News GABF Limiting Big Beer

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by HouseofWortship, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Devotee (452) May 3, 2016 Illinois

  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    From the Chicago Tribune article:

    “Which raises questions: Why does GABF continue to invite Big Beer to the event, and why does Big Beer continue to participate?

    Pease noted that Anheuser-Busch (before it was acquired by Brazilian-Belgian conglomerate InBev), Miller and Coors (before those companies merged) have all been a part of GABF since the early days.

    “There’s a desire to be inclusive when we can — within reason,” Pease said. “Ultimately, the Great American Beer Festival is a Brewers Association property, and the Brewers Association’s purpose is to promote and protect small and independent breweries.”

    What is not discussed in the above is the fact that the BIG beer breweries are all members of the Brewers Association.

    For example each of the following breweries are individual members with each paying dues to the Brewers Association: 10 Barrel, Breckenridge, Devil’s Backbone, Goose Island, etc. Depending on their annual production values (in units of barrels) they may be paying the maximum value of $15,000 each.

    It sure has the appearance that the Brewers Association is not treating these individual breweries the same as the other (independent) breweries. It would seem to me that each member who pays dues should be treated the same.

  3. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes their mission is to promote small and independent. Those big brewers are Associate members and they are neither small nor indpendent which is why they are Associate members not full members.

    Those High End breweries you mention also could well be paying at the rate charged for their individual production levels. Without further information it is all speculation.

    It is quite common that professional organizations provide different categories of membership with different sets of privileges, if those Associate Members are not happy with their benefits in their membership category it is always possible for them to drop out of the association and stop paying dues entirely. So we'd need to ask them why they continue their membership.
    sharpski likes this.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have posed this question to some ex-AB employees. None of them know the 'definitive' reason for membership; at best they speculated.

    It seems to me that the Brewers Association should represent the interests of their members (i.e., the people who fund them via membership dues). For the case of ABI they are paying dues for all of their AB breweries (12 breweries) and I am confident they are paying the maximum values of $15,000 since they are all HUGE production breweries. They are also paying dues consistent with the production levels of their 10 High End breweries. Maybe Goose Island is paying $15,000 and the others lesser amounts? No matter how you 'slice and dice' it ABI in aggregate is sending a fair chunk of change to the Brewers Association.

    Perhaps with these changes at the GABF the folks of ABI will re-think the value proposition of being members of the Brewers Association? I suppose time will tell.

    tylerstubs likes this.
  5. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes, time will tell.

    I'd certainly think that each member brewery probably pays dues based on their own individual output rather than on the total output of any parent company, If only beause otherwise there seems little need to list each former AB brewery and each High End brewery separately. For that matter if ABInBev took out the single membership it would certainly pay less than the combined payment of the individual brewers based in the US. If only because BA international members don't pay at the same rates as their US based members.

    We also want to keep in mind that ABInBev as a company isn't sending anything to the Brewers Association. Last time I looked they operate on a zero based budgeting system which means each ship floats on it's own bottom and is responsible for it's own balance sheet and it's own net at the end of the fiscal year. If they incur a loss they take it out of next year's budget.

    As for equal treatment, the Brewers Association seems to treat all member within a single membership category equally. However, student members and library members (two additional categories of membership) certainly would not be bothered by having different privledges than Full or Associate members who are all brewers. As you say, it is up to the ABInBev owned breweries to decide for themselves if they continue membership in their current category or leave the playing field. But we need to keep in mind that it's almost universally true that different categories of members in a professional organization are treated differently in some way from each other. The Brewers Association is no exception.
    #5 drtth, Oct 5, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    But you have not lost sight that the Brewers Association made a change for this years GABF vs. prior years, right?

    What they are doing this year for GABF is not due to differing categories. It is due to a change in policy from last year(s) to this year.

    If I was an xyz member of an organization for many years I would not expect for my organization to all of a sudden treat me as a 'second class' citizen. I would expect that my membership dues would grant me certain 'rights' in 2016 and in 2017.

  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,371) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I remember some breweries were shut out from the floor when they put in limits/lottery in 2015, and they weren’t happy.

    It has to be hard to try and keep everyone happy.
    rgordon and drtth like this.
  8. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yeop, I read it very carefully and since the change affects only those breweries in the Associate Member category it is clearly a change from the previous policy that favors small and independent breweries by given opening up more slots in booths and giving them a better chance to decide on getting a booth or not.

    That previous policy was actually one that has been criticized on this site since it allowed folks such as Miller/Coors, etc. to participate with a better than equal shot at having a booth. Under the former policy it was an access which the big brewers could easily pay for but one which also, by using up some of the limited number of available spaces, potentially limited participation by the small independent breweries the Association says they represent.

