latest issue to crop up between Asheville brewers and NC ALE. At least this time the ALE managed to learn of a large beer festival in its jurisdiction before the day of the event.  I also think it was a very responsible (if not overly responsible) for the group putting this even on to cancel it until they got true clarity on what was expected of them.
  • That kind of clarity is what I think is missing in the ALE’s enforcement of the ABC Commission’s regulations. There are two related issues that I don’t think are particular to North Carolina.  The first is, we have 3 separate interpretations of the rules governing brewers.  The ABC Commission, the ALE, and the brewers are all on different pages.  The ABC and ALE need to sit down with brewers all over the state and explain what the rules are and how they are enforced.  There are so many interpretations because most of the laws and rules were written 30 to 100 years ago. Instead of rewriting the laws to keep up with changing times, the laws have been reinterpreted and tinkered with to satisfy multiple competing constituencies.  By the way, if you’ve ever been in a bar when ALE agents roll in, they come in like Elliot Ness looking for a bunch of moonshiners.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/13/15

Time for the Thursday Five Articles. Today, there are four new articles and one follow up from yesterday. Also, here is a link to the now three reviews that have come out this week.  It is a fun experience tasting all these similar beers consecutively.  Finally, 10 years ago today Gov. Mike Easley signed into law the Pop The Cap law here in North Carolina.  Simply put, the law raised the ABV limit from 5% to 16% for beer.  That simple change has spawned a burgeoning economy and this blog.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/11/15

Another quick Five Articles.  The first of the porter/stout reviews went up yesterday and the next will go up later this evening.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/4/15

Time for the Tuesday article links. Also, more content is coming in the next few days.  If all goes well there will be a special Beer Counselor, a regular Beer Counselor, and a series of shorter reviews all focusing on dark beers.

  • Have you ever watched a movie involving the mob when the guys go out and get some business owner to give them protection money? The guys go to a business owner and tell him, “It would be a shame if something happened to your business.  We can help keep that from happening.  For a small fee we will provide security.”  That’s kind of what Jim Koch did here except his is more a warning then a threat.  I keep going back to how the laws in this country that govern alcohol are antiquated and piecemeal.  These laws need to change with the industry, but entrenched business interests and archaic visions of morality get in the way.
  • Tax revenues are the thing that will break the deadlocks on changing beer laws. Just like in this story from Pennsylvania, states are trying to boost industry and business to create more tax revenue.  As more and more states see beer, wine, and alcohol production as a ways to create tax revenue and in the case of beer rehabilitate old industrial zones the laws will change to favor smaller brewers.  The next question will be, how will the big brewers try to use those laws to their advantage?
  • When you are creating a startup you really need to make sure you can use the name you want. This story is interesting for that reason, but also because it shows the growth of the craft beer industry.  The number of businesses that are brewing adjacent growing up around the country is a testament to how this is no longer a simple trend, but a growing industry and life style.
  • Here is yet more analysis of the Brewers Association’s mid-year data dump from last week. It is interesting to watch how this one press release keeps getting recycled and reanalyzed in some many different news outlets.  Everyone is trying to put their local spin and personal angle on the story to make it interesting for their readers and viewers.
  • As much as I want to make fun of this press release, it actual is a pretty big deal. Olde Meck sells a lot of Copper for two reasons, at least in my mind.  First, it was the first high quality craft beer to come from Charlotte and if there is one thing I’ve learned from living and working in Charlotte, it can be a territorial and insular place where people love to be seen doing the cool thing.  Also, Copper and all of Olde Meck’s beers are consistent.  They have conquered the thing that stumps many brewers, making each batch taste like the last batch.  And of course, if Olde Meck is going to put out a press release, why not take a swing at the legislature and beer distribution laws.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/8/15

After taking a little time off, it has been a little difficult to get back into the swing of things, but that will change after today.  Here is today’s links.

  • The week that I started this blog, the story of raising the distribution cap for North Carolina breweries was just getting warmed up. The cap was defeated.  It wasn’t defeated by a vote, but by parliamentary maneuvering that kept it from coming to a vote.  Anyway, the story will not die and it will come back to the legislature.  While on one hand I think breweries were overly ambitious in their request to go from 25,000 barrels to 100,000  and a little naive as to the power of the wholesalers and distributors, I agree the distribution cap should be raised.
  • This is the type of argument that will work for those trying to change beer laws to make the lives of craft breweries easier around the country. Brewers taking old, unwanted, and unused properties and rehabbing them for purposes of brewing beer and raising tax revenue is a true story told all across the country.  For states and municipalities that are having trouble meeting budgets because of tax shortfalls finding new businesses to breath life into business districts is an argument that people who don’t like beer must respect.
  • Marketing craft beer has to be hard. On one hand, you have a core of consumers who don’t want to be marketed to and care only that your product is good.  They will find out about you without the help of TV ads and they crave the independent spirit authenticity of craft beer.  On the other hand, you have the curious normal people who you somehow have to get the word out to while maintaining the authenticity they covet. So, how do you market to people who don’t want to be marketed to?
  • I love anything that helps make craft beer a more local product. The deeper I have gotten into craft beer the more I seek out stories and beers with a farm to pint mentality.  Here is another such story out of Iowa.
  • I am surprised that more high-end grocery stores in suburban areas aren’t doing this. Putting taps in grocery stores for tastings and growler fills seems like a no brainer for those types of stores.  That would be catnip for their customer bases.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 5/28/15

Here are today’s links, there is some things about beer law, a preview of a beer/food event I really want to attend someday, and some Wu-Tang Clan.

Also, there should be a new beer review posting tonight or very early tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 5/1/15

There is a little Big Beer news today silly lawsuits and all