Last Call: Jim Koch Dines with President Trump; Buffalo Wild Wings Considers Sports Betting

Boston Beer Founder Invited to Dinner with Trump

Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch was among a dozen executives invited to a dinner with President Donald Trump on Tuesday night.

During the gathering, which was hosted at a New Jersey golf resort owned by Trump, Koch said he wasn’t sure why he got the invite, but he used the opportunity to speak on behalf of “7,000 small brewers in the United States.” In doing so, Koch thanked him for signing into law excise tax cuts that were included in the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act.

“When I started Sam Adams, American beer was a joke, and it pissed me off,” he said, according to a transcript. “And now, American brewers make the best beer in the world. And the tax reform was a very big deal for all of us, because 85 percent of the beer made in the United States is owned by foreign companies.”

Koch told the crowd that Boston Beer — which makes the Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea, and Truly Spiked & Sparkling products — is the “largest American-owned brewery at 2 percent market share.” He added that his company was paying 38 percent taxes while competing against foreign corporations that were paying a 20 percent effective tax rate.

“And now we have a level playing field, and we’re going to kick their ass,” he said.

“That’s good,” Trump replied. “We’ve done that. That was a very unfair situation. That’s right. Good job. That’s a really good job.”

The excise tax cuts are slated to expire at the end of 2019.

Buffalo Wild Wings Eyes Bookmaking

Buffalo Wild Wings, the United States’ largest pourer of draft beer, is eyeing a foray into the sports betting business, according to ESPN.

“As the largest sports bar in America, we believe Buffalo Wild Wings is uniquely positioned to leverage sports gaming to enhance the restaurant experience for our guests,” a Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson told ESPN. “We are actively exploring opportunities, including potential partners, as we evaluate the next steps for our brand.”

The news comes three months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opening up sports betting beyond Nevada in the process. Three states — Delaware, Mississippi and New Jersey — have begun allowing gaming thus far.

Buffalo Wild Wings was acquired by Arby’s owner Roark Capital Group for $2.4 billion in February.

Interior Secretary’s Ties to Montana Brewery Under Scrutiny

The Department of the Interior’s inspector general is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to determine whether he colluded with Halliburton chairman David Lesar to build a microbrewery in Montana, according to Politico.

A Lesar-led development in Whitefish includes plans for a brewery, which Zinke had reportedly sought to open for six years. The inspector general announced the inquiry into Zinke’s personal dealings with Lesar — including the brewery — in July. Halliburton is among the top companies with business before the Department of the Interior.

According to Politico, the Whitefish city planner said the brewery was being built for Zinke and his wife to operate. However, Zinke released a statement denying that he and his wife were involved in the project, and sent a text to Politico saying: “At this point in my life, I am more interested in sampling hand crafted beers rather than making them.”

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to MegaBrew Merger

The 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon, has thrown out an antitrust lawsuit brought by 23 beer drinkers who were attempting to block the $107 billion merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, according to Reuters.

According to the appeals court, SABMiller’s divestiture of its U.S. beer business, MillerCoors, to Molson Coors, satisfied its desire for less consolidation in the beer industry.

Under the law, the plaintiffs were required to show that the merger “creates an appreciable danger or a reasonable probability of anticompetitive effects in the relevant market.”

“[The] consumers’ allegations do not belly up to this bar,” Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote.

An attorney for the plaintiffs told the outlet that he plans to ask the court to revisit the case due to “72 percent of the market” being owned by A-B, SAB and Molson Coors.

“Is the elimination of the second-largest brewer in the world from the U.S. market a lessening of competition?” Joseph Alioto told the outlet. “I don’t think there is any doubt.”

Canadian Craft Brewers Face Aluminum Shortage

Canadian craft brewers are scrambling to acquire aluminum cans due to a shortage and higher costs, according to Reuters.

Despite being the world’s third largest aluminum producer, Canadian beer producers import more than 2 billion cans a year, mostly from the United States, the outlet reported. And when Canada announced retaliatory tariffs on imported U.S. aluminum in July, some beer makers were told the cost of aluminum cans was increasing.

“It seems like no one has cans to sell,” Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s Brewing Co. in Ottawa, told the outlet. “Whether it’s tariff-related or not, clearly some large producers have greatly underestimated their demand so that the suppliers were caught off guard and unable to provide it.”

In fact, Crown Holdings CEO Timothy Donahue told analysts last month that the closure of a can-making plant in Massachusetts at the beginning of the year may have occurred too soon.

Tommyknocker Ownership Dispute Ends

A fight over the ownership of Colorado-headquartered Tommyknocker Brewery has ended, according to Denver alt-weekly newspaper Westword.

The dispute, which began in January 2017 after co-founder Tim Lenahan died, ended after his partner, Charlie Sturdavant, agreed to sell his stake in the company to investors Gerry Ware and the family of the late Richard Cohen, the outlet reported.

According to Westword, when Lenahan died, a clause in the company’s organizational agreement requiring its investors to agree on whether to continue the business was triggered. Sturdavant and a group of investors decided it was time to cash out their 42 percent stake in the company due to disagreements with Ware and Cohen’s son, Stephen.

“It took a while, but twenty of us made our exit,” he told the outlet.

Dogfish Head to Release New Video Series

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and First We Feast are releasing a second season of “That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It,” starting August 14.

The six-part series melds craft beer with pop culture, with Dogfish Head co-founder Sam Calagione sharing beers with Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne, YouTube’s Rhett & Link, and rapper N.O.R.E., among others.

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