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. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Defender (651) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    The man repeated himself multiple times. He was clearly upset. His tweets read like he's under a lot of stress. Lunacy may have been a strong word, but I think the circumstances under which he wrote them may have been a contributing factor to what he wrote. Temporary insanity if you will.
  2. DrMeasle

    DrMeasle Initiate (84) Aug 22, 2008 Massachusetts

    jkblodge, maxk and cavedave like this.
  3. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Defender (651) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    Sorry, I didn't see this post with all the other people calling me out. Actually I am impartial. I withhold judgment until I am in possession of actual facts, of which there are none. The only thing here that approaches a fact is the Mayflower brewer stating that he sells his product to Wilcox and is shut out of other places. "Lunatic" was a poor word choice. I didn't call the bar owner "the industry". I referred to him as "industry" which is factually correct. I seem to be the only one here not involved in a witch hunt.
  4. SCW

    SCW Poo-Bah (1,692) Jul 25, 2004 New York
    Premium Industry

    Dan's a passionate dude and he is probably reflecting what many others in the industry have felt for a long time. If it took a long day and several beers to shake it out of him, so be it! Go get 'em, Dan.

    When a retailer "throws out" a distributor of their establishment it can be for a variety of reasons. Of course, ultimately it just punishes the consumer as they are forced to choose among a smaller variety of beers.
    GeezLynn, skivtjerry, jrnyc and 16 others like this.
  5. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Disciple (396) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    Thank you. It's federal law as well under the Robinson Patman Act, if the beers cross a state line (obviously not PT, Berkshire or Mayflower in MA). It's the first thing I thought of as the basis of this practice, some bar will want "better pricing" without hitting the volume levels and these "kickbacks" are a way to illegally make it happen. By the way, it would be illegal for giver and receiver.
    BerkBrewJ and Auror like this.
  6. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (224) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Still talking beer here, right?
  7. tylerk88

    tylerk88 Aspirant (255) Nov 17, 2013 Massachusetts

  8. mbs11

    mbs11 Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    This actually seems like it could be a really productive thread. That is all.
  9. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,608) Aug 23, 1996 California

    @Jason told me about this last night. He's hoping to get more info too.

    This isn't the first time that the Wilcox group has booted a distributor. But this time it's apparently Craft Brewers Guild, who distributes the lion's share of beer (from across the nation + imports) in Boston and is part of one of the top distributor chains in the US. A lot of brands are going to be impacted by this, as are consumer options across their numerous properties.

    And there's obviously much more to the story here ...
    maxk, frazbri, cavedave and 3 others like this.
  10. SCW

    SCW Poo-Bah (1,692) Jul 25, 2004 New York
    Premium Industry

    Fwiw - this is a recycling of an event that happened about 8 years ago. Sometime around 2006, Bukowski's "threw out" the Craft Brewer's Guild and temporarily ceased doing all business with them (which meant no Sixpoint on draft). It lasted for some time - but we were able to get back on tap after a while...
    Pahn, VonZipper and Kevin89065 like this.
  11. nmyers462000

    nmyers462000 Initiate (0) Oct 1, 2013 Florida

    This is very common... and as you state, distributors/wholesalers do this to have control of (aka "mandates") on a certain number of taps in an establishment. That shiny 24 tap system that you always see someone other than an outside serviceman come in to maintenance... yup, likely paid for for a Distributor (and a high probability they are a Bud house too).
    zillano9 likes this.
  12. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,648) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Some of that repetition is addressing his comments to different people. It was not a consistent conversational group where all heard everything the first time.
  13. SCW

    SCW Poo-Bah (1,692) Jul 25, 2004 New York
    Premium Industry

    There's no consistency in the laws though from state to state, so its hard to claim anyone is being a "hypocrite" or playing unfair.

    Here's a great example:

    1) In New York State, its absolutely illegal to install or clean draft lines. Breweries and distributors cannot provide services like these to any bar or restaurant.

    2) In the state of Texas, its actually mandated that the wholesalers clean the draft lines!

    So there you have it. In one state an activity is prohibited, in another state, its encouraged.

