16 Nov 2009 @ 12:10 PM 

In case you didn’t catch the news a little while back, Pabst Blue Ribbon is for sale. Why is kind of amusing. It is currently owned by the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation which has recently been given a deadline by the IRS to sell Pabst, because it is unlawful for charitable foundations to own for-profit companies.

Paul Kalmanovitz, who the Foundation is named after, was the former owner of Pabst, as well as Falstaff Brewing, Lone Star, and Pearl, Stroh’s, and Olympia. When he died, he left most of his estate to the creation of a charitable foundation for universities and hospitals. Oh, and also making bank with PBR.

Let me throw you one quote from the Wikipedia article about how Kalmanovitz made breweries profitable and I’ll move on:

Kalmanovitz acquired an ailing brewery, fired the corporate personnel, reduced budgets, sold off equipment, stopped plant maintenance, and eliminated product quality control.

Truly, it was the golden age of brewing.

Of course, Pabst – at this point – isn’t really a beer company. It’s a marketing organization. They contract the brewing of a dozen-or-so brands. I’m not clear on exactly who does the brewing for them, but I’m pretty sure it’s MillerCoors. Don’t quote me on that.

Regardless of where the beer is actually made, Pabst, and by extension, hipster-badge Pabst Blue Ribbon, is available for the low, low price of $300,000,000.

It seems like a paltry amount, especially if you look at the recent AB-InBev merger price tag of what.. $52 billion? But, considering this economy $300 million is probably as much as they can expect. And maybe rent in Milwaukee is a little lower than St. Louis.

Rather than wait for the announcement of the next giant corporation/richer-than-rich-private-entity snapping up Pabst, an enterprising set of individuals have put together a little website to crowdsource the purchase of Pabst: BuyABeerCompany.com.

Why this isn’t dragging in hipsters by the boatload, I’m not sure. Probably because if you’re drinking PBR, then the following sentence on the website is a deal-killer:

The asking price is $300 Million, not a small number, but through crowdsourcing pledges of as little as $5.00, the cost of a bottle of beer, this can be achieved based on the largest crowdsourced audience assembled, ever.

$5.00? For a bottle of beer? Man, that’s like a sixer of PBR.

(Hey hipsters! That’s like a 12-pack of Genny Cream Ale! You fools!)

It’s a cool concept. If you’re interested, you pledge for a certain amount. You don’t need to send in any money. Your money isn’t needed until they receive $300 million in pledges.

Never mind that at $5.00/pledge you need 60 million pledges. Or to look at that another way, you need $5 from every drinking American.

So, sure. We might all put down $300 million, collectively, on a Friday night. But try to organize us like this over the internet. I bet that most of those drinkers don’t even know what an internet looks like.

If an enterprising set of investors were interested, however, this would be an interesting way of buying Pabst without paying full price. Of course, then you’d have to share with all the douchebags like me who have pledged $25 for the opportunity to someday (maybe) own .00000008% of Pabst.

Who knows where that kind of investment could lead?

As of when I wrote this post, they already have $500,000 in pledges. Only $299,500,000 to go.

Come on, everyone. Pony up!

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Categories: industry, news
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 16 Nov 2009 @ 12 10 PM

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 29 Jul 2009 @ 11:00 AM 

Tomorrow, when President Obama sits down for a beer with Sgt. Crowley of the CPD and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., all eyes will be focused on pint glasses.*

The whole thing is a little ridiculous. I mean, the fact that this meeting/drinking is happening in the first place is ridiculous. The entire chain of events that has led us to this point has been ludicrous. The media coverage of the upcoming event has been nothing short of insane. Nevermind pulling the coverage off of health care onto this race relations business, now we’ve pulled coverage off of this race relations business onto beer.

As is reported in The Washington Post as well as countless other outlets:

Mr. Obama will likely sip a Budweiser, Sgt. Crowley a Blue Moon, and Mr. Gates either a Red Stripe or Beck’s, the White House said.

