North Carolina Distributors Set Up Anonymous Petition
This week, a North Carolina Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association (NCBWWA) executive confirmed to Brewbound that a consultant working on behalf of the organization was behind an anonymous online petition that helped to kill two craft-friendly bills in the state.
North Carolina craft brewers had been making headway on House Bill 625 and House Bill 278 — legislation that would have cleared the way for contract brewing and raised the self-distribution cap from 25,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels — when the website ncbeerjobs.com made waves last month.
To an outsider, the website had all the makings of being pro-craft, asking visitors to sign a petition to “protect North Carolina beer jobs.” At the time, nobody took ownership for activating the site, which claimed the two brewer-backed bills threatened jobs and circumnavigated the state’s current regulatory system. Although it made specific reference to a MillerCoors brewery in Eden, N.C. that employs more than 500 people, the website offered nothing in the way of disclosing who was running the campaign.
That prompted Creative Loafing Charlotte to criticize the website in late April, as “misleading,” and a “fear-mongering piece of skewed garbage.”
The site had the look of similar online legislative advocacy campaigns run in other states by brewers and their guilds, but this one was drumming up support for killing the exact types of bills craft brewers typically lend their support to. Because of this, detractors hypothesized the site was propped up as a means of duplicitously getting people on board with fighting bills they would actually support.
In explaining the anonymity of the petition, Tim Kent, executive director of the NCBWWA, said in an email to Brewbound that the site was “specifically directed to distributor employees and nobody else.” To that end, he said, “it generated more than 1,100 unique messages between beer distributor employees and legislators.”
Both bills failed to move out of a house committee, leading Kent to recall a sports analogy he said an unnamed lawmaker relayed to him that encapsulated the matter.
“In football parlance, you could compare this to a misdirection play,” Kent said the lawmaker told him. “While one side was worried about a website and a distributor-only petition, the other side was putting the ball in the end zone.”
Slow Ride Dispute Comes to Halt (Sort of)
The U.S. District Court of Colorado has granted Oasis Texas Brewing’s motion to dismiss a trademark dispute with New Belgium Brewing Co., citing the state’s lack of jurisdiction in the matter, reports the Houston Chronicle.
As Brewbound reported in February, New Belgium had sought judicial declaration naming it the sole proprietor of the “Slow Ride” trademark with regards to beer after learning Oasis had been marketing a product called Slow Ride Pale Ale. The judge that dismissed the case also declined to transfer it to a Texas court, the article adds. “I thought it was a pretty strong statement from the judge,” Max Schleder, general manager at Oasis Texas, told the Chronicle.
That doesn’t necessarily put an end to the dispute, however. New Belgium released a statement saying it still hops to resolve the situation “amicably and out of court.”
“Short of that, we will continue to pursue geographic clarification as to rights and usage of our Slow Ride trademark brand in a Texas US District Court,” a blog post on the company’s website noted.
Bell’s to Embark on Massive Expansion
In 2010, Bell’s Brewery detailed plans to invest more than $50 million in an expansion project to build out additional capacity and create 50 new jobs, though the company said at the time the project would be done gradually over six years. Now, according to MLive.com, the company is readying itself to pump $50 million into a 200,000 sq. ft. expansion of its Comstock brewhouse. As of press time, it’s unclear whether this latest investment is entirely separate from the 2010 plan.
The expansion will enable the company to brew 1 million barrels of beer per year, an increase of 200,000 barrels on current capacity, MLive reports. Additionally, Bell’s will add a bottling line, warehouse logistics center, and employee offices, the article adds.
New Belgium Wanted to Bid on Elysian
According to a report this afternoon from the Denver Post, New Belgium had “made a last minute push” to purchase Elysian Brewing before the Seattle-based brewery ultimately sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Dick Cantwell, Elysian founder, told the Post that New Belgium was prepared to make a competitive offer, but the deal with A-B was finalized before New Belgium could develop its bid. What isn’t clear is whether New Belgium was given a fair shot in an adequate timeframe to make an offer. Elysian co-founder Joe Bisaca claims the opportunity was afforded, while Cantwell said it was not. Cantwell, who resigned from A-B InBev in April, is the boyfriend of Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium.
Georgia Governor Signs Beer Bill
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed the Beer Jobs Bill into law, according to AJC.com. Though it’s a stripped down version of its former, much broader iteration, the bill allows for brewers in the state to charge for tours and in return provide consumers with up to 72 oz. of beer for off-premise consumption as a “free souvenir.”