News Pretty Things goes to town on "pay to play" in Massachusetts

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Oct 14, 2014.

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  1. ZDSmith87

    ZDSmith87 Initiate (158) Jul 18, 2014 Massachusetts

    So when do we find out which bars to avoid?
  2. AshlandNacho

    AshlandNacho Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Massachusetts

    Interesting - the restaurant I mentioned wasnt AAH (don't want to 'drag' them into this by name) but hearing this now doesn't surprise me.

    Really, while this sucks and limits your selections as a consumer, the only way you can 'fight back' is through your wallet. I know it's gotten to the point now where I'm out at dinner and there's nothing on tap that interests me, I'll just get a water or an iced tea and have a beer when I get home, rather than just 'get something for the sake of it.' At some point the loss in revenue from purchases will outweigh the benefit of a one-time payment to carry a certain tap (at least I'd think?).
  3. Auror

    Auror Zealot (593) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    Boston is one of the few places that Bud distributes itself (and all the Inbev stuff), so yeah they could make it difficult, but only on their own stuff (including their craft stuff, though). This is assuming it's on the inside of the loop.
  4. iluvBA4life

    iluvBA4life Initiate (0) Jan 18, 2009 California

  5. fishtremble

    fishtremble Initiate (0) Jan 18, 2010 Michigan

    For me this was a great piece to read because I too was never aware of this practice going on with beer though I guess it doesn't surprise me much. After working in automotive for over 20yrs what is being done here is pretty much common practice in many businesses. You don't win accounts anymore by putting out a quality product at a fair price it is all about providing the lowest price irregardless if that product is garbage and what you give back in kick backs and perks. Only thing that has changed was in the 90's it was flaunted and now it is all handled behind closed doors.
    cavedave likes this.
  6. BerkBrewJ

    BerkBrewJ Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2009 Massachusetts

    First, I'll counter the inference and tell you that Berkshire does not pay for lines. Have not, do not, will not.

    And unfortunately, we do see this all the time. We've lost plenty of lines over the years to Pay to Play. Sometimes it is a straight up payout, sometimes it is free product, sometimes it is credit for "bad" beer (but somehow the keg is empty). Everyone in the business knows it happens, but unless Mass. does something about it, it will continue.

    And there are other states where it is even more rampant.
    dunix, GeezLynn, slarrage and 20 others like this.
  7. sbrock22

    sbrock22 Aspirant (246) Mar 10, 2011 Rhode Island

    This issue is rampant in RI. Yes it is illegal because who wants to be back in the world where the big guys buy the taps until the little guys go out of business? Talk to your favorite microbrewery and just ask them which bars they recommend you visit!
  8. jbart

    jbart Initiate (148) Oct 2, 2004 Massachusetts

    I assumed Rekrule was referring to British Beer Company, not Berkshire. Good info and insight, though.
    klawburke likes this.
  9. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,440) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    If this is such a well known practice why does it go unchecked? I remember a bar in NYC being fined and having their license threatened for selling gray market, after another bar turned them in. Why don't the bars that don't engage in the practice just secretly turn in the others?

    Also, Pretty Things wasn't afraid to call attention to the practice on social media, is there something the public can do to "encourage" the authorities to take action? Is it really just fear of retribution? Or have the authorities taken action, but not often or harshly enough?

    Or is it like with untaxed cigarettes, everyone knows it goes on but the regulators are a part of the corruption so nothing gets done about it?
    CowsandBeer likes this.
  10. klawburke

    klawburke Initiate (0) Mar 30, 2013 Massachusetts

    I was about to say this
  11. Rekrule

    Rekrule Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    As someone mentioned I was referring to the British Beer Company. I should have been more clear.
    VonZipper likes this.
  12. BerkBrewJ

