In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, production came to a halt for several Florida breweries, many of which announced they would fill fermenters with clean drinking water and provide it to the community for free before and during the storm.
Flying Boat Brewing in St. Petersburg reportedly posted on Facebook to let their community know free drinking water was available. Other announcements came from more than 60 breweries, including J. Wakefield, Wicked Barley, Tabula Rasa, Legacy Ale Works, SJ Brewing, Green Room Brewing, Hyperion Brewing, and Main & Six Brewing, according to Florida Beer News.
“We are first and foremost a community-centric brewery,” Joe Dunham, owner of Grove Roots Brewing in Winter Haven told CNN. “We believe in our small town and will do all we can to help people. If the need arises, we will have plenty of water to share. It’s the least we can do for the community we love.” While dozens of breweries offered the resource free of charge, 3 Sons Brewing Co. of Dania Beach announced on Instagram that it would be selling 24-bottle cases of water for $10 each. This is more than double the average price of a case of water. “Is this price gauging?” Worst Beer Blog asked via Twitter on Aug. 29.
(3 Sons also offered the water for “free” with the purchase of a case of beer. “Come one, come all and get hurricane party ready with all your favorite cans of delicious beer! Be the hero of your hurricane party,” the post read.)
This certainly does sound a lot like price gauging — if not legally, then certainly spiritually.
Soon enough, 3 Sons took it back, sort of. The company claimed the original post was “an honest pricing error and changed immediately,” according to a separate post. Both posts, captured by Worst Beer Blog and others, have since been deleted. At press time, a post on 3 Sons’ Instagram account reads, “Free fills of RO [reverse osmosis] water! $4 cases of bottles of water while supplies last.”
So, what can we learn from this? On the one hand, in the face of emergency, dozens of craft brewers swiftly reacted with a strategy to make use of their equipment while extending a helping hand. It’s a reminder of what, for many, craft beer is all about: community. For others, like 3 Sons, it’s all about business. At least in this case, the beer community came to the rescue.
Founders’ Sale Is Irrelevant. Racism Isn’t.
According to a filing with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission last week, Spain’s Mahou San Miguel will now own a 90 percent stake in Michigan-based Founders Brewing. The Spanish brewer formerly held a 30 percent minority stake in the company.
This won’t change Founders’ status as a craft brewer — a status it lost, per the Brewers Association definition, when it sold a minority stake to Mahou San Miguel in 2014. As usual, the brewery claims its day-to-day operations will remain the same. Nevertheless, fans of the brand are sad to see that 60 percent go.
This makes me sad.
— Mark A. (@MarktheGinger) September 3, 2019
I guess I'm Done with Founders…
— MarkJuras (@sonicdeathfish) August 30, 2019
But I’m less concerned with who’s holding Founders’ purse strings than I am with how Founders responds — or more accurately, has not really responded — to racial injustice within its ranks. It’s been nearly a year since VinePair reported on Founders being sued for racial discrimination. And it’s been about six months since Founders released its non-apology for what former employee Tracy Evans endured there, including racial slurs on at least two documented occasions.
Folks are more upset that Founders is “selling out” than them being racist AF. 🖕🏽 https://t.co/a1tpoozsRj
— Urban Craft Curiosity (@tonitwopint) August 29, 2019
The politics, ethics, and values of the person or corporation behind a beer brand matter. So, although this majority acquisition may be a “big deal” for Founders fans, the larger issue here is that Founders continues to earn financial support while some of its employees and community members suffer. Until Founders resolves this issue, my dollars will continue going elsewhere.
How Long Will Truly Hard Seltzer Sparkle?
According to bi-weekly Nielsen data acquired by Goldman Sachs, Boston Beer sales increased 28.7 percent overall in the last four weeks, driven by 173 percent growth from Truly. Meanwhile, Molson Coors sales declined 0.7 percent, and Constellation Brands’ beer sales increased 11.3 percent, while its spirits sales slowed.
Truly Hard Seltzer is driving Boston Beer’s growth. This we already knew. What we don’t know is how long this spritz can sustain in the face of other brands, such as White Claw, whose loyal following its quite literally changing the beverage industry; not to mention the dozens of others on the market from large and small brewers alike.