Saturday, February 8, 2014

Will you boycott Blue Point?

Mark Burford and Pete Cotter, owners of Blue Point Brewing Company (Credit: Blue Point Brewing Co.)
When it was announced earlier this week that Anheuser-Busch/InBev had bought out New York’s own Blue Point Brewing Company, it damn near broke the Internet (well, at least the part beer geeks use).

To date, there’s been a lot of commentary on this news [see links below], though most of it seems to be that of outrage and disdain. For some reason, craft beer enthusiasts tend to be just a few degrees removed from Occupiers when it comes to talk of corporations. I’ve never understood the mentality that we should support small, local breweries (all quality aside) so that they can grow. Yet at the same time we’re supposed to raise our noses at big craft breweries who did exactly that. There must be some magical number at which a brewery becomes too big for its britches and loses its cache.

Blue Point is a brewery I’ve always considered rather average. Most of what I’ve had from them has been decent, though some have been pretty lousy. I did find their White IPA  to be pleasantly surprising (which I first discovered on tap at The Bier Abbey) and I was delighted to see it was available in cans. Otherwise, I just haven’t had a strong opinion of Blue Point. When I heard the news of the AB-InBev buyout, I shrugged. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but to beer nerds everywhere it was a deal with the devil.

I’m not saying I condone it, but I understand why the deal was made. AB-InBev bought out Goose Island in 2011 and they also partially own the “Craft Brewers Alliance” which consists of Redhook, Kona, and Widmer Bros. With that precedent, Blue Point would seem to be a natural addition to their portfolio. I could see the average Shock Top drinker making the transition to a Blue Point beer without much problem. I’ll bet you’ll probably see Toasted Lager next to 312 Urban Wheat Ale at your local corporate dining establishment by Christmas.

The backlash among the craft beer community to this news doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me, though I do think there’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed:
  1. It’s no secret that Blue Point’s bottles and cans have been contract-brewed by Genesee in Rochester for years. Genny is hardly a craft brewery, so why didn’t the holier-than-thou hipsters boycott Blue Point a long time ago? Why is okay for a macro brewery to contract brew a craft brewery’s beers, but not okay for a macro brewery to own the brand outright?
  2. There are plenty of other “real” craft breweries that have their beer contract-brewed that no one ever acknowledges. Brooklyn’s 12oz bottles are made in Utica by Saranac and Sixpoint’s cans are made by Lion Brewery in Pennsylvania. Why do they maintain their credibility?
  3. Why is “owned by AB-InBev” the same as “brewed by AB-InBev”? You don’t really think the executives in St. Louis (or Belgium) are telling the Goose Island brewers in Chicago how to make their famous barrel-aged imperial stout and Belgian brands, do you? You don’t really think they’re going to start using adjuncts in the craft beer recipes, do you?
  4. Is having “crafty” beer really such a bad thing? I’ve heard plenty of craft brewers say they’re glad Blue Moon is there because it’s a gateway to real craft beer. It’s not realistic to expect Joe Frat Boy to go from Keystone Ice to Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is it? Isn’t it better for the craft beer industry as a whole to have transition brands?
  5. Why is that Ommegang and Boulevard maintain their craft brewery status by the Brewer’s Association (and craft beer drinkers) despite being owned by a foreign conglomerate?
  6. If you’re boycotting Blue Point because they sold out to AB-InBev, I can only assume you drain-poured all your Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (and its many variants) a long time ago and you don’t buy it anymore, right?
Recommended reading:
Brew York: Why You Should Care About the Anheuser-Busch/Blue Point Deal
The Long Island Pulse: The Dissection of Anheuser-Busch InBev & Blue Point Brewing Company
The Full Pint: How Many F’s Given About Blue Point Brewing Being Sold to AB-InBev?

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