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Bars, stop with the "House Beers". It's not 1998 anymore.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Andwoo, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. I'd say that particular situation isn't typical - the house beers may be unique recipes (sold by one or multiple retailers) or just re-labeled regularly released beers from a brewer, but in the latter case to have the re-labeled beer on tap under both its identities sounds particularly puzzling (tho' I guess it makes sense inventory-wise for the bar). They do cost the same, I take it?
     
  2. I always like to think I'm getting a Huber Premium when I pick up some of TJ's Simpler Times Lager. Just with a much higher ABV.
     
  3. Andwoo

    Andwoo Aficionado (150) Texas Sep 21, 2010

    Oh, but they do. I've worked in the beer industry in four states now (Washington, Oregon, Texas and Colorado) and I've seen it in all four. Sometimes they're a brewer's "regular" beer, sometimes it's a seperate recipe they brew specifically to sell as a "house beer" to bars in exchange for a "regular" beer to be on tap. The reason I posted this thread is I don't think many BA's discuss or are exposed to the crazy trade practices that exist in the beer world and especially the craft beer world. It's more competitive than ever right now. I didn't intend for this thread to be a "hey, you guys are getting tricked" type of thing. It was more of a brewer to distributor to retailer type of conversation. Just a shitty practice that exists but something we as BA's can actually change by starting the conversation. Bars/restaurants aren't held accountable nearly enough on here and they are the gatekeepers to the industry.

    The point is: most brewers would rather have their real beer on tap with its real tap handle than a "house beer". Most artists wouldn't let another artist sign their work, right? When you see a "house beer" just know there's some resentment on the original brewer's end.
     
  4. DovaliHops

    DovaliHops Savant (480) California Nov 16, 2009

    FW's house beer for Yardhouse recently...I believe it was an Anniversary IPA, was VERY delicious.
     
  5. Andwoo

    Andwoo Aficionado (150) Texas Sep 21, 2010

    So many mentions of Firestone Walker in this thread. Very interesting. I'd encourage you guys to look into it a little more.
     
  6. If I'm missing your gripe then by all means please point it out to me. Who is tricking the brewer into putting a different label/tap handle onto their beer?
     
    teal likes this.
  7. No one's "tricking the brewer," but bars in this case are being dishonest. They're getting the taps through the same means that other bars do who label their taps accurately (aka, when a bar, for instance, gets a keg of left hand milk stout through normal distribution means, they sell it as "left hand milk stout," and not "joe's house beer"), so there's no reason why they should alter the label/name of the product they're selling. It's dishonest and doesn't tell the consumer anything about the actual beer, nor does it spread brand-recognition for legitimate breweries. At least, that's how I interpreted the OP.

    As to the above post- yeah, I didn't bother reading all 100 or so comments after the OP, i got through two pages and people were basically still arguing about the same thing. So I am still rehashing the point of the OP :p
     
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  8. Lordkrystic

    Lordkrystic Savant (275) Washington Jul 18, 2012

    I'm curious to where you've seen this in Washington state. I deal with numerous distributors on a daily basis and have never seen this. I have seen breweries make different tap handles and allow establishments to use the alternate handle/names, but I've never seen a distributor do something like this on their own.
     
  9. cavedave

    cavedave Champion (940) New York Mar 12, 2009

    Didn't read all replies, but here's my take.

    No, it's more like FW brewing it for a specific client, and then also releasing it themselves as FW Private Label Amber, etc.

    And I do get your point, though others refuse to understand what is a simple difference between a contract brew, a brew designed for a Private Label, and an establishment getting a flagship brew of a brewer and refusing to put the correct tap handle on the line, replacing it with a handle that has the establishment's own name on it.

    Doesn't strike me as a huge deal, though. I guess the brewery misses out on the good advert of it, but they also miss out on those who may get a negative opinion if they don't care for the beer.
     
    Andwoo likes this.
  10. Here4Beer

    Here4Beer Aficionado (180) Nevada Nov 2, 2006

    Breweries inherently work in partnerships with distributors (where applicable) to get their product sold, often with a pretty good relationship. I would love to hear of a situation in which a brewery was having their brew re-branded (the term I'm using for this marketing technique) without their permission, in a deceptive manner. Most of the big-boy craft brands (Deschutes, Stone...) and even local breweries have Sales/Brand Ambassadors (Supplier reps, not distributor reps) that monitor accounts. If people are misrepresenting product without blessing, it likely gets taken care of; ala "Sorry Distributor Rep, but that is not how you'll score accounts with our product".

    Further, while their may be some resentment in the brew house among those washing kegs, the ceo/cfo/board of directors/shareholders etc. typically aren't too upset when they're selling beer, by whatever means necessary, and certainly in most cases when all is legal. Yeah- there are the purists...so I won't make a blanket statement, but making money in this ever competitive market, is and always shall be the end goal for the majority.

    Again, from my post way earlier before the damn 'contract' debate jumbled this thread up...
    If Joe's bar, Bill's brewery, (and Bob's distributorship) are all on the same page in terms of awareness & permission (no deception) to re-brand to Bill's Pale Ale to Joe's Pale Ale- who cares?

