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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Whiff of Hypocrisy

The Brewers Association was founded to represent small breweries. That's their whole deal. You can make bad beer, but as long as your brewery is small (which it would be) and independent (according to a slightly odd, gerrymandered definition), you're good to go. Fair enough--it's their organization so they get to make the rules. But Jonathan Shikes wants to know why their showcase event, the GABF, then doles out buckets of medals for beer from their avowed enemies, the faceless multinational macros. For a Coloradan, the point is a bit sharper: of the 41 medals the state won, 8 went to Coors.

By jove, I think he has a point.

(I'll add: why do multinationals even get to enter their beers there in the first place?)


  1. Hey Jeff! Those Sour Grapes are starting to turn into a Bitter Wine (Whine).

  2. Seeing that the big breweries put up the lion's share of the funds needed to run the event, I don't see a problem with it. It probably couldn't be run in this fashion without their help.

  3. I don't see how the awards could claim any credibility if they are rigged in advance in favour of certain breweries. If macros are winning in a fair fight then the micros need to raise their game.

  4. Fowl, there are 23,942 beer festivals every year in Oregon. (Give or take.) It is inconceivable to me that the Brewers Association can't figure out a revenue-neutral way to put on this fest. This is similar to the complaint I heard about them not being able to take it on the road. My response: really? You can't hold the GABF unless you carve out a few bogus categories so Hamm's can win a gold? It doesn't pass the smell test.

    Beer Nut, I don't think anyone's complaining about the competition side.

    Finally, I'm going to raise the question again: why is a Belgian-owned megacorp allowed to compete in this solely American competition?

  5. I'd have thought that any beer brewed in the US, regardless of the company's head office address, should be eligible for consideration as best American beer in its style. If not, could beers made by US companies abroad be eligible?

  6. Jeff,

    Damn good point my friend. I've been on this tirade on my blog about bars offering BMC beers during as part of their "domestic specials", even though they are not domestic breweries.

    So why should they be allowed to enter an American beer competition?

    I think it should be based on the country of ownership. Toyota makes cars in the U.S., but I don't consider them an American car company.

  7. Well multinationals shouldn't compete does that rule out guys like Ommegang, Trummer, Redhook/Widmer, or Goose Island?

    What I don't like about ruling out the big guys, is that brewing is a community, and while the public may not see it, brewers for big and small companies hang out together at the MBAA, ASBC, meetings, and over drinks at the local brewpub. Cutting the brewers for the bigs guys out of the competition is essential an FU to those brewers telling them they don't belong in the community and don't deserve recognition for their passion, which for many of them includes craft beer. If that were to happen it would damage the spirit of the brewing community.

  8. One more general comment. I personally don't care whether Bud and Coors compete in the GABF. That's a philosophical question and will be answered differently by different people. The point is, the Brewers Association makes it very clear that they stand foresquare against the big breweries and their products. I thought Jonathan rather nicely pointed to this contradiction in his post, and I wanted to underscore it.

  9. @Sam
    Trumer Brauerei Berkeley is owned by the Gambrinus Company in San Antonio, Texas. Even though the beer we make is part of an international agreement, we aren't owned by the Austrian Brauerei, so our GABF Gold Medal this year was legit.

  10. If you look past the curtain, these type of "competitions" are really money making events. The more entries, the more money you make. Big Brewers can afford to enter 20 Beers and are happy to win a few medals. Over the last 20 years the number of categories at the GABF has grown dramatically in an effort to increase revenue and encompass as many Brewers as possible. Although the best Beer may win gold on that day, is it really that much more enjoyable than the Beer that came in 4th or 10th? I think all the great Beers should get Gold medals, almost great Beers should get silver and really good Beers should get bronze.

  11. I am not sure that the BA is really against larger breweries as it is a collective lobbying arm for small brewers. I think they do a great job of raising the alarm when legislation would hurt the beer buissness or may favor larger breweries and hurt smaller ones, but "against" large breweries? I think this dichotomy, while a valuable marketing device, mostly exists in the minds of people outside the industry.

    Mitch Steele, Dan Carey, and so many other famed brewers come from larger, in this case AB, breweries. So many craft brewers rely on the resarch large breweries conduct, not to mention teachers, advisors, etc. Where would hop and barley breeding programs be with out the financial support large breweries have contributed? I haven't seen craft brewery endow any chairs of brewing schools that churn out the newest crop of craft brewers.

    The relationships between brewers of all sizes is so interconnected, I don't find drawing lines a useful narritive device.
    The GABF already devides up BOTY by company size and type of brewery, do we really need further division? I think it is a richer experience to know that my beer is compeating against beers that come from much better funded breweries and ones that are making the smallest of batches as well. It adds more validity to the competion.

    As to the 'American-ness' of a brewery, if it is brewed in the USA, then why shouldn't it be eligible for the GABF?