The craft beer industry: beer quality problems

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackHorzempa, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. JackHorzempa

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

    In another thread Julia Lauren (@JuliaLauren) of the Brewers Association discussed how the Brewers Association is addressing craft beer quality and she provided this link as an example: https://www.brewersassociation.org/educational-publications/best-practices-guide/

    The Brewers Association provides to their members a 20+ page brochure entitled Best Practices Guide to Quality Craft Beer.

    There have been some suggestions from BAs on how to address certain aspects of craft beer quality:

    @MNAle posted: “…perhaps the Brewers Association should define a "quality seal" that to qualify, the brewer must demonstrate (via an audit?) that they have certain minimal quality controls in place.”

    @pat61 posted: “In terms of having out of date dreck on the shelves what the Association should do is work out member agreements for standards of behavior for the distributors, such as removing out of date beer from retailer shelves and keeping beer cold from brewery to retailer. As a trade association they could use their influence to get distributors to sign agreements that include responsibility for the care and handling of the beer after the distributor gets it. Having a year old IPA on a store shelf is not going to help any brewer.”

    I think the issues concerning craft beer quality is of such importance that a separate thread specifically on this topic is needed.

    I am hoping that some other BAs can provide suggestions on how they think the beer quality of craft beer can be improved and hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to the Brewers Association in their goal to improve the quality of craft beer.

    Cheers!
     
  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    As noted at the close of her post
    that was Julia Herz, the Brewers Association's Craft Beer Program Director.
     
  3. Lahey

    Lahey Disciple (313) Nov 12, 2016 Michigan

    Education and training for brewers would probably be a good investment to continue on. Their 20 page quality pamphlet may be a good start, I don't know enough to comment on that.

    Maybe offer classes or courses of some kind. It may serve to help new brewers learn to do it the right way. I'm no expert, but it seems education breeds quality in any profession.
     
  4. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    BREWING SCHOOLS
     
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  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Is the BA user name of JuliaLauren perhaps a joint account for Julia Herz and Lauren Torres?

    Needless to say but I was confused (in error) here and I appreciate your clarification.

    You are an astute observer of the craft beer industry. Do you have any ideas on how beer quality could be improved?

    Cheers!
     
  6. JackHorzempa

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

    They do offer a one day workshop on the topic of beer quality; I discussed this in the other thread:

    Basics of Beer Quality Workshop

    They conduct a one day workshop periodically (and at differing locations). Is a one day course long enough? Is there a fee involved here? Is there a way (e.g., via certification which can be advertised) for the B.A. t0 incentivize their members to attend?

    Needless to say but for B.A. brewery members to attend the course but choose to not implement what was taught (e.g., due to cost implications) does not result in full completion here.

    https://www.brewersassociation.org/best-practices/quality/beer-quality-workshop/

    Cheers!
     
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  7. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,032) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
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    Rule of thumb: If a beer is old enough to quit breast feeding and move to a sippy cup it is old enough to remove from the shelf.
     
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  8. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,032) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
    Premium

    Jack - I agree with everything you are saying. I think that the Brewers' Association as an association needs to look at how it can use its power to improve beer quality and I think working with the distributors is one area where they can exercise their power as an association. If AARP can get me better car insurance, then there is no reason that the Brewers' Association can't get better treatment of craft beer by distributors and retailers for that matter. Too many restaurants leave the wine buyer in charge of buying beer and they all seem to think that Kronenbourg 1664 is a premium beer or that Stella is something extra special and too many craft bars still haven't gotten the hang of cleaning out their beer lines on a regular basis.

    Regarding the basis of beer quality workshops, there are statewide brewers associations and brewers' guilds and maybe suppliers like the people who supply the malt and hops (and I can provide names) might want to fund such an effort. It might also make more sense to run something like this through the Master Brewer's Association of the Americas - this is where you will find most of the brewers who are doing the actual brewing. That said, it is imperative that people who own the brewers have that same passion for quality that August Busch III had and a separate program for brewery owners might be in order.
     