    In the ideal case, craft beer is on a handle, and a patron (like yourself, & other BA's that may be ruffled by this) with the due diligence to ask a server (or read a menu) to determine what the beer's origin is, will do so. Joe's long term or craft-savvy bar customers obviously are aware there isn't a brewing operation going on in the back parking lot. Questions of origin & style will get asked, and presumably be answered by the establishment since they're in the business to sell the beer.

    Patrons will ask Joe what the scoop is on the beer, directing them toward Bill's (presumably local) brewery and sales via the work of Bob's distributorship. IMO everyone wins. One may argue they 'shouldn't have to ask' for the beer's origin. Perhaps.
    Then again, I don't like having to ask for an un-frosted mug, but...
     
  11. If you are so privy to the details, why don't you enlighten us?
     
  12. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Savant (490) Kentucky Apr 20, 2004

    And there are two possibilities:

    1. They are right
    2. They are wrong

    The way to tell is to look at the keg label.

    If the label said "House Brand Ale", then #1. It was contract brewed for them, and label approval for a special name was sent in.

    If it said "Brewer's Ale", then #2. In this case, the "contract" is merely to call the beer by a different name and use a different tap handle. Not a contract brew situation.

    However, even in situation #2, I bet they would say exactly what they told you. It sounds good, doesnt it?
     
  13. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Savant (490) Kentucky Apr 20, 2004

    A restaurant near me has 4 "house" brands on tap, and they dont carry the same beers on tap under the original names. I agree with you, that would be very odd. The weird thing is, the place has a good craft selection and does a good job of carrying local, but its not as obvious, as 4 localish breweries dont get listed and dont get the credit they deserve. I dont oppose the house brand thing, but I dont get it either.
     
  14. steveh

    steveh Champion (765) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    Of course, you mean not in the Brewers' Association's modern definition of the term. But I'll let you slide on that one, being the modern perfectionist you seem to be. ;)
     
  15. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Savant (490) Kentucky Apr 20, 2004

    Also the TTB's definition.

    Edit: And I am a modern man. I dont speak in olde english. Not even 20th century english.
     
  16. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (1,015) Ontario (Canada) Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    Whoops - I totally bungled my use of contractor and contractee. Contractor is the one doing the work, contractee is the one paying for it. Consider me shamed.

    I was also off on whether the contractee needs a brewery license. I'd forgotten about the old Beer Marketing Company moniker; this type of company seem mainly to make malt liquor, novelty beverages, and drug/grocery store brands these days, but there may still be some 'craft' ones out there that I'm missing.

    That being said, I think we can all agree that there's definitely a distinct, less complex, arrangement that differs from 'Contract Brewing' as defined by the TTB. Basically, it's one where the producing brewery is fully responsible for registering the name of the 'house brand' and then attempts to ensure (sometimes unsuccessfully) that 100% of said beer actually ends up at the 'house'. When generic names are used (i.e. 'House' Red, Joe's Kolsch, etc.) these tend to be pre-existing beers that have been rebadged rather than unique recipes.

    I suppose you could add an even shadier category where bars simply change the name without anyone's official consent or proper label registration. Although, if they're willing to do this the beer could be homebrew, expired product, or obtained outside of distribution channels for all we know.
     
  17. A local chain of Italian restaurants here in MA, who also have a sports bar named Jake and Joe's, would always have Jake and Joe's IPA on tap. When I asked what it was, they told me "Harpoon made it for us"...and I responded "so it's Harpoon IPA?" and the bartender said basically! Noticed last time there, that they finally just have a Harpoon IPA handle on the tap.
     
  18. steveh

    steveh Champion (765) Illinois Oct 8, 2003

    See Jess' post above.
    Man's got to know his limitations. :D
     
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  19. My favorite bar here in Baltimore does it, The Owl Bar.

    It's just a couple of Heavy Seas renamed "Owl Bar Lager" or something dumb.
     
  20. I know what you mean, and I agree. Years ago I tried the "house beer" at Restaurant X. I thought it was cool they had their own beer and I was able to try something new and different. As I inquired about the beer it turned out to just be Red Hook with a fake name. I felt duped. I completely agree with the original post.
     
    Andwoo likes this.
  21. The local AHL hockey team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, have "Sound Tiger Ale" on draft. It is definitely just Sam Adams Boston Lager. I always wondered what that was about.
     
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  22. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (1,015) Ontario (Canada) Dec 25, 2006 Staff Member

    This is one of the more egregious examples, where not only is a place passing off a readily available product as something unique and new, they're calling it something it isn't (an Ale rather than a Lager). Although I suppose Texas has been doing it for years...
     
  23. Looked around and the TX law does not allow one brewpub in a chain to ship kegs to another, which is BJ's model. They set up with St. Arnold for TX.
     
    champ103 likes this.
  24. Noelito76

    Noelito76 Advocate (535) New York Oct 30, 2004

    Wait, so Ruby's Red Ale at Ruby's in Coney Island wasn't brewed in the back?

    LIARS!! I suspected that crap was George Killians.

    Something like this can destroy someone's ticking. Just saying, of course.
     
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  25. Some house beers are quality (made by FW) and some are not (made by Bayhawk). The only time I feel slighted is when I order something and I can tell that it came from a lower quality brewer. I don't mind ordering house beers occasionally but usually I will try to check what's what before I commit.
     
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