It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Even a casual observer of the beer scene can't help but notice that breweries have become
involved in politics, for example, by donating percentage of sales to a political cause or making
beer brands that mock/support political figures or promote actions or societal initiatives. I've always
thought that beer is apolitical and there are just too many things out there for it to get involved with
unless it directly impacted the livelihood of the industry workers. That being said I also think it's fine
for beer to encourage engaged citizenry.
It's productive when people are intelligently expressing their opinions and views. Some of it is the
good kind where discussion are about differences in opinions on how we can make our country
better. There are some exchanges however that might be seen as just insulting and detrimental to
any real progress. Bill, you know I hate talking politics. For me it's an uncomfortable topic between
friends, family and people enjoying a beer at a bar or at home.. Do you really want to have heated
conversation over a beer because it's supporting some cause instead of talking about the beer
itself?? Not me. Maybe I’m just a big baby.
I do think as citizens we should be aware of important issues so maybe it's just the fact that I'm not
used to beer as an entity voicing opinions. When it comes to discussing some things I revert back
to the Socratic method I was taught in high school - I tell you my perspective, you listen, you
challenge my assumptions. Then we switch. This way both sides listen instead of trying to score
points. I start from the position that most people have a sincere desire to create a better culture,
albeit from different ideologies and perspectives. That might not be the case with some people or
breweries. And if you're a brewery you should be aware that can bring some risk in the
If you were to ask me should a brewery promote a cause with their beers, I'd say think it comes
down to the vision and makeup of the brewery. If they are firmly connected to a social,
environmental or political cause, they have every right to use their platform to be heard. I also feel
that it comes with a great deal of risk and responsibility. When done right it can both catapult the
message of the cause and in some cases the bottom line but on the contrary it can alienate
customers and have negative fiscal effects.
Personally I think it doesn't matter if you are republican, democrat, independent or whatever to
love beer for it being just beer,not because of the brewery's political positions. Beer in and of itself
has the ability to bring us all together.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!.
Hello Gina -
Beer and politics have always been intertwined. Early American public houses slung brews while
patrons debated the news of the day. As legend has it, in 1775, a young apprentice was sipping
a beer in a Boston pub when he overheard British soldiers discussing their next troop movement.
He left the bar and relayed the message to Paul Revere, who rode through the city warning its
citizens and militias of the forthcoming attack.
Michael Jordan, a famously apolitical public figure, remarked that “Republicans buy sneakers
too.” The same could be said for beer. Everyone buys beer. People can be respectful and check
their beliefs at the door, so that no matter who voted for you can say this beer tastes good or bad.
I agree with you Gina that at this very particular moment in time when everything can feel
politicized craft beer seems heavily involved. A strictly clinical analysis say it’s up to companies to
determine the cost-benefit analysis, which is more or less determined by a customer base and its
potential for growth. If that’s the case, and a craft beer-buying community continues to be sorted
through a plurality or majority of consumers then we'll continue to see this.
Gina, along with making and selling beer for political causes it should be noted that craft
breweries have become local meeting places for various organizations in many communities.
Their hosting of charitable events has become a win-win proposition in many cases. Since most
of these are non-political they don't seemed to have caused the controversy that some of the
beers for a political viewpoint have. After all, who would ever find fault with breweries like
Harpoon (from my home town, Boston) sending staffers and volunteers into area shelters, soup
kitchens and play stations to decorate for the holidays. They also donate thousands of dollars in
swag and many barrels of beer to New England charities.
On a more practical side I do sometimes wonder how much of the profits actually go to a local
charity or to legitimate action groups? I think it's fair that supporters of a cause ask for
accountability and transparency. I'm sure many breweries do it but I've never seen any disclose
total sales and what total donations were. Well Gina, I guess that means when people call you a
big baby they can call me cynical.
One this is clear, craft breweries have the right to use their platform to make a difference in
issues that they care deeply about while we consumers have the right not to buy their beer for
that very same reason. Yet there is something to be said for beer being blessedly silent on
partisan politics, its only allegiance being to taste.
Here's looking at you, Gina