  9. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    I can easily list what I think they should do but have no practical suggestions as to how they could do it. Perhaps setting up a cooperative between the distributors to sell stale beer to the industrial alcohol producers would recover some of the financial loss.
     
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  10. JackHorzempa

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

    That could be worthwhile. The first step to solving problems is knowing what the problems are.

    Cheers!
     
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  11. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    The most apparent problem around here is old beer still being offered for sale. The brewers I've talked to say once it goes to the distributor it's out of their hands what happens. The retailers I've talked to say the distributors can take it back but are not required to do so. The distributors I've talked to say they would like to carry more craft beer products but don't feel it's their responsibility to take a loss if the beer doesn't sell. Everyone involved is taking a short term profit/loss approach here and I can't say I blame them.

    If the BA want's to take a long term approach perhaps it would be wise to encourage members to use clearly labeled produced on dates conjoined with consumer education about the importance of both freshness and how the product was handled prior to purchase.
     
  12. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    @JackHorzempa I appreciate your commitment to this issue. I mean that 100% truthfully. I’ve been burned by poor quality beer before. I think we share opinions on this subject but have disagreements on the solutions.

    I guess my question is, why is this the BAs responsibility? This seems to fall under a consumer protection category, which the BA is not.
    They are a trade association. Their commitment is to the brewers, not the drinkers. They provide information to brewers on GMP and proper brewing techniques, but anything beyond that seems superfluous to their ethos.

    Out of code beer is the responsibility of the distributor and/or supplier. It’s also not an issue limited to ‘craft’ beer and was an issue well before the craft beer revolution.

    Identifying breweries or beers of poor quality for one reason or another is no one’s ‘job’ per se, but it seems like Internet review sites like this one, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. do a better job of it than any bureaucratic trade association ever could.

    I promise I’m not trying to shut down any arguments! Just providing some of my opinions. Good discourse so far! :grin:
     
  13. JackHorzempa

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

    I believe one of the things the BA should do is improve the business prospects for their members (e.g., craft breweries). Improving the quality of the product for the end customers should result in increased sales. When an end beer consumer purchases and drinks 'bad' beer that more often than not results in lost future sales. Shouldn't the BA help here?

    Do you have any suggestions/ideas on how craft beer quality can be improved?

    Cheers!
     
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  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Sounds good to me but Johnny would likely say this is not the 'job' of the Brewers Association.:flushed:

    Cheers!
     
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  15. JackHorzempa

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

    Well, AB does an excellent job ensuring beer quality here. For example beers like Budweiser are removed from retailers' shelves when they are 110 days old.

    AB made a business decision to not sell old beer to their end customers. I am confident they did this to optimize AB beer sales.

    Craft breweries and their association of Brewers Association would be wise to learn (and do something) from this.

    Cheers!
     
  16. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (105) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    Good luck convincing the Indian beer store owners by me to do this. They will sell you a 10 yr old beer and won't even wipe the dust off. One problem I'm seeing is that a small beer store has to buy a lot of one product to get it cheap and it will never sell.
     
  17. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    I believe user-managed review sites like this one and yelp, for example, are among the most powerful tools. Beer drinkers are more likely to reference these than some random seal of approval from some organization they don’t recognize.
    Also, and this is the tough one, when you drink a bad beer, speak up! If it’s at a brewery, ask to talk to the brewer. If it’s at a bar, inform the MOD and shoot an email to the brewer. People can’t change unless they know they’re messing up.

    AB made the same moves that breweries like Stone and countless others have made. It doesn’t mean they are being enforced. I’ve definitely seen >3 months old AB products on the shelf.
    I’m not the only one: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...ed-its-freshness-date/?utm_term=.336cc9f5fc4c
     
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  18. MetroWineAndSpirits

    MetroWineAndSpirits Initiate (33) Mar 3, 2018 District of Columbia

    I will get beer from breweries or distributors that has been packaged two months prior. I've sent it back on more than one occasion. Anyway, my point is that sometimes retailers don't have any other option. They can either stock IPAs that are already beginning to fall off or not stock them at all.
     