    BerkBrewJ Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2009 Massachusetts

    No problem, I was going to weigh in anyway :slight_smile: And if I'd read your post more carefully, it would have made sense. ;-)
    Boomblaze and Rekrule like this.
  13. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Disciple (396) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    I agree with this. But if those same breweries simply charged less, that would be ethical and fair in my opinion. That's competition at work. It's the way this happens, with off book payments presumably, that makes a difference. But if brewery A wants to win taps and lowers prices on kegs to do it, that's fine.
  14. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    Only on BA will a 10,000+ bbl/yr brewery, making some of the best beer in the state, get called out for having too many draft lines in their home market. This is why we can't have nice things.
  15. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,634) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Actually, this is ambiguous statement in that its not at all unusual for distributors to reward sales of their product line by providing rarer beers to those who sell the most. E.g., in PA, Hopslam is handled by a single importing distributor who allocates the limited number of cases he is given by Bells to various retail sales outlets (not just bars) based on their overall sales of other Bell's beers throughout the year. So its not necessarily an admission of money changing hands and of pay-to-play buying of the tap line.
  16. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    See also; Bourbon County allocations determined by how much 312 and Honkers you sell, and how many facings you have for the Sisters.
    pjeagles, Horbar, CowsandBeer and 2 others like this.
  17. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Disciple (396) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    For what it's worth, BBC in Franklin has that one rogue Bud Light tap, but I can tell you, it gets used a lot. It seems lots of people just like to eat there, and want their normal macro (which is in bottles anyway as well).
    Donkster46 likes this.
  18. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,603) Aug 23, 1996 California

    F2brewers and cavedave like this.
  19. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Defender (615) Jan 12, 2013 Iowa

    This isn't exclusive to Boston, this has been the case in Chicago for decades.

    The GABF and many other beer festivals across the US are "pay to play" as well, so why people not in an uproar when it applies to festivals? Shouldn't breweries be able to have their beer judged without having to pay to have it judged?
    Donkster46 and CowsandBeer like this.
  20. Rekrule

    Rekrule Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    If they are doing this, then it's not only on BA it's on Twitter by another brewery. Also, "We can't have nice things" because we choose to talk about the seedy underbelly and bad happenings in the industry? Craft beer isn't a fraternity of hugs, kisses and unmitigated unity. People not addressing all this stuff is how it got to where it is and will remain unchanged. We can't have nice stuff by not tackling the issue.
    ptery likes this.
  21. Some-Prefer-Hops

    Some-Prefer-Hops Initiate (0) Sep 3, 2014 British Columbia (Canada)

  22. frazbri

    frazbri Crusader (750) Oct 29, 2003 Ohio

    Good for Dann! We should be calling out illegal anti-competive practices when they occur. It obviously came out of frustration, but if it was your business on the line, wouldn't you be pissed?
    LeeMarvin, jrnyc, Donkster46 and 2 others like this.
  23. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (223) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Both of those should be mitigated if they just act as whistleblower. Have any bothered to involve the ABCC?
    cavedave likes this.
  24. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Devotee (492) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Like I said, I forget what the beer was and the exact wording. But the beer was totally out of character for them and someone called them on it leading to the comment that they were basically forced to take it from the distributor. Not the same as breweries buying a line, you're correct. But this wasn't having a DFH 60 Min tap to get WWS. It was a shady deal with the distributor. But you're correct, I was making a connection that was separate from the original post in response to someone else's comment.
  25. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Devotee (492) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    That's why Miller's Ale House in Watertown had Bourbon County and Bourbon County Coffee on tap two weeks ago.
    VonZipper likes this.
  26. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    Didn't read through all of the posts to see if anyone else raised this point but the sad part is that in all likelihood, the cost of paying for a tap line is going to be passed on to the consumer. And if enough breweries pay it, well, I hope you can figure out the rest of the story.

    AND as far as boycotting beers, breweries, bars, etc. that support a practice you don't like, you're going to have to either give up drinking altogether or spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out who is as pure as the driven snow. So... everybody should just accept the fact that this is capitalism, where profit is the goal and anyway you can make it as long as you don't get caught is the means. And even getting caught is acceptable, if the profit you make is more than the fine you have to pay since doing the crime doesn't mean you're doing the time.
    If you don't believe me, take a look at a newspaper and ask me how many bankers went to jail over the mortgage mess.
  27. TWStandley

    TWStandley Crusader (729) Jan 15, 2008 Massachusetts

    Apologize for my ignorance but can someone explain to me how it would work without "buying lines?" I had assumed that buying lines was a normal practice. In a bar that didn't "sell lines" how do they normally choose their draft lines?
  28. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    No, it needs to be addressed, but calling out breweries with no proof is not the way to go about it. As in so many things in life, calling out the wrong people just obfuscates who the true problem lies with.
    Ericness, HuskyHawk and Andrew041180 like this.
  29. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    Some formula determined by the intersection of cost, popularity and profitability
    BeerBeast likes this.
  30. AshlandNacho