    But the associate members are not suddenly being treated as second class citizens. They are already in a different category of membership and so "second class" citizens as you are using the term. Whether someone is already a full member or a "second class" citizen (e.g., all the Associate Members, Student Members, Library Members etc.) such changes are not unsual and, as you say, if the member is bothered by the change they can/will drop their memberships. (Much as did Flying Dog, but for different reasons.) I've never been part of professional organization where there weren't occasional policy changes nor where I did not leave the organization if I didn't like the changes being made to my category.
    IkeBeer89 likes this.
  9. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Poo-Bah (2,301) May 21, 2008 Colorado

    And if you’re a member of the Brewers Association as a part of being a member of the American Homebrewers Association, you’re a third class citizen. Comes in the form of limited access, but, then again, I pay don’t pay much for it. Its not a big deal, just wanted to mention it...and also plug it a little - It’s worth it to me just to get member discounts at participating breweries :slight_smile:
    drtth, IkeBeer89 and hopfenunmaltz like this.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    That is a fact, Jack!

    I could tell you about the 'level' of communication I experience with the Brewers Association folks but that is a topic for another day.

  11. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well I'd not use either the term "second class" or "third class" except in quotes since there are so many categories of membership. But as I said, and you recognize, different categories of membership have different perqs. (I also reckon that you are probably a "first class" member of the AHA with one of your perqs. belonging a particular category membership in the BA.)

    BTW do you miss anything by not being able to pay to have a booth at the GABF? :sunglasses:
    #11 drtth, Oct 5, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
    Haybeerman likes this.
  12. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

  13. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Poo-Bah (2,301) May 21, 2008 Colorado

    Hmmm...should have had the quotes. I was intending to add there is more differentiation within membership. I also get Jacks (unanswered) question which is really “why do the big brewers pay into the organization?”.
  14. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Poo-Bah (2,301) May 21, 2008 Colorado

    It’s big money - which they have more so than the craft brewers - and I don’t know they’d get any creds anyway. The last time I went to GABF was when the Rockies were in the playoffs (ended up getting swept by Boston), the Coors booth one one of the end aisles was the big hit of the show...because they had a big screen TV showing the game. On the plus side, the lines everywhere else were shorter so I got in some really good sampling. Haven’t been since - too crowded, too many lines....just too. Lots of better alternatives up and down the front range for a lot less money and inconvenience.
    ECOBOOSTINST, rgordon and drtth like this.
  15. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes there is a lot of differentiation within the membership. As for Jack's unanswered question I too think it would be interesting to know the answer. They must have had some reason since they knew in advance what dues they would pay and what perqs they would or would not get. Unfortunately I don't have any access at all to any source that would give me a clue. (Nor am I willing to do the homework required to dig that deep.)
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The article reported that this year’s change at GABF was not something the BIG beer folks were aware of initially:

    “Initially, no one at Anheuser-Busch InBev realized there were restrictions on its involvement, Ahsmann said.

    MillerCoors was similarly unaware at first, said Lisa Zimmer, that company’s beer culture and community manager. When the nation’s second-largest beer company initially only landed only one of the 10 breweries it submitted for GABF, she took to Twitter to post some salty thoughts.”

    I wonder if there was any direct communication (e.g., an e-mail) from the Brewers Association to the BIG beer folks about this policy change.

  17. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (531) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Is the Brewer's Association afraid that out of ~6,000 US "craft" brewers the handful of non-craft brewers will run off with their medals?

    Is the GABF is the minor leagues of beer now?
  18. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (780) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Used to go every year when I lived in Denver. If I were to go back, I'd just hit up the local breweries and/or the peripheral festivals and events. No reason to even go to the festival proper any more. Much cooler, and more convenient, stuff going on around it.
    PA-Michigander, Haybeerman and drtth like this.
  19. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yeah, given the informaion we have right now it appears nobody knew much in advance, if at all, that a change was to be made in this year's procedure. But it appears, with the new restriction, which effectively opens up more spaces, no small independent brewery has been shut out this year. (And ABInBev can take consolation that they did get two of their breweries in, one in each round of the lottery.) But then as pointed out by @hopfenunmaltz a number of small brewers were unhappy with the lottery system and its results since it was first put in place a couple of years ago. But I'd guess they were more unhappy at being excluded because of lack of space than having a lottery put in place.
  20. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I don't think the medals are the critical factor. Rather, from the articles, I'd guess it's some of the 6000 breweries being excluded by automatically giving space on a "first come, first served" allocation to those to those most able to pay, i.e., some of the Associate Members.
  21. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (531) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Ok... I guess that makes some sense. Although it sounds like the BA is allowing a tyranny of the majority within their ranks. Then again maybe for them losing support of handful of non-craft brewers is worth solidifying support from 6000 and growing independent brewers.
    drtth likes this.
  22. PA-Michigander

    PA-Michigander Meyvn (1,375) Nov 10, 2013 Pennsylvania

    So they took big beer's money to start and continue the festival but now shun them? I am not a fan of this practice at all.
  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,371) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The limiting of floor space is different from the entering of the competition. The number of entries per brewery have been limited for a few years.