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Did you speak up?

    Cheers!
     
  20. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    It's just business, they have the right to leave it on the shelf and I have the right to leave it there as well.
     
  21. JackHorzempa

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

    On subsequent orders did the Wholesale Distributors provide you with fresh(er) product?
    I would imagine that some would say that would be the best course of action.

    And remember: @JohnnyChicago says "speak up"!

    Cheers!
     
  22. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    Unfortunately it's the retailers that get the brunt of this and it's not a problem of their own making.
     
  23. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Oh yeah...every time.

    I’m already salty about having to spend 9 bucks for a Green Line at Wrigley Field, but when it’s 4 months only and tastes like grass, they are definitely gonna hear it from me!
     
  24. MetroWineAndSpirits

    MetroWineAndSpirits Initiate (33) Mar 3, 2018 District of Columbia

    They'll send fresher product on most occasions or give credit towards other things.

    As another poster said, lots of people in the industry (retailers, distributors, etc) could care less about product freshness. The only way to initiate real change is for people to check dates and not buy old stuff! Which I have noticed more people doing recently.
     
  25. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    It's not the responsibility of the retailer (regardless of ethnicity) to do it.
    The National Beer Wholesalers Association agrees:
     
  26. MetroWineAndSpirits

    MetroWineAndSpirits Initiate (33) Mar 3, 2018 District of Columbia

    IMO the way the 3-tier system is set up removes any incentive for distributors to take any of those steps to ensure quality.
     
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  27. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (1,873) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    This is about the long and the short of it. Nobody wants to take responsibility for ooc (industry abbreviation for out of code) beer. In reality I think everyone in the three tier system bears some responsibility, and it isn't really fair to pin it all on one tier.

    Suppliers (Brewers) need to make sure they producing to demand (admittedly very tough to do sometimes) and not getting backlogged with product or trying to push excess product on the distributors. They should also print clear freshness codes and set forth clear shelf standards. They also need to be careful when signing contracts with their distributors and clearly state their ooc policies and expectations in the contract.

    Distributors need to monitor codes at the warehouse level and stay in communication with the brewery regarding stock levels and close code product. They, too, need to watch their ordering and forecasting (also very difficult). They should also set forth expectations for their sales team as to what they should do about ooc beer at retail, and make sure they curb any potentially over-zealous salesmen that might try to pump an account full of too much product.

    Retailers need to buy smart. Don't over-buy and get yourself saddled with too much product. Watch codes on the shelf. Rotate stock and place close code product on sale to move it before it becomes an issue. Do your part to sell the beer and care for your product.

    I don't expect the BA to be able to do much about the issue other than to educate/advise on a set of best practices or something along those lines. Laws vary state to state on how ooc beer can be handled or removed from retail. Some states make it very tough for a distributor to even do that. Additionally, as I mentioned above, each brewery signs their own contract with a distributor and needs to spell out their own ooc policy. Some contracts will outline a 50/50 bill back to the brewery for ooc removed from retail, some contracts will not accept any bill back whatsoever, etc. There's a ton of moving parts and variables at play here.
     
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  28. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,998) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    Besides compelling/advising brewers to date their beers, they should also be urged to be consistent in the format, location, font, meaning, etc. Determining the date of a beer should not require a secret decoder ring or a microscope! Tell us the bottling/canning date in a standard non-julian format. If they want to ALSO tell us the expiration date, that's fine - but be clear about which date means what.

    I've said it before, they missed a great opportunity when they came out with the new independent craft brewing logo; they could have reserved a white-space under it where the brewer would stamp the born-on date.

    Yes - lots of barriers, and it could take years since dating equipment is a significant investment and not all breweries could afford this right away. Still, start doing it, and folks will come aboard as possible. And the Brewer's Association should be able to recommend this if no controlling members oppose it.
     
