Press Clips: Misplaced Credit on Spent Grains; Craft Confuses Coors

The controversy surrounding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) effort to invent new rules dictating how brewers dispose of spent grains has subsided of late.

To summarize the ordeal briefly, it went something like this: The FDA added language to the Food Safety Modernization Act that brewers construed as detrimental to the centuries old practice of donating – or selling – spent grains to farmers to use as animal feed. Brewers and farmers decried the measure, which prompted select members of Congress to hop on the cause célèbre, championing the effort on Capitol Hill. In turn, the FDA announced it would take “necessary steps” to avoid turning what brewers and farmers have called a “mutually beneficial” relationship into something jointly disadvantageous. Since, it’s been mostly quiet.

But yesterday, the Washington Post published an interesting piece of analysis in which scribe Glenn Kessler takes Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) to task for maybe taking a little more credit than deserved in sending the FDA to its room to think about what it had done.

In short, Schumer has taken to the pulpit to slam the proposed changes. On April 18, his office issued a statement claiming, “After significant push, Schumer receives personal commitment from head of FDA that they will reverse course on ridiculous ‘spent grain’ rule that would have hurt New York’s craft brewers and family farmers.”

According to the Post, Schumer also claimed it was a conversation he had personally with the head of the FDA that inspired the reevaluation. But that may not have been entirely true.

Writes Kessler:

“[FDA director of compliance, Daniel] McChesney said the agency could have been clearer in how it initially worded the regulation, but that’s the point of soliciting comments on proposed rules.  ‘To us, this is just the normal process of rule-making’ he said. ‘All of these rules that are coming out next summer will look different because of the comments we got.’”

Which is to say, the FDA is doing what it would be doing — with or without Schumer.

Kessler concluded that Schumer’s announcement that he’d strong-armed the agency was “the congressional equivalent of a rooster thinking the sun rose because he crowed in the morning.”

Despite any glory the senator may or may not have been the rightful heir to, Schumer did fall in line with what craft brewers have been fighting for on the issue, proving himself as an elected official with craft beer friendly proclivities. Conversely, last week one member of the beer industry itself voiced his confusion on whatever this whole craft beer thing is anyway.

Pete Coors, chairman of MillerCoors, expounded a bit in a Denver Post profile on how the company is navigating the increasingly popular craft beer market while the segment that has long buttered the company’s bread is floundering.

He said the company knows “a lot about brewing crafty beers,” but is struggling nonetheless with the craft brand Terrapin, which it owns a minority stake in.

“We bought a craft brewery in Georgia, Terrapin. We are a minority interest, which isn’t working out the best. So we are learning about that,” he told the site.

But it was another comment in the story that really raised eyebrows across the online beer message boards, as Coors said he was befuddled by the rise of craft beer in general.

“In this economy that is difficult to understand,” Coors said. “But people are staying at home now, not buying cars or houses. They have money to spend. They want to spend it on something that they think has more value. … You talk about the millennials. The world is very different.”

And turn down that music!

Yuengling, on the other hand, which seems to exist in some sort of gray area between craft and something else, is apparently navigating this “very different” world just fine.

The brewery, which rolled out in Massachusetts earlier this year, is now looking to bring its familiar lineup back to Connecticut, having left the state in 1996 due to capacity constraints.

According to The Courant, the distributors that carried the brand before its departure maintain the right to distribute it upon its return, but have agreed to let the brewery shop around.

“They are now going through the process of interviewing wholesalers,” said Jude Malone, executive director of the Connecticut Beer Wholesalers Association. “We anticipate they’ll be back in Connecticut in 2014.”

Yuengling could return to the state as soon as this summer.