Last Call: Texas Craft Brewers Oppose Taproom Bill; Sierra Nevada Looks to Break from Nevada Wholesaler

Texas Craft Brewers Guild Opposes House Bill 3287

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild is petitioning against the latest version of House Bill 3287, which would now require breweries making more than 175,000 barrels annually to buy back beer from a wholesaler in order to continue direct-to-consumer sales.

Recall that an earlier version of the legislation would have counted production occurring at facilities “owned directly or indirectly by the license holder or an affiliate or subsidiary” toward a cap of 225,000 barrels in order to sell up to 5,000 barrels directly to consumers via taprooms. That bill would have affected the Austin outpost for Oskar Blues, which has several brewery and taproom locations in Colorado and North Carolina; MillerCoors-owned Revolver in Dallas-Fort Worth; Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Karbach Brewing in Houston; and potentially Independence Brewing, which received an investment last summer from Heineken International-owned Lagunitas.

The TCBG described HB 3287 as “damaging” and “anti-competitive” legislation that “hurts the current value and future expansion capabilities of all Texas breweries, large and small.”

“Now, the latest version of HB 3287 would require craft breweries who produce (or will produce in the future) 175,000 barrels of beer per year, and want to keep their taprooms open, to pay those same Texas wholesalers behind this bill what is essentially a tax on taproom sales,” Texas Craft Brewers Guild executive director Charles Vallhonrat wrote. “In other word, distributors would collect a fee for any beer sold in a brewery’s own taproom, even thought that beer never leaves the brewery.”

The bill is also opposed by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a spokeswoman told Brewbound.

The bill is heading for a vote in the Texas House of Representatives as early as today.

Sierra Nevada Attempting to Dump Nevada Distributor

Sierra Nevada is attempting to terminate its contract with Nevada’s Crown Beverages Inc., after what the brewery alleged was bullying and threatening behavior by the distributor’s president. According to Sierra, Crown’s president, Paul Bond, has created a “poisoned” and unsafe environment for the beer maker’s employees, reported Food and Beverage Law.

From the filing:

“First and foremost, Sierra Nevada cannot in good conscious send its employees to Crown because it has an unsafe, intolerable work environment. Almost three years ago, Sierra Nevada asked Crown’s president, Paul Bond, to quit intimidating Sierra Nevada’s employees and to ensure Crown has no firearms present at meetings. Sierra Nevada employees observed [the president] intoxicated and firearms on Crown’s premises. In that dangerous environment, he would berate them and others with vulgar, hostile language, often in response to Sierra Nevada’s concerns about negative feedback from the market on Crown’s poor performance. His own loyal people reluctantly admitted that they have seen him drink during business hours and heard him holler obscenities at people like ‘I am going to make your ass bleed’ and tell racist jokes. They have also seen him yell and swear at Sierra Nevada employees … who work tirelessly in Crown’s market to improve Sierra Nevada sales. Other beer suppliers and retailers have had similar problems at Crown, characterizing [the president] as ‘toxic’ and ‘volatile.’”

On top of those issues, Sierra Nevada claims that Crown has performed poorly at retail — and allegedly threatened the beer maker’s retail partners.

“For example, when Safeway’s then-liquor manager, Becky Denoyer, brought to Crown’s attention that its merchandiser forged her signature on an activity log purporting to reflect work done by Crown at Safeway, Mr. Bond called her, in slurred but unmistakable words, a ‘lying fucking bitch,’” the filing said. “She also heard from a former Crown employee that Mr. Bond referred to her as ‘the fucking cunt.’”

Read Sierra Nevada’s motion here and the exhibits here.

CBA Responds to Kona Lawsuit

Craft Brew Alliance has filed an answer to a March lawsuit that alleged the company used “false and deceptive advertising” to dupe consumers about the origin of Kona Brewing Co. beer sold in the U.S.

In a motion to dismiss, Craft Brew Alliance called the case “another lawyer-driven, no-injury, copycat lawsuit” and denied ever marketing or labeling its beers as “Made in Hawaii,” according to West Hawaii Today.

Kona Brewing Company’s website acknowledges that about 12,000 barrels of beer are produced at the company’s brewhouse in Kailua while the beer produced in the continental U.S. is made “under strict guidance” and with the “recipes and beer specifications are dictated by Kona Brewing Company’s brewmaster, who oversees each of Kona Brewing Company’s partner breweries as the beer is brewed and packaged.”

