Boston Magazine Suggests Craft is Moving On without Jim Koch
“Jim Koch was pissed off.” So begins a lengthy feature story in Boston Magazine, the crux of which supposes Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) and an indisputable pioneer in the industry, is being left in the dust of those he paved the way for. To summarize Andy Crouch’s story in his own words: “Unfortunately for Koch, the simple truth is that more and more beer drinkers don’t want Sam Adams, and in turn, an increasing number of bars won’t sell the famous amber lager. Koch’s Boston Beer Company may have built the craft-beer business as we know it, but local beer geeks—the industry’s connoisseurs—think he’s lost his edge.” Beyond quoting a couple of bar owners in Boston about why they don’t sell Boston Beer products, the article also submits that the company’s recently released on-trend offerings (Rebel IPA) and its exploration of the cider category are being signed off on by Koch rather begrudgingly.
NPR Tackles Trend of Trademark Disputes
For all the collaboration and cheerleading that goes on in the craft beer industry, there’s also a good bit of conflict, often rearing its head in the form of trademark disputes. You’ve heard the story a million times: two brands are either similarly marketed or identically named and the proprietor of one sends a cease and desist letter to the other. This week, NPR highlighted a number of these disputes, including some that played out publicly (SweetWater demanding Lagunitas stop making reference to “420,” the Number of the Stoner) and others stemming mostly from rumor (Yellow Tail Wines of Australia supposedly strong-arming Ballast Point into ditching the Yellowtail name for its Pale Ale). The whole article is worth the read, but one quote from Candace Moon, a San Diego lawyer who specializes in these matters, stood out as something brewers should consider when naming their next product – or mailing a cease and desist of their own: “There are only so many words and names that make sense with beer, so it’s not surprising that many people will come up with the same idea.”
Gary Fish, Widmer Brothers Opine on the State of the Industry
Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes, and Kurt and Rob Widmer, founders of Widmer Brothers, took part in a question and answer session with MarketWatch earlier this week, in which they touched on everything from their disdain for snobbery to how commercial success changed their businesses. A few choice quotes have been pulled below:
Fish on maintaining core values at a larger scale:
“We’ve held very fast to certain things. If it doesn’t make the beer taste better, we don’t do it. Period… There is part of getting larger that is more efficient and provides greater consistency. Sometimes, I think there’s a consumer who just doesn’t like consistency and if we’re large and we’ve been successful, we can’t be cool anymore.”
The Widmers on people who turn on companies for attaining a certain level of success:
Kurt: “Where I struggle is with people who say: ‘Kurt, your beer is getting worse every day, shame on you.’ We can have that conversation, but if they’re honest and they really know what they’re talking about, our beer gets better every day. There’s this continual improvement in the beer quality as the result of getting larger, but they seem to be unwilling to recognize that. You have to be small to be cute for some of these guys.”
Rob: “One of the things that I always find kind of ironic is that a lot of time these same people who think we’re getting too big wear Nikes, own Apple computers and drive Toyotas. I always think that’s kind of interesting, but the good news in that is that people are really emotional about beer. It may not always fall the way we’d like, but they do care.”
New England Brewing Apologizes for Gandhi-Bot
New England Brewing Co. has issued an apology to a vocal faction of Indians offended by the brewery’s use of Mohandas Gandhi’s name and likeness in the branding of one of its beers. “Gandhi-Bot” IPA, the brewery explained on Facebook, is meant as a respectful tribute to the Indian civil rights leader, rather than a slight. However, some of the recent criticism of the beer, reports the Associated Press, is over the robotic depiction of Gandhi on the cans the beer comes in. “How this celebrates the apostle of peace by putting his image on a beer can boggles one’s mind,” Connecticut State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, a Republican who is originally from India, told the AP.