    Pretty hard to claim any brewery/wholesaler is being unscrupulous when the states can't even agree on what is fair and what isn't.
  14. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (924) Mar 17, 2009 Washington

    Buks in cambridge is a dump. Nothing about that place seems synonymous with mid-range pricing and chef driven food. They have "fuck" written all over the menu. If I had a brewery I'd rather throw my beer into the harbor than sell it there.
  15. Auror

    Auror Zealot (593) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    No libation without ambience-ation!
    BlindSalimander and jmdrpi like this.
  16. Himself

    Himself Initiate (162) May 20, 2014 Massachusetts

    Plain and simple the distribution system in Massachusetts is broken and severely corrupt. I work in a retail establishment and PT is no more expensive than any other beer, in fact their 22oz bottles are consistently 15% less than most other "local" 22oz btls granted keg pricing is quite a bit different. The system needs overhauling from top to bottom and if you are going to have regulations then they need to be enforced.
    OffTrail likes this.
  17. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,648) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    And a different variation still, in PA its mandated that they be cleaned every 7 days at the expense of the licensee and some states don't mandate cleaning at all.
    SCW likes this.
  18. choke17

    choke17 Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    While I don't recall the specific situation I can assure you that we never "pay to play" at the Ale house. The only thing we ask for in order to pour a brand is that it be good and ALL of the breweries we buy from can confirm that. We consider ourselves restaurant with I high appreciation for beer and we are passionate about it, why else would we do it considering bud products are better on the bottom line??? I can only guess that what you are referencing is a situation where we were pouring a core brand from a brewery in order to get our hands on something limited from a brewery or importer. Do you think a brewery like founders for example is going to sell us KBS if we call them once a year and give them no support the rest? The same goes with importers, if we only ordered Fantome and Cantillion from the Shelton brothers we would never get them that's not what pays their bills it's the every day stuff.
    We never pour any of the domestic fizzy lagers so I feel we are still light years ahead of 99% of American bars.
    #178 choke17, Oct 14, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
  19. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,029) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    It was a simple question. Huffing and puffing is not answering.
    Fargrow likes this.
  20. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (341) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Huh. I didn't pick that up from the once-over I gave his tweets, specifically, but then my sense that most all online commentary tends toward hyperbole may mean I interpret it as less florid than a literal reading might indicate.

    I'm hardly unbiased, though: If I were forced to pick a single favorite brewery, Pretty Things would be it.

    Which might make this a good place to say Hey, if you like big, rich, bocky lagers and you haven't tried their brand new Bocky Bier, do it do it do it because it's really good.
    zid and cavedave like this.
  21. Chlodwig23

    Chlodwig23 Initiate (85) May 14, 2009 Massachusetts

    1. To clarify, the Wilcox group never asked Mystic directly for discounts.
    2. The draft list at all their bars changed dramatically recently and we are no longer in any of them.
    3. Pay2play is for crap beer. It really sucks to get bumped off a line, especially when its crappy, boring beer replacing just because of things entirely beyond our control.
    4. #3 is the force of consolidation and leads to a future of lame beer options.

    Mystic Brewery
  22. Sponan

    Sponan Initiate (183) Jan 20, 2008 Tennessee

    I was referencing a distributor requiring a BMC tap to get access to other beers in their portfolio, not the purchasing of tap lines. No different than giving Hopslam to the accounts which sell the most of the regular line.
    drtth likes this.
  23. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Defender (615) Jan 12, 2013 Iowa

    This is the case in Minnesota/Iowa as well.

    Minnesota - distributors are responsible for cleaning the tap lines at the establishments/tap accounts they sell to.
    Iowa - the bars/establishments are responsible for cleaning their own tap lines.
  24. bluehende

    bluehende Poo-Bah (2,048) Dec 10, 2010 Delaware

    The funny part is both laws do the same thing. Under either law a distributor cannot use the benefit of tap cleaning to gain favor. A "problem" solved by opposites.
    wrightwb likes this.
  25. BenTheBrewer

    BenTheBrewer Initiate (0) Nov 4, 2009 Massachusetts

    For the record, Transcendence is a very small batch (we only made 10 bbl!) limited release (once or twice a year) brett saison which takes 4+ months to produce. I wish we could make it more affordable... That said, Dann and Martha make some of the best damn beers on the East Coast. FACT.
    skivtjerry, trevorpost, Dupuy and 5 others like this.
  26. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Devotee (496) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    I clarified later as I was responding to an earlier post about distributors pushing/forcing lower quality product (Bud in that case, something else in yours) in order for a bar to get access to good beer. Just mixing sleazy distro behaviors. We all understand that selling Founders' other beer gets you a better chance for KBS. But if that devolves into being strong-armed into carrying something really shitty from the same distro that carries Founders, then it's a different discussion. At least to me it is.
  27. damienblack

    damienblack Initiate (0) Jul 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    Yes, that is supposed to be read as them asking the distributor for breaks, not you. The point I wanted to illustrate is that most of what we are talking about goes on at a much higher level than the brewers , they just get unfortunately lost in the political shuffle.
  28. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Devotee (496) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Don't misconstrue that post as a knock on your beer. I actually brought it to a tasting recently (check the reviews). Just pointing out that his statements regarding price point are bunk. You just happened to be on the expensive end of the tap list.
  29. RblWthACoz

    RblWthACoz Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Have heard this as well. Was specifically told that there was a payout for a line at a South Side establishment to the tune of $4,000. The line being mentioned was originally craft and then went to BMC.
  30. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,648) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Appreciate the clarification.
  31. BenTheBrewer

    BenTheBrewer Initiate (0) Nov 4, 2009 Massachusetts

    Oh not at all! I'm just offering an explanation as to why a beer like Transcendence goes for so much...