    Have they shut out anyone from the competition?
    sharpski, drtth, Ranbot and 1 other person like this.
  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    They certainly took BIG beer's money as in the dues they pay to the Brewer's Association. In the big scheme of things they obtain more money from the Independent breweries but the BIG beers pay more money proportionally since the amount of dues are based upon beer production (i.e., number of barrels annually per specific brewery location).
    Me neither.

    It seems to me that a trade organization that accepts dues from it's members should represent their interests.

  25. IkeBeer89

    IkeBeer89 Initiate (0) Jul 18, 2017 Georgia

    Any of the companies owned by AB or any others already have a huge number of better resources and opportunity all year long. It's one event. I think they will get over it quite easily. The only scene they will make is because it is convenient for them to look like the victim here when the rest of the year they give everyone else the shaft. If they choose not to return(not sure why anyone would ever want a miller at an event like this in the first place. I'd prefer to not see big bev at my beer events. It's a total waste or space) it just opens the floor for more true craft breweries? I'm mostly just confused why we're all are so concerned for companies already doing well enough to have been bought out? Seems like they've done just fine
    surfcaster and HouseofWortship like this.
  26. zid

    zid Champion (867) Feb 15, 2010 New York


    I wonder what Victory and Southern Tier thought of this news.

    I find the rule to be strange. If you want to lessen the presence of these companies, then make a rule that isn't shy about it. Making a rule that has nothing to do with "big beer" directly but essentially only impacts them is a roundabout way of making change. I assume it protects the BA from a certain level of criticism.
  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yes, it is indeed a roundabout way of making changes IMO. Add in the aspect that apparently the BIG beer companies were not directly contacted about this change it just sort of smells to me.
    Well, the independent breweries most likely view this change as being a favorable change.

    The Brewers Association accepts the dues from BIG beers (hundreds of thousands of dollars from ABI alone) but apparently has no compunction in treating them differently. It seems to me that if the money from BIG beer is OK with the Brewers Association then they should represent their interests.

    Needless to say but other BAs have a differing view on this matter.

    I have not seen a message of Fuck 'evil' BIG beer yet but I suppose it is only a matter of time before this post gets made?

  28. zid

    zid Champion (867) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    I thought you'd mainly react to my comment about Victory and Southern Tier. I am assuming that this rule means that only one of those breweries can have a booth at GABF unless space opens up for both of them.
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yeah, I guess you might be correct here assuming that ABV is considered the "single" brewery.

    Frankly I have found some of the machinations that the Brewers Association has been going through the past few years to be confusing.

    So, yes if the Brewers Association 'counts' ABV as being the "single" brewery than only one of the two (Southern Tier or Victory) can have a booth (unless one gets in via a secondary lottery).


    P.S. On the Brewers Association website it lists:

    "Victory Brewing Co

    420 Acorn Ln

    Downingtown, PA 19335-3040 | Map

    Phone: (610) 873-0881

    Type: Regional

    Greater than 25% ownership by Artisanal Brewing Ventures, which is a craft brewer."

    I personally view ABV as being a holding company/investment firm vs. a “craft brewer” but it would seem that I am ‘confused’ here?
    #29 JackHorzempa, Oct 6, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
  30. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Poo-Bah (5,788) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    I gotta admit - though I am not a fan of AB and any of their subsidiaries as I don't pay to drink any of their beers as a matter of choice for myself, I will echo the sentiments of others in this thread. This is a dangerous path for the BA to take money from them but not allow them to this festival as a big part of this festival is the beer competition. In turn, this makes the BA look conceited.

    I'm left scratching my beard....:thinking_face: ¯\_(?)_/¯
    VABA likes this.
  31. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Where does it say they are not allowed in the competition?

    My reading of the information linked to above is that they were allowed one slot in the lottery for a booth space and then won a second one in the 2nd round of the lottery.
  32. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Poo-Bah (5,788) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    I fouled up. Okay, one slot, but quite limited, wouldn't you think?
  33. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Limited? Sure. Unfairly? Not clear.
  34. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (837) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Ah, come on. Do you really think the Brewer's Association may take themselves too seriously and think too much of themselves?
  35. woodchipper

    woodchipper Savant (953) Oct 25, 2005 Connecticut

    I am not a big beer fan but I don't like the idea of excluding anyone. That said, there has to be a capacity limit somewhere for such an event. What's fair? I don't think anyone would like a lottery system.
  36. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Devotee (452) May 3, 2016 Illinois

    If I'm AB in this situation, I would have one booth with one tap for each of my breweries....BCBS, Bud, a Wicked Weed Sour, Elysian IPA, etc. For the Association his then has the added effect of making it obvious to the casual beer drinker as to who owns what.
  37. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,570) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    It's a competition, so why restrict entries ? If your big beer and you get trashed on a blind sampling then you get the message. If your a small brewery doing it right then you win, fair and square.
  38. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,541) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Entries to the competition or not limited.
  39. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,371) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    drtth likes this.
  40. MissFeisty

    MissFeisty Initiate (83) Dec 18, 2012 California

    Yet again the BA looks hypocritical in its fight against big beer.