Okay. Now I can get involved. After all, as a blogger I have to be self-righteously indignant about issues that have been amply covered in other locations and mediums. It’s my oeuvre.

Quick show of hands: Who among you assorted and sundry beer geeks out there is really surprised to see a Bud for Obama? Really? That many? After all, as Press Secretary Gibbs noted:

The President had a Budweiser at the All-Star Game, so — why are you looking at me like that? That’s what he drank.

And you know, that was in St. Louis, where Schlafly is on tap at — yes.. okay.. here it comes — Busch Stadium. So are people really surprised that Obama’s getting a Bud?

I sure am.

After all, since a rule during LBJ’s administration, the White House is not allowed to stock foreign beers. (In retrospect, it seems a little ridiculous coming from LBJ. I mean.. how many could he possibly have had to chose from?) So our possible drinks of choice?

Budweiser: Manufactued in America by Anheuser-Busch-InBev, Belgian-owned.
Blue Moon: Manufactured in America by Molson Coors, Canadian owned.**
Red Stripe: Manfucatured in Jamaica by Diageo, U.K. owned.
Beck’s: Manufactured in Germany by Anheuser-Busch-InBev, Belgian-owned.

I can see where you might argue that Budweiser and Blue Moon are American beers, but they’re American beers like the Toyotas manufactured in Indiana are American cars.

By contrast, here’s how far it is from the White House to the Capitol City Brewery:

View Larger Map

.3 miles.

Mind you, those are driving directions. If you just cut across the lawn on foot instead of pulling out of the driveway, you’ve got be able to save yourself a tenth of a mile.

So, yes. I am surprised. I am surprised that in this very young and hip White House, nobody has the presence of mind to walk down the street and pick up a couple of growlers of local beer. They can ship clam chowder in from Boston for the inauguration and they can’t get – shit – even a Sam Adams in for this? Is there nobody on the White House staff – even in the kitchens – who can say, “Oh, if you like Blue Moon, you will probably also like the Hefeweizen that is currently on tap at Cap City? Or that the Cap City Kolsch would probably go over just as well as Red Stripe?

I can’t fault Obama. He doesn’t have the time to be hunting out local pubs. But you’d think that there would be somebody on his staff with some sort of taste in beer that would pipe up and say, “Hey – you know what would be really good, support a local business AND would go over well with local and national press?”

Really guys? You’ve got no one? Why am I paying all this excise tax on my beer if you can’t use that money to hire somebody with some good taste in beer? Next time you’re having a race relations beer pong afternoon, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to set you straight.

* – (God, I hope they use glassware.)

** – to be fair, Molson Coors is half-American owned. Both countries like to state that the brewery is controlled by foreign interests. They’re supposed to be 50/50.

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Categories: brewery, brewpub, news
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Jul 2009 @ 11 00 AM

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 03 Jun 2009 @ 9:16 AM 

This is old news at best, but it’s summertime and I live in the South, so it feels relevant. I just ran across an article that was posted in a few news outlets a couple of years back that reported that beer might be better for you than water is after exercise. For whatever reason, it’s been pulled up recently RSS feeds onto Google news and is getting a new spin around the internet on blogs – especially fitness blogs – and even the blog over at DRAFT Mag.

The Science News Cycle from PhD Comics

The team sportsman in me isn’t surprised by this at all. I find that beer heightens the excitement after each win and alleviates the bad feeling after each loss. I find it also heightens the feeling of camaraderie between teammates. But… hydration?

Prof Garzon, who announced the results at a press conference in Granada beneath a banner declaring “Beer, Sport, Health”, said the hydration effect in those who drank beer was “slightly better”.

I’ll take slightly better in most things. Unfortunately, as much as I love science that says beer is good for you, I have to take the time to call this one into question. Here are as many details as I could dig up – though I have been unable to find an actual published article.

This experiment was done with an unnamed “Spanish lager” on 25 students. They were made to run on a treadmill to “the point of exhaustion” in 104F degree weather. At the end of the session half the students were given 2 pints of water and half were given 2 pints of beer. Those who were given beer were also given access to water.

