It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
In the past we've both spoken about not supporting breweries, no matter how decent the beer,
that have sold out to InBev or some other corporate giant. It's not hard to be the good guy
and spread the word about the evil inherent in the takeovers and the grand plan of Big Beer
to break craft but what do we do when one of our favorite craft breweries might be doing
something not exactly worthy of a knight in shinning armor? I'm talking about one of our all
time favorite breweries, Trillium.
The question at the core of the Trillium controversy started on a Beer Advocate message
board when current and former employees shared complaints toward Trillium’s treatment of
staff, most notably that workers were made to reapply for their jobs which also came with a pay
reduction of more than a third. In many cases, If they were rehired tip-based staff would make
$5 an hour instead of $8. Furthermore they said that tips have dropped dramatically since the
many people who come to pickup cans or drink at the Trillium locations have reduced or
stopped tipping since to them tipping on a simple retail transaction — I give you money, you
give me a case of beer — felt a bit like tipping the guy behind the counter at the package store.
Trillium employees added that they were fired from their job in part because of social media
activity. in which they mentioned not only the pay cut but revealed that Trillium sold tank dregs
as frozen beer or in growlers, as well as pouring tequila into tanks to flavor a beer.
Bill do you remember when we went to Trillium and bought their Permutation 68, a lovely ale
brewed with strawberries, vanilla, and lactose for something like $24 for four 16-ounce cans?
The profit on that so big maybe some of it should have gone to raising their employees low
Trillium management will likely deny some of the clams and explain away others. All I can say
is that in these these back-and-forth public spats no one wins. But the core of where this issue
started—pay and treatment of employees—is bound to be an ongoing challenge not just for
Trillium, but the thousands of small businesses that make up the vast majority of the U.S. beer
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
Let me get this straight. You're saying that Trillium employees who were making $8/hr (plus
tips) that worked there for years were given the option to stay on with the company at their new
facility (since the old location closed) for $5/hr (plus tips)? I don't know what the average retail
employee at Trillium is making once tips are factored in, but the fact that the pay cut allegedly
was applied to workers with years of loyalty to the company doesn't seem right—especially when
you consider the high prices Trillium routinely charges per 4-pack and their ever increasing
sales and profitability..
As for the quality of the workers, I've been to Trillium multiple times and have always been
impressed by them. They effectively and efficiently handle long lines of people who have waited
out on the street for long periods in good weather and bad. They seem to greet everyone
warmly and enthusiastically. That;s the type of quality effort that deserves fair compensation.
As for tips, you know I tip for pours, I tip for growler fills - I tip for service. I do not tip for having
cans passed to me. Trillium has many, many people doing just that. I always thought they were
salaried employees not tip workers. Compare Trillium's wage structure to the likes of
Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids, whose policy is to employ a “no-tip” model by offering, in
their words, "our full-time employees generous living wages with benefits,” while simultaneously
donating all tips to charity.
Of course I'm also surprised at the claim about dregs and frozen beer being passed to
customers. I hope it's not true but that might explain why although most of the Trillium cans
we've had in the past tasted very good a few did not.. If you recall we thought it was due to
palate fatigue not compromised beer. Maybe our palates were stronger than we thought. As
for the tequila being added, that makes some sense considering it's an easy and effective
practice. Yes, Gina, I know it's illegal but it really makes for a great taste. Oh stop making that
face. Just teasing.
In general I think if a brewery (or any business) cuts corners and doesn't focus on quality
control and quality of staff (specifically paying a fair wage which in turn leads to quality hires) it
will eventually take a toll on its profits. Poorly paid employees that come and go don't care as
much as loyal, well paid employees (obviously) and their work ethic will show it. Even more a
brewery that intentionally lowers quality to increase profits will deservedly lose in the
battleground of the marketplace.
Gina, having said all of that do you think it's time we ask the bosses here at BeerNexus for a
Here's looking at you Gina!