    Let me put it another way: I'd gladly pay $9 or more for a 12 oz glass of St. Botolph's Town. Or Meadowlark. Or Field Mouse. Or Barbapapa. Or Babayaga. Or Our Finest Regards. Or American Darling. Or Fluffy White Rabbits. Or Jack D'Or.

    Pretty Things makes SUPERIOR beers that are worth every penny.
  32. elkabong

    elkabong Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2014 Wisconsin

    neurobot01 and herrburgess like this.
  33. geocool

    geocool Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    I'll weigh in here. If you mess with Dann Paquette, you mess with me. I have no problem at all staying away from Bukowski Tavern, Lower Depths, Tip Tap Room, and any other Wilcox property permanently.
    Witherby, Himself and JackHorzempa like this.
  34. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    You sound like someone who would be upset by some of the things ABinbev does. :wink:
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  35. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,459) Mar 12, 2009 New York

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  36. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    I've heard multiple stories in that same vein. If craft brewers are shelling out thousands to lock out the competition imagine what ABinbev can do? Put two and two together on this.

    I've backed off on my conversations regarding why I think boycotting ABinbev is important for the progress of craft beer. Largely I have found that it leads to never ending debates that I don't have the patience for. Nevertheless, threads like this and situations like what Pretty Things is describing are worth thinking about. Again, if this is what craft brewers can to do one another, imagine what the mega company can do?
    ptery, LeRose, frazbri and 1 other person like this.
  37. rozzom

    rozzom Crusader (729) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    I agree with you. But I think the important message in this particular thread is that people tend to think AB-Inbev = corporate profit-driven monster, and all craft brewers = holding hands and singing and profit doesn't matter nearly as much as being an artisan brewer. But truth is there's good and bad apples, and varying motives, up and down the scale.
  38. Mullen2525

    Mullen2525 Initiate (184) Dec 9, 2012 Massachusetts

    Who's got a camera?

    New reality TV show "Boston Beer Wars"
  39. JacksAbbyBrewing

    JacksAbbyBrewing Initiate (69) Jul 19, 2011 Massachusetts

    We here at Jack's Abby wanted to address many points in the thread.1- We do not "pay to play." While this practice is commonplace in the Boston market, and other markets that we have begun to dip our toes into, it is not an option for Jack's Abby. Beyond the fact that it is illegal, it is simply not the best place for us to spend our money. We invest our money into tanks, packaging equipment and employees, not artificially inflating our sales numbers.

    2- Specific to the Wilcox Group, we did not pay for our draft placements. Period. I feel confident that those who know the industry would accept that when they see our tap handle next to Stone's tap handle, a brewery that has fought against pay to play probably more vehemently and consistently than any other.

    3- Specific to Fairstead Kitchen, which was mentioned earlier in the thread: While at the surface this may look like a pay to play due to the exclusivity of Jack's Abby on tap, it is not. We did not give a single dollar to the folks over at Fairstead (except of course when we go over for dinner on a regular basis to eat their spectacular food). What we did offer Fairstead was: frequent staff trainings and access to all of our specialty and one off brews. Fairstead approached us saying they wanted to work exclusively with a local brewery that could offer those things and we stepped up. We count ourselves lucky to have worked with them for the past year and hope to share many more years of prosperity with them. If they ever chose to go in a different direction, we would wish them the best and work our asses off to earn as much of their business back as possible.

    I am not sure why we got singled out in this discussion. Sales in the beer industry is incredible tough and is only getting harder. All of our efforts continue to go towards improving our product and ability to bring it to market at a competitive price.
    meefmoff, slarrage, sjoeboo and 56 others like this.
  40. geocool

    geocool Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    I just got a list of retail keg prices from a local bottle shop, look what I found:

    1/6 Barrel
    Berkshire: $70-$86
    Mystic: $80
    Peak Organic: $85-$90
    Pretty Things: $85-$90
    Jack's Abby: $85-$115

    1/2 Barrel
    Berkshire: $175-$199
    Mayflower: $175
    Jack's Abby: $175-$200

    Are you seeing evidence of higher keg prices for Pretty Things's beer? Because what I see here is the opposite. Maybe we retail buyers and smaller business owners are paying the price for the P4P that Bukowski and others are exacting from some craft brewers.
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