Hop Take: Craft Breweries Are Fighting With AB InBev Over Disaster Relief Because of Course They Are


4 minute Read

Well, at least the beer industry made it out of the Super Bowl without any wars waged between Anheuser-Busch and small and independent brewers. Just kidding! We totally had you there for a second.

Budweiser‘s Super Bowl commercial, “Stand by Me,” advertises the company’s emergency water program, a disaster relief effort that involved the donation of 3 million cans of water to Houston, Puerto Rico, California, and Florida in 2017. Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery in particular took issue with the ad because it positions Budweiser as a national hero, when other, smaller brewers like Oskar Blues have been making similar efforts throughout the year.

It may be worth noting that Oskar Blues is majority-owned by a private equity firm (which allows it to still be considered craft by the Brewers Association). Its parent, United Craft Brews LLC, also owns Cigar City, Perrin, and Utah Brewers. But any brewery or brewery alliance is smaller than AB InBev; and for smaller brewers like Oskar Blues, donations come at a much higher cost than they do for Big Beer, when measuring things like their effect on beer production. Of course, smaller brewers also lack the millions upon millions of ad dollars to inform the nation of their good deeds.

An Instagram post from Oskar Blues, which was later deleted, read: “Cool spot @budweiser.3MM cans of water of H2O donated in ‘17. Nice work, yo! Did you know with the help of @candaid & @ballcorporation we donated 1MM cans last year? You’re about 625X larger than us & gave 3X more water. What’s yer plan for ‘18?”

(Instagram screenshot courtesy of @WorstBeerBlog on Twitter.)

A later post from Oskar Blues, which is still published, acknowledged the effort with no mention of Budweiser or Anheuser-Busch:

Can’d Aid also partners with Perrin Brewing Co. of Comstock Park, Michigan, as well as Craft Brewed Jewelry, based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Many brewers also lent helping hands (and brewery spaces) during last year’s disasters, as acknowledged by the Brewers Association in September. Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas saw lots of small and independent brewers in on the action. Some, like Eureka Heights Brew Co. and Saint Arnold Brewing of Houston, served as donation centers; others, such as Great Heights Brewing of Houston and Pedernales Brewing Company of Fredericksburg, contributed financial donations; and, in one valiant effort, 8th Wonder Brewery of Houston actually rescued flood victims with its brewery truck.

Currently, relief efforts are also underway in California to benefit those affected by the fires and mudslides. Stone Distributing Co. is leading a month-long fundraising campaign, including donations from all Stone Brewing locations, as well as contributions from partner brewers such as Julian Hard Cider, Kern River Brewing Company, Mikkeller San Diego, Victory Brewing Company, and Smog City Brewing Company, reported the Beer Connoisseur. The donations are expected to exceed $50,000.

Night Shift Moves Production in Face of Smuttynose Sale

Following the announcement that Smuttynose Brewing of Hampton, New Hampshire, will be sold at auction next month, Night Shift Brewing, which had been contract brewing with Smuttynose until November, announced it will move those operations to Isle Brewers Guild (IBG) in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, according to Brewbound.

Night Shift, a small brewery outside Boston, has been gaining notoriety in the beer world for its hop-forward IPAs, including its single-hop series, One Hop, which showcases a different hop varietal in each release. The IBG partnership comes at a key time for Night Shift, due to the rise in popularity of its One Hop, Morph, and Santilli brands. They are all in fact very tasty and should be produced as much as possible, in our opinion.

The brewery also got some buzz last year when it announced it would launch its own distribution company, delivering its own brands as well as those of fellow small craft brewers, in light of “pay to play” scandals in the state.

“We’ve seen big volume increases for all of them,” Michael Oxton, Night Shift co-founder, said in an interview. “So having IBG take some of that volume definitely allows us to get them out to more cities, more bars, more retail stores.”

Night Shift brewed its first batch with IBG in January, and kegs will be shipping out this week. The company plans to produce more than 10,000 barrels with IBG in 2018, Brewbound reported.

A change like this usually brings one major concern to the forefront of brewers’ and consumers’ minds: Will the beer quality be affected? Oxton told Brewbound that QC will not be an issue at IBG and that, so far, the beer is coming out great. “The batch of Santilli that came out, every person that tried it was like, ‘Holy crap. It tastes exactly like Santilli.’ First batch, nailed it. Our team has been super impressed by the quality of the equipment, the people, the QA process.”

Turns out, the change is ideal for Night Shift in more ways than one: IBG also produces beer for two of Night Shift Distributing clients, Devil’s Purse Brewing Company and Great North Aleworks, so the partnership could potentially allow for mixed shipments in the future. Other members of Night Shift’s 15-member portfolio include Ghostfish Brewing of Seattle, the Tap of Massachusetts, Interboro Spirits and Ales of New York, Trophy Brewing Co. of North Carolina, Solemn Oath of Illinois, and Destihl, also of Illinois, reported Brewbound.

Wheat Beer to North Korea: We Existed Already

North Korea wants to make itself great again. This time, its media stunt was to announce the invention and release of what was referred to as an “exclusive” formula for a unique new brew that will allegedly improve the lives of the North Korean people: wheat beer.

A North Korean newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a press release announcing the wheat beer, describing the new brew as an innovation of Daedong River Beer Factory workers and engineers, as well as poetically detailing the behavior of its yeast and other ingredients.

“We must make a decisive transition in improving people’s livelihood and building an economic powerhouse,” Kim Jong-un said in the press release.

The whole thing is pretty depressing. If wheat beer is an innovation, North Korea has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to beer, not to mention every other aspect of its people’s public and private lives. As we said in our coverage of the announcement on Tuesday, we can only hope this wheat beer is real, and that the citizens of North Korea are enjoying it as much as the press release says they are.

Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues on Facebook.

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