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  29. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    This is a great write-up. I sold beer across multiple states long ago and the difference in laws, particularly out of code, is staggering.
    Don’t buy this ‘it’s difficult to date’ BS, man. You are absolutely right! Every brewery should be putting a packaging date somewhere on the package. There’s no excuse.

    There are dozens of date-coding options out there nowadays that meet many budgets. If you can’t afford the cheapest one, you should be packaging a small enough volume where you can have a packaging specialist mark every box/tray with a sharpie.

    I give Sam Adams/Jim Koch a hard time on these forums occasionally, but he posted a bit where he showed their early coding method involving a stack of labels, a table saw, and 5 seconds.

    Anyone who isn’t putting a date on their beer is doing it on purpose for one reason or another and there likely isn’t anything the BA can do to convince them otherwise.
     
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  30. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,998) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    What can be done is get some of the big hitters behind it, and the others will slowly be shamed into following. If at least some of them can't agree on this, then just shut down the BA and don't bother pretending to cooperate to improve craft.
     
    #30 bbtkd, Sep 9, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    They do.
    Date Lot Coding
    What "big hitters" aren't already date coding? Seems like it is a rare brewer - usually small, new-ish, local and, often, self-distributing (where legal) that doesn't these days.

    Well, they could deny them the use of their "INDEPENDENT CRAFT" seal :grin: (not that that would hurt all that much).
     
    #31 jesskidden, Sep 9, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
  32. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Big guys setting the stage seems to be a thing of the past. Nowadays, the tail wags the dog...my SN Hazy Little Thing says so anyways... :grin:
     
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  33. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (235) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Maybe some brewers shouldn't be brewers. If you're beer isn't selling, don't sell it to every Tom, Dick, and Jane who want to initially buy 25 cases *at a discount that you offered. And don't continue to make the same amount if its already not selling. Lower capacity. Fix your damn recipes and other brewing quality aspects.

    Look at it from a food perspective. Some well trained chefs just flat out SUCK. Maybe its their method, recipes, ingredients.

    "It's out of our hands once the distributor gets it". BS. You're name is on the line and if your 3 month old IPA thats been on the shelve hot for 90 days tastes like crap, that's on your NAME sake. Make less beer. Or maybe just go out of business. Sad harsh reality.

    Dating beer isn't really a problem that I see. People aren't buying beer because of a lack of date. I feel like 95% of the people at beer stores dont even look at the dates. There is just a nice variety, and all walks of beer life are sitting (dated or non dated)
     
  34. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,998) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium

    I mean big guys in the craft industry, and SN is pretty big there. BMC is pretty consistent in dating their beers with Bud bragging about their "born on" date, now a "best before" date. Unfortunately, many craft brewers seem to do the opposite of BMC on some things...
     
  35. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,529) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    This ^ From the average consumer's point of view that directly affects the brewer's reputation is the dating on beer. Date the beer or I won't date the beer all the way to the checkout.
     
    #35 utopiajane, Sep 9, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
  36. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    I've had candid conversations with brewers about this issue. In a non confrontational way I gently reminded them a consumer only has to buy one stale old beer to turn them off all beers bearing the Brewery name. I no longer bother, their collective head in the sand attitude makes the talk a waste of my time.
     
  37. JackHorzempa

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

    And that is a travesty IMO. The craft breweries and their association Brewers Association could learn plenty from AB about beer quality.

    Cheers!
     
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  38. JackHorzempa

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

    Hopefully there is some way the Brewers Association can actively take steps to pull their heads out of the sand. Maintaining this head in the sand approach is not a wise business strategy for the individual breweries and for the craft beer industry overall.

    Cheers!
     
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  39. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (817) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Good points all. I just wonder if any Craft brewery would be able to enforce it's pull dates the way AB is able to.
     
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  40. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,998) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium

    Craft brewers should also keep in mind that BMC have spent millions on mastering efficiency and consistency, so where this knowledge can be discovered and legally leveraged the craft brewers would be smart to. This happens all the time in other industries, though certainly they must toe the line of legality.