(Side comment: Science journalism by mainstream media outlets really pisses me off.)

So, we don’t know anything about the students. They’re listed as “physically fit” but we don’t know age, weight, gender makeup, or anything. We don’t know what “the point of exhaustion” means, or how it varies from one student to another. We don’t know what type of beer it was, or what it was made of, alcohol content, or even carbohydrate or caloric content. We don’t know how much water they were given access to in addition to the beer, or if they all had some. We don’t even know the metric that was used to measure recovery rate. For all we know he bought a couple of twelve packs of the Spanish version of Bud Light (there must be one, right?) and gave half the people a couple of cans in addition to the water they were drinking then sat down after they each had a couple of beers and asked, “How do you feel?”

“Great, man! Thanks for the beer!” Except.. y’know.. in Spanish.

I propose a competing study:

I play volleyball outdoor in sand courts a couple of days per week. On the weekends, we often do it in the middle of the day. In the summertime, 104F can seem like a cool day. I invite some science-minded brewery to send me beer which I will then give to half of the people that I play with (which I will also have to partake of to make sure the beer is of.. ermm.. proper quality). In return, I will make sure that after each mid-day session in the hot sun, I will neglect to measure any real information on my participants, but I will give them all an easy questionnaire: “Do you feel awesome? Y/N” and together, after 2 or 3 months of this, we can publish a paper with guaranteed excellent results.

Who’s wants to donate to this worthy cause?

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 03 Jun 2009 @ 10 28 AM

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 18 May 2009 @ 9:44 AM 

Pop quiz: What do Kid Rock and Jimmy Buffet have in common?

Okay. You got me. There are actually a lot of right answers to that, but the one I’m looking for is that they both have their own beer.

You may not be familiar with Jimmy Buffet’s Landshark Lager. It is made by Margaritaville Brewing Company, which is to say it is marketed by Margaritaville Brewing Company which is a joint venture between Buffet and Anheuser-Busch InBev who actually makes the beer. It’s not the worst beer I’ve ever had.

Enter Bob Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, who is starting the “American Bad Ass Beer Company” together with Drinks Americas Holdings, Ltd., who are the minds behind Donald Trump’s Trump Super Premium Vodka and Willie Nelson’s Old Whiskey River Bourbon among other celebrity-infused lines. Their one beer project so far has been nostalgia-based Rheingold Beer (which has a higher rating than Landshark!).

In a surprising move, however, Mr. Rock and DAH announced that “Bad Ass Beer” would be contract brewed at The Michigan Brewing Company, a craft brewer where (as far as I know) Hoegaarden founder Pierre Celis still brews his Celis Wit. The Michigan Brewing Company is reportedly investing $7 million into this line of beer, as well as receiving a $723,000 tax credit (over 7 years) from the state as part of an economic stimulus package for the region. Making beer is kinda like making cars in that it employs people in a factory, so that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, that’s about where I stop thinking that it’s cool.

As near as I can tell, the only people who will really go for this beer will almost undoubtedly be hardcore Kid Rock fans which sounds like a fairly small market to me. Why? Well, here’s an excerpt from a recent Rolling Stone interview:

What does it taste like?

It just tastes like good American light beer, a regular beer and a light beer, an everyday beer.

[. . .]

What’s it called?

It’s going to be called Bad Ass Beer. The ads are so funny. There are so many funny ads you can do with a thing called Bad Ass Beer. There’s one where it looks like the Budweiser horses, and they’re all up in the air, just freaked out, like they went haywire, and whatever they ride on is smashed up, and it just has my beer sitting in the front, it says “Bad Ass.” And “…and the horses they rode in on.” There’s another one where we fuck with Corona. We have an old rusty truck with no tires on it and it’s sitting on the Bad Ass beer, and it says, “The only way you’ll ever see a lemon on it.” We’ve got another one with the Bad Ass beer simulating like it’s fucking the St. Pauli’s girl. We’re all doing it locally with an ad agency here in Detroit that does a lot of car ads. The guy lives next to me and runs my favorite bar here. They come up with really funny stuff. It’s just wide-open for fucking with people. And the beer actually tastes good, there’s no aftertaste.

