By Andy Crouch and Todd Alström
A Son Leaves Leinie’s
When Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle recently announced his selection for running the state’s Commerce Department, the beer world took notice. After 21 years of selling and marketing his family’s beer, Richard Leinenkugel is leaving the Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company to lead the state’s economic development programs. Leinenkugel, the vice president of sales and marketing at the Chippewa, Wis.-based brewery, comes into office after his predecessor resigned due to a travel spending scandal. Leinenkugel will help promote the state of Wisconsin to businesses and investors around the country and across the globe. Founded in 1867 by Jacob Leinenkugel, the brewery remains in the hands of the Leinenkugel family despite a sale to the Miller Brewing Company in 1988. Richard Leinenkugel leaves his family’s brewery at a time when it is becoming an increasingly important player in parent company SABMiller’s “worthmore” portfolio of premium and craft beer brands. [AC]
The Voice of Bob the Builder Launches “Proper Ale” to Convert UK Lager Drinkers
Best known in the US as the voice of the famous children’s show Bob the Builder and for his starring role in the UK series Men Behaving Badly, actor Neil Morrissey has teamed up with chef Richard Fox to release Morrissey Fox Blonde Ale. Brewed at a microbrewery behind their co-owned pub, Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn in Marton-cum-Grafton, North Yorkshire, the beer is being sold at some 500 Tesco locations and according to Tesco beer buyers, it’s destined to become one of “Britain’s top 10 bestselling ales within a year” if sales continue. Morrissey told reporters, “Our ultimate aim for our Blonde Ale is to turn lager drinkers on to the wonders of proper ale.” The front of the bottles feature a mock crest of chef knives and beer glasses, while the back includes tasting and brewing notes from Morrissey and Fox, to coincide with the overall brand positioning of pairing the beer with food.
The duo also recently announced plans to open another pub in Pickering, near Yorkshire, and also the launch of their next beer: Morrissey Fox’s Best Bitter. “I’ve always wanted to have my own beer. British beer is a great institution and creating your own perfect pint was a concept that really appealed to me,” said Morrissey.
In November, Britain’s Channel 4 will air a three-part series on the creation of the beer, its brand and marketing. [TA]
Governor of Bavaria Tells Drivers that Drinking Two Liters of Beer at Oktoberfest is Safe
During an interview with Bayerischer Rundfunk radio, Gov. Guenther Beckstein told listeners that “if one drinks the two liters over six or seven hours at the Oktoberfest, it is still possible” to drive. Though he also added that “of course not if you drink the two liters in two hours,” and he later retracted the statement, though opponents and national officials claim the damage has already been done. The head of Bavaria’s police union, Harald Schneider, said that police officers carrying out sobriety tests during the festivities “will have to listen to people saying that Beckstein has allowed two liters of beer” while driving. Beckstein’s main challenger in the September 28th state election, Franz Maget of the Social Democrats, said it is “irresponsible how Beckstein is playing down driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Ironically, Beckstein’s ultra-conservative Christian Social Union, who has dominated Bavarian politics for decades, has a drug czar who advocates a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0 percent when driving—the current national BAC is 0.05 percent. [TA]
Pabst Looks to the Future
From the early days of Jacob Best and Captain Frederick Pabst to its modern hipster incarnation, the Pabst Brewing Company has had a wild history. In recent years, Pabst went from producing more than 13 million barrels of beer to less than half that amount in a decade by 2007, buoyed by its surging Blue Ribbon brand. Recent reports have suggested that the S&P Company, which owns Pabst and dozens of other brands, including Carling Black Label, Old Milwaukee and the recently re-released Schlitz, is being prepared for a sale. S&P is owned by the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, named after Pabst’s former owners Lydia and Paul Kalmanovitz. Tax rules governing charities require the foundation to divest itself of the operating business and the Internal Revenue Service has reportedly given the foundation until 2010 to sell Pabst. Pabst operates today as a “virtual brewer,” which brews its beers at Miller Brewing Company’s facilities. [AC]
Beer Drinkers Sue A-B
A group of feisty beer drinkers recently banded together to file a lawsuit to stop the proposed merger between brewing giants Anheuser-Busch and InBev. The private antitrust suit, filed in the United States District Court in Missouri, seeks injunctive relief to prevent the two companies from completing their merger on the grounds that the combined business will substantially lessen competition and may create a monopoly. The 33-page complaint, filed by attorney Theodore Schwartz, also complains of inaction by the Department of Justice in reviewing big brewery mergers, including the joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors. To demonstrate grounds for its request, the complaint also features extensive quotations from InBev’s CEO Carlos Brito and from A-B’s own legal filings, which were made in an early attempt to fight the proposed takeover. A judge will review the case after A-B and InBev’s attorneys have a chance to respond. [AC] ■