    AshlandNacho Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Massachusetts

    Second this question . . . .
  31. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Defender (651) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    I confess that I don't go out as frequently as I used to, but I rarely see any Cisco tap handles at places with typical, or even large numbers of draft lines. I don't believe that this is the brewery in question.
  32. bradalmanac

    bradalmanac Initiate (0) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    So I'm assuming Dann was inspired to let loose about this after being part of last night's "Craft Beer Revolution" event at Harpoon, which Jim Koch also attended. Anyone know if this was it brought up during the actual Q&A? Curious if the discussion was triggered in an open forum or from behind-the-scenes chatter.
  33. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,603) Aug 23, 1996 California

    "I was inspired by Steve Hindy and Jim Koch tonight. I wanted to talk about this but couldn't. I've been ready to all week though."
    bradalmanac likes this.
  34. Sponan

    Sponan Initiate (183) Jan 20, 2008 Tennessee

    This practice is also not limited to BMC. No different than a brewery and/or distributor requiring a retail establishment to carry a regular line to get access to special releases.
    BottleCaps80 likes this.
  35. wyckyd_sceptre

    wyckyd_sceptre Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2013 Pennsylvania

    This depends on the establishment of course, but at my place we have 10 taps. I try to cover the bases of different styles, usually 2 IPAs, a stout/port, a lighter beer, a Belgian, a sour, etc. But luckily I have a pretty open minded customer base that likes variety, so I play with the taps all the time. Based on the wholesaler's inventory, seasonality, new items, core staples, events in the store, lots of variables.
  36. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    I'm talking more off premise. It seems the beer just doesn't get where it needs to be, I've seen it sit at quite a few places. Not limited to that beer in particular, and not illegal, just annoying.
  37. Resuin

    Resuin Meyvn (1,252) Jun 18, 2012 Massachusetts

    The easy way to know which bars to drink at is whether they have good beers available that you enjoy. If a bar wants to compromise their quality by selling a line to an inferior product, then they'll suffer for it because consumers will go to a bar with a better selection.
    jbeizer and mackeyse like this.
  38. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Disciple (396) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    Exactly. Pretty Things didn't mention Jack's Abby. I don't know how they get their taps, but at places I frequent, I wish I saw them more often. Hoponious Union is easily the best IPA/IPL made locally at its price point and should be as common as Harpoon IPA. Based on the tweets, I was actually thinking of much smaller breweries than JA.
  39. bluehende

    bluehende Poo-Bah (2,017) Dec 10, 2010 Delaware

    Not always an option, but buying a draft at the brewery insures that at least that tap line was not paid for. It would be nice to see breweries decide to undercut the bars price if they try to extort them. Instead of selling you beer cheap and paying for the privilege they could get top dollar with no middlemen. I know this would limit their growth. I also know that if enough breweries did this the bars would decide that their declining business is more important than getting a few bucks for a tap line.

    The bottom line is I hate the fact that breweries business decisions seem to be based on extortion and fear instead of product and price.
    dunix and jrnyc like this.
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,646) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “…is there something the public can do to "encourage" the authorities to take action?”

    Dave, I have no idea how alcohol laws are enforced in MA or NY. In PA the regulator is the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and the law enforcer is a unit of the PA State Police. From what I have read published in beer magazines, etc. enforcement is sometimes (frequently?) based upon persons complaining (making a phone call to the PLCB?). In those articles there is frequent mention that another beer retailer (bar) made the complaint. I would think that individual citizens could also make a complaint that could lead to the enforcement of the law. I would surmise that a ‘challenge’ for an individual citizen is having a reasonable basis for the complaint. Are we to just assume this is a ‘normal’ widespread practice and that we could call up and complain against any given bar? I go to a lot of beer bars and I personally have no idea which of these bars are accepting payment for their lines.

    It would be ‘better’ if the laws were simply enforced without the need of a complaint being filed but maybe the law enforcement authorities are just accepting of this practice? The old: it is what it is philosophy?

    cavedave likes this.
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