So, you’re having a decent craft brewery make beer that will compete directly with BMC light lager offerings and instead of investing in the beer, you’re investing in a shit-ton of advertising.

This is doomed to failure. Why? Because they can out-cheap you, Mr. Rock. They can out-cheap you HARD. You can’t sell beer as inexpensively as they sell beer, because the company that you’re paying to make beer can’t make it in the quantity that those guys can, $7 million dollar investment or not. You’ll be making something to the tune of a fraction of a percent of the beer that they make. You can’t get those price breaks. On top of that, you’re throwing millions of dollars at advertising – and unless you’re a bigger philanthropist than I think you are, I’m guessing that you’re going to want to recoup that cost somehow, which means higher priced beer. Ultimately, the guys down at the local might think it’s awesome to buy your beer once in a while, but when they can buy a sixer of Bud Light for the same price as a bomber of Bad Ass, I think the choice is going to be pretty clear.

On a personal level, I also have to admit that this kind of thing pisses me off: When celebrities throw their weight and money into places that they don’t belong. For every bullshit company started on celebrity name recognition there are 100 small businesses with real quality products that fail because they can’t find even a modest investment. The state of Michigan is giving nearly $1 mil in tax credits? Man, I hope that when I start my brewery I can get a piece of that action, even if I don’t have a record out. If they were willing to put that type of effort toward fixing the distribution laws, I bet Bell’s Brewery would be happy to help stimulate the economy, as well.

Either way, Bad Ass Beer should be hitting the shelves sometime right around Labor Day. Look for it and try it, because my bet is that it won’t be around for long.

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Categories: industry, marketing, new beer, news, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 18 May 2009 @ 03 33 PM

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For the past few days, I’ve been planning on writing a piece about the hearing before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week. The hearing was in regards to financing comprehensive health care reform. However, I couldn’t do any justice to the topic beyond the writeup at the Brookston Beer Bulletin as well as his subsequent call for action.

In case you haven’t been following this end of the news much, it was recommended by 3 of the panel of 13 “witnesses” that a significant increase in taxes on cigarettes and beer would be the best way to pay for Obama’s proposted health care reform. Holy moly. Like beer needs any more taxation. I’ll sum up the expert opinions here, but you should go read the Brookston articles to have them broken down. They’re fantastic.

The expert opinions sum up to:

Alcohol is bad for you. If you tax it heavily, not only do you recoup costs but you also create a prohibitive barrier to over-consumption.

The interesting thing there to me is that there are known health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption. On the other hand, there are no benefits to consumption of high fructose corn syrup, unless, I guess, you really love being fat. In fact, it is considered to be one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. because it’s in freakin’ EVERYTHING. Walk down the grocery aisle sometime and see how many foods you can find that don’t have high fructose corn syrup in them – especially foods marketed to kids. It’s pretty damn educational.

As far as I’m concerned, if you really want to recoup costs and put a prohibitive barrier on over-consumption that will affect a positive health change in our society, increase the taxes on everything that includes a sweetener and increase taxes on fast food (which is also really high in high fructose corn syrup!). Is it still a tax on the lower class? Unfortunately, but if part of your taxation plan is actually creating a prohibitive barrier to one of the roots of the problem, it’s the way to go.

Beer is a luxury and is already one of the most taxed and regulated products in the country. Raise the taxes on it, and I think you see less income, not more, since you will essentially be on your way to shutting down hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses and putting tens of thousands of people out of work.

I’ll point you again at BBB’s call for action. Contact your representative, especially if you’re in the beer industry, but also if you just like beer. Let them know that this is the wrong target.

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Categories: industry, news, taxation
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 15 May 2009 @ 08 56 AM

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