Beer News

News by | May 2008 | Issue #16
Photo by Antonio Cruz

By Andy Crouch and Todd Alström

No Pints for Britain’s Darling

Known across the globe for their gentility and air of sophistication, British pubs are often idyllic places to enjoy a pint or two. That is unless you’re Alistair Darling. In early March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Britain’s treasury chief, raised the taxes on a pint of beer by 8 US cents; a bottle of wine, 26 cents; and a bottle of spirits, $1.10. In response, an angry pub owner in Darling’s hometown of Edinburgh responded by banning the Chancellor from his pub. News of the action spawned an internet petition and caused dozens of other pub owners across Britain to post signs of their own, complete with photos of Darling and the word “BARRED.” The Chancellor promoted the tax increase as a way to curb binge drinking in Britain. Many pub owners challenged the government’s position by saying that their well-run community institutions are actually a solution to overconsumption. [AC]

Boston Beer Co. Parts with $50,000 to Freetown

Though hopes of opening up a brewery in Freetown, Mass., were dashed last year when Boston Beer Co. announced that they signed an agreement with Diageo North America to purchase the Lehigh Valley Brewery in Pennsylvania, the town of Freetown is celebrating their 325th birthday this year with a gift of cold, hard cash. After working with the town for over a year to establish a new production brewery for Samuel Adams, Boston Beer Co. has agreed to pledge $50,000 to the town for their efforts, time and trouble. “As a way of expressing our gratitude to Freetown for all of the work that they have done on our behalf, we would like to purchase an item or items for the town that you would not normally be able to afford,” wrote Boston Beer Co. spokeswoman Michelle Sullivan in an email to Selectman Chairman Lawrence N. Ashley. [TA]

EU Approves Heineken’s Takeover of Scottish & Newcastle

Nearly one month after green-lighting Carlsberg’s takeover of the majority of Scottish & Newcastle’s assets outside of the UK and Ireland, the European Union has partially approved Heineken’s takeover of S&N assets in Belgium, Finland, Portugal and the UK. However, the European Commission has referred a buyout of S&N’s assets in Ireland to competition authorities, citing fears that a removal of S&N as a competitor could create a harmful market of easy prey for Heineken and Diageo (owner of Guinness)—the two big rivals in Ireland’s beer market. Another concern is that S&N’s Irish subsidiary, Beamish & Crawford, creates challenges for Stouts on a regional level, if owned by Heineken. The £7.8 billion deal marks the end of the UK’s largest independent brewer. [TA]

Michelob Wins Independence

Anheuser-Busch is stepping up its efforts to match the shifting American beer palate and address the success of craft brewers. The St. Louis-based brewer recently announced plans to spin off its 112-year-old Michelob family of brands into an autonomous division. The new unit, to be called the Michelob Brewing Co., will promote its existing brands, including Michelob AmberBock and Porter, as well as the brewery’s line of seasonal ales and lagers, including Beach Bum Blonde. The Michelob Brewing Co. will also focus on producing a diverse range of more flavorful beers in the craft style. The first release will be the Michelob Dunkel Weisse, a takeoff on a similarly styled beer called Ascent 54, brewed exclusively for the Colorado market. The brewery has registered label applications for several additional brands, including a Brown Ale, Red Ale and a Bohemian Pilsner. Michelob Pale Ale will also be expanded into a year-round offering. [AC]

Canada’s LCBO Turns to American Craft Beer

With over 600 stores across Ontario, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario has been the target of much criticism by many who believe the $3.6 billion agency with government ties is a monopoly that lacks selection—especially lacking in American craft beers. A product search for beer from the US on yields offerings from Anchor, Big Hole, Boston Beer, Brooklyn, Genesee, Miller and Stroh. That’s it. However, there’s good news for Canadian beer geeks. This spring the LCBO will introduce nine brands of American craft beer as part of a limited-run spring release, and four additional offerings will be added to its year-round general list. Rogue Brutal Bitter was made available in March and is “selling well since its release in our specialty beer program,” according to LCBO’s Chris Layton. Offerings from Dogfish Head and Southern Tier’s IPA are expected to be the newest selections as part of that general list. [TA]

A-B No Longer Exclusive

After more than a decade of requiring distributors to give its brands exclusive attention, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Co. has loosened its requirements. Known as the “100-percent share of mind” campaign, A-B had called upon its wholesalers to give their full attention to the sale and promotion of the brands of the brewery and its affiliates, to the exclusion of others, including many small brewers. In a time when craft brewers fought desperately for the attention of distributors, the program effectively slammed the door in their faces. The change allows A-B’s distributors to carry new brands where “aligned brands” in A-B’s import or craft portfolio, such as Grolsch and Stella Artois, are not available. The brewery acknowledges that the change in a long-honored tactic is a direct result of the success of import and craft brands. Discontent over the lack of higher-margin products among distributors also fueled the change. [AC]