In addition, CBA’s filing says Kona’s labels disclose that the liquid is produced at CBA facilities in Oregon, Washington, Tennessee and New Hampshire, which “exceeds its obligations under federal law.”

Clare Rose Threatens to Replace Striking Employees; Shore Point Locks Out Workers

Last week, Brewbound reported on the more than 100 union delivery drivers and warehouse workers for New York-based beer distributor Clare Rose who went on strike after months of unsuccessful wage negotiations.

Since then, Clare Rose — which sells Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Pabst Brewing and various craft beer products throughout Long Island — sent striking workers, members of Teamsters Local 812, letters informing them that they would be permanently replaced.

The New York Daily news reported that the letter, dated April 25, from Clare Rose president Sean Rose and vice president Lisa Rose, included instructions on how to leave the union as well as the phone number for the National Right to Work Defense Fund.

“Striking employees who have been permanently replaced will not automatically have the right to displace permanent replacement workers” and would only have a job if “a position is available,” the letter reportedly said.

“The choice … is yours alone to make and the company is not encouraging or suggesting that you do so,” the letter stressed in an underlined sentence.

Clare Rose has also reportedly brought in out-of-state workers to make deliveries while union member picket.

Additionally, Shore Point Distributing Company in the Freehold Township of New Jersey locked out drivers and warehouse workers last Sunday after failing to agree on a new contract, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Shore Point — which delivers Coors and Corona products in eight counties in central New Jersey — is also the state’s biggest distributor of craft beer in the state. The company has also reportedly brought in replacement workers.

Shore Point’s “final offer” to union workers reportedly called for a three-year wage freeze, increased health insurance costs and a move from a pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan.

About 113 workers, members of Teamsters Local 701 in North Brunswick, New Jersey, have been affected.

Baxter Brewing Hires New Director of Brewing Operations

Maine-headquartered Baxter Brewing Co. has hired Andrew Sheffield as the company’s new director of brewing operations.

Sheffield, who was most recently part of New Belgium’s senior brewing team, starts with Baxter this month. He also previously brewed at Oskar Blues for two years. Sheffield replaces Ben Low, who departed Baxter in March after leading its brewing operations since November 2011.

“After more than a decade of making wine and beer, for twelve different producers on three continents, I couldn’t be more excited than to be coming to Lewiston and Baxter Brewing Company,” Sheffield said via a press release. “This is a bit of a homecoming for me, as I will join my mom and stepdad, who relocated to Lewiston a few years ago.

“As great as it is to be around family when you have two small kids like I do, I would never have left Colorado and New Belgium if I didn’t think that Baxter and the Lewiston/Auburn area did not have an incredibly bright future,” he added.

LeBron James isn’t Much of a “Beer Guy”

During the third quarter of the Cleveland’s Game 1 victory over Toronto Raptors on Monday, LeBron James missed an “and-one” opportunity, ran to the sideline, grabbed a bottle of Great Lakes’ Dortmunder Gold from a vendor and playfully mimed taking a drink.

The crowd at Quicken Loans Arena ate it up. But King James admittedly isn’t much of a “beer guy” and probably less so after the fallout.

A day later, Cleveland-based Great Lakes took to social media and tweeted a picture of James with the beer saying the brewery would offer discounts on pints and growler fills of the beer. A second tweet showed James with the beer along with the tagline “G.O.A.T. with the G.O.L.D.”

James was not amused.

“My agent and my legal team will take care of it, but yeah, I know [Great Lakes] is trying to benefit off me,” James told “And I heard they were the same company that made those ‘Quitness’ beers [which made fun of LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami], and now they’re trying to benefit off me this way? Yeah, it’s pretty funny.”

James might have a case, according to sports law expert Don E. Gibson, who told For the Win that “using the image as a means of inducing customers to come to their venue to purchase their product at a discount, they have arguably violated LeBron’s right of publicity.”

“They’re trading off of the goodwill associated with his image and the value of that image to bring customers to their venue for commercial purposes,” Gibson said.

According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, however, the beef may have been squashed after Great Lakes agreed to remove the tweets.