Exec editor Eric Shepard here, off to DC today for annual Center for Alcohol Policy mtg. CAP sponsored by NBWA and once again features broad range of input from industry, regulators and public health. Org has been criticized for giving stage to prominent public health figures who are often harshly critical of the beer business. Indeed, this yr’s program includes speakers from Alcohol Justice (ex- Marin Inst) and Eat Drink Politics, as well as MADD. But as outgoing NBWA chairman Bob Archer said at Vegas convention, NBWA feels it “must continue to build working relationships with certain non-traditional allies, including public health and safety organizations. Doing so does not mean that we are putting our stamp of approval on every action or position of these organizations. However, if we want them to support our independent three-tier system of beer distribution when it is under attack, then we must consider working with them. “ Also on tap at CAP: a coupla attorneys/observers who criticized ABI-Modelo deal from antitrust pt of view, attys/profs to talk about 21st Amendment/legal cases, a round-up of state regulation issues and overview of de-regulation in UK vs US. The party ain’t as hearty as at NBWA convention, but there’s usually plenty of food for thought. Look out for coverage in Alcohol Issues Insights and more.
Beer Insights Extras
It's that time of year again! I got into Denver yesterday afternoon to cover the Great American Beer Festival for Craft Brew News. It'll be a whirlwind couple of days full of great times, great people and lots of great beers.
But it's a good thing I'm back here too. Long-time readers (hah!) may remember that I left my brain in Colorado the last time I was here, coincidentally as the 100-year flood hit the Front Range. For those of you also in Denver this week/weekend, be in touch as I'm always up for a beer and spin around the festival hall. But also be sure to remember what happened very close by exactly one month ago - the GABF has created this helpful page for those attending the fest (or not) who are interested in helping with Flood Relief efforts. Hope to see you here!
What a day in La Jolla and San Diego last Friday! First I went to the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association meeting. There I saw a panel moderated by consultant Bump Williams that featured some great info on the wild proliferation of SKUs (stock keeping units) in California foodstores. Over 350 new beer SKUs have been introduced there this year alone, according to IRI data. About half are craft. The beer business is getting more and more complex. Anheuser Busch InBev president North America Luiz Edmond made that point about increased complexity in a speech later that morning and also pointed to California as a trendsetting state. We featured both Bump and Luiz in this recent issue of our INSIGHTS Express.
After the meeting, I visited several notable craft brewers on the San Diego scene: local legend Tomme Arthur at the Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Co, up-and-comers Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith at Societe and the longtime leader of the San Diego scene, Stone founder Greg Koch at the World Bistro Liberty Station. That thriving establishment seats about 800 and it was full, one of the latest examples of the rapid evolution of the San Diego craft brewing scene. Much more of our info/impressions on the craft beer business in San Diego in the next issue of Craft Brew News.
Look out. Benj and I have descended on San Diego for separate mtgs, first time in 35 yrs of travel that we’ve been in same city on different missions. Benj will address the California Beer & Beverage Distributors, updating the association on key current business developments, brewer-distrib relations and more. Also on the program: ABI’s North American prexy Luiz Edmond, a panel led by consultant Bump Williams and more.
I’m in town for “Wine, Beer and Spirits Law” legal seminar sponsored by CLE Intl.Looking forward to atty Marc Sorini’s analysis of “Towards Liquor Control,” 1930s tome touted by NBWA that helped transition US out of Prohibition.Distribution panel with Stone’s Greg Koch, DISCUS and WSWA reps should be another highlight.Lots more on tap too.Look for reports in our publications as soon as Friday.
Speaking of legal, gotta note the evisceration by US District Court Judge Maxine Chesney of antitrust charges brought by consumers/activist atty Joe Alioto Sr. against ABI-Modelo deal.As we noted in yesterday’s Express, she ripped ‘em up and down the line and totally tossed all claims under fed antitrust statutes but left door open a crack to amend lawsuit via state law claims if they file ‘em by Oct 11. Read her decision here.
I left Fort Collins, CO unexpectedly-early this morning: Tamarron Consulting’s Supply Chain and Operations Leadership Conference was cut short due to the flooding along Colorado’s Front Range. I was looking forward to today’s forward-looking programming: what might the beer industry look like 2025. Instead I’m left remembering yesterday’s presentations, including Tom Wyness’ look at the “Past, Present and Future” of Crown Imports, the company he’s been with for 25 years. Tamarron’s Greg Hopkins asked Tom about the continuity of the management team at Crown, one of the most stable leadership teams among top beer suppliers over the past decade or two. As a relative newbie to the beer industry (3 years and counting), I enjoy history lessons such as these every once in awhile. As for its future, Crown has a big (and we saw the video, it’s BIG) new responsibility in the form of a 10 mil-hectoliter (8.5 mil-bbl) brewery, Piedras Negras. And that’s for now - it’s scalable up to 3x that size.
Before Tom spoke, MillerCoors’ David Ryder gave quite the provocative presentation about quality and innovation in the beer industry, which I wrote up for Insights Express this morning. I was particularly struck by watching a suited executive from a major brewing company talking about the importance of having “happy, happy yeast” - it was a reminder of the common denominators that unite brewers, regardless of size.
Just after I wrote that article, I learned of the cancelling of today’s program at the conference. The flooding along the Front Range here is truly devastating. As news outlets around the country have shared, homes have been destroyed, roads washed away and entire communities inundated by water. And it's supposed to continue to rain through the weekend. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of beer industry professionals have been affected.
Doug Odell, co-founder of Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, reminded me just Wednesday when I visited the brewery that “local beer” goes far beyond just small craft brewers in Colorado’s Front Range. With brewing plants of hugely varying sizes in the area, not to mention distribution centers, raw materials suppliers, and countless bars and liquor stores at risk, it could be days or weeks before the effects of this flooding on the brewing industry are fully assessed. Of course, top of mind for me, as I sit looking Northwest out my window of my hotel near the Denver airport, are the people who have built their lives, their livelihoods on turning water into the beverage we all love, water that has now so thoroughly altered their lives again. I’m safe here and expect to be able to return safely to NY tomorrow, but my thoughts will remain here for many days to come.