What Company Do You Keep?

For BeerNexus.com

I’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase/saying that “you’re known by the company you
keep”. Who you hang out with can help define who you are or even have others
judge you on it. I’m sure many of us can remember as a kid our Mom saying
something similar when they didn’t like one or more of our friends at the time. And
yes this typically refers to people but companies can also be affected by this.
In the craft beer world we know what ownership change, which is certainly a form of
who you’re keeping company with can and does. I think this can have an effect on
other companies as well, but I have three examples I’d like to bring to your attention;
you be the judge.

In 2018 Disneyland announced they were going to open a craft brewery in Downtown
Disney. Typical first thoughts of Disney, be it Land or World, are lots of fun and
entertainment with rides and kids and Mickey and Minnie and Goofy, etc. But Disney
is not a newcomer and understands the adults are the ones bankrolling these
adventures so needs to appeal to them also. So alcohol is not a new thing at Disney.
At their California Adventure Park you can find a few differently themed places which
feature wine or cocktails or your basic social scene mix of wine, cocktails and beer.
And I’m not even going to mention their Club 33 which is their exclusive celebrity VIP
lounge and restaurant; the only place at Disneyland proper with alcohol, boasting
ridiculously high initiation and annual fees…think substantial five figures, and that’s
just to make a reservation and get in.

But back to our world, so yes it is about time that Disney jumped on the craft beer
bandwagon and recognized its growing popularity. An announcement like that is truly
a sign that craft beer is moving up the ladder of recognition in the world! Hey we’re
talking one of the major, decades old, established resorts in the world that is all
about good clean fun, so they’re not going to do anything that will tarnish their image.
They already serve alcohol in their restaurants so why not jump on this burgeoning
trend and open a craft brewery themed one. And they’re not going to have Mickey
and Minnie serving beers anyway, they’re too young.

To the craft beer world this was more exciting news. I’m sure the Brewer’s Association
was probably very excited to hear this and ready to champion it as another success.
And then came the announcement and let’s just say the “craft” world wasn’t all that
excited anymore. Disney was partnering with Ballast Point to open their craft brewery.
Now Ballast Point makes some very good beers, is a Sand Diego born and bred
brewery, so a neighbor, and already has seven locations in California but as we all
know they were acquired in 2015 by international beverage conglomerate
Constellation Brands for a cool $1B. That seemed to be sticker shock but for a
successful brewery which also distills its own sprits and a unique line of pre-mixed
canned cocktails, it gave Constellation the ability to compete with ABI, MillerCoors
and Heineken as this is its first foray into the craft market; but let’s just say that
Ballast Point is also not just a little old craft brewery anymore.

So it just opened and they say they have over 50 beers, many on tap, so it can’t just
be Ballast Point beers. They have a three barrel R&D system to make some custom
limited edition beers, but that’s really more for show as it’s not supplying their needs.
I don’t plan to make a trip out there anytime soon as there are tons of real craft
breweries around here. So thanks but no thanks Disney; we appreciate you jumping
on the bandwagon but we also notice the company you keep.

Next on the list (I feel like Rod Serling doing a Twilight Zone or Night Gallery…or
maybe it’s the Craft Beer Zone, okay back to work…) the ad or announcement I saw
that Bud Light is going to provide free beer to the winning city of Super Bowl LIII. I
guess I’m not paying attention as they said they did supply Philly beer after last year’
s win. Unfortunately the beer they’re giving away is Bud Light. Now for a city like Philly
that could be good stuff (I’m probably going to hear about that comment) but who
really wants to drink Bud Light? Your retort might be that’s it’s the largest selling beer
in the US and my response would be “gag me with a spoon.” I’d certainly want to
celebrate winning with a really good beer. So let’s see if I’m an LA Rams fan how
about a Stone or Port Brewing or Green Flash or The Bruery or AleSmith to name a
few. Or if I’m a NE Patriots fan (over my dead body) how about a Sam Adams or
Trillium or Harpoon or Tree House (which did move to western part of the state but
they’re killing it) or Jack’s Abbey. I’d be proud to hoist a beer from any of those
breweries to salute my team’s victory, but the NFL, the sponsor/owner of the Super
Bowl would rather associate with Crud Light.

In the lead up week to SB LIII we had the annual Best SB Commercial show. I will
usually watch it as there have been some really great creative and funny
commercials throughout the years. This year it was the “Funniest” commercial and
guess what; the streaking lamb Bud commercial was voted funniest.  Number 7 was
the Cedric Bud Light one (where he shakes them up and sprays his date with Bud
Light; glad he didn’t waste a good craft beer) and along the way they showed a few
other Bud commercials. Okay so let’s think about it; was there ever not a Bud or Bud
Light commercial in the SB; I can’t remember one where there haven’t been multiple,
so yes they’re a long standing sponsor of the NFL. I did and an internet search to
see if there was a Bud commercial in SB I. Wikipedia actually has a SB commercial
section but it’s a very bare bones listing. Then again early on the SB wasn’t the
broadcasting giant it is today. And to be honest if a craft beer company spent all the
money on a SB commercial spot, we probably wouldn’t be happy as I’d rather they
spend it on better ingredients and a lower price!

But back to this new promo of buying the winning city beer. First of all I’m not
interested in either the beer or wasting my time waiting in line for one. I guess it really
doesn’t tarnish the NFL’s reputation any more than Roger Goodell already has done.
Maybe it’s actually a worse association for the winning city; that they wouldn’t want
one closer to home, although the Rams did spend a bunch of years in St Louis; I’m
just saying…

And lastly I’m glad I don’t live in Las Vegas, Portland, OR, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle
or Indianapolis. Each of these illustrious cities will be having a Harry Potter Inspired
Beer Festival. Hey I think Harry Potter is great but when I go to a beer festival I go to
have a good time with my friends while trying different beers! I don’t even wear an
ugly sweater for the too many annual ugly sweater contests every year. The thought
of putting on a Dumbledore costume and walking around with a big robe and a long
beard getting in my way of tasting different beers is not my idea of fun. Not to
mention all that hair on my head would be an experience I haven’t had for years.

Thanks to Rock Star Beer Festivals they will transform venue spaces to mimic the
wizarding world and recreate famous Harry Potter locations. Let’s call a spade a
spade, it’s an expensive ticket costume party, not a serious beer event, although they’
ll probably send me a list of all the beers they’re having to prove me wrong. So if we’
re going down this road what about a Star Wars Beer Festival and a Star Trek Beer
Festival and a Seinfeld Beer Festival…so why do all these begin with an “S”… So no
you won’t see me there but feel free to attend if that’s whose company you’d like to
be seen with.

As for me I like to think the craft beer company I keep is top notch from my weekly
beer buddies and those on the Beernexus team and frequently in one of best craft
beer bars in northern NJ, The Cloverleaf Tavern. And I also like to hang with Sam
Adams and Sierra Nevada and Two Roads and Bell’s and well this list could go on for
a long time…

Who will I see you with…?

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
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