Big Beer Puts Its Crony Hypocrisy On Show

The Brewers Association (BA), a trade organization that represents craft breweries, recently drew the ire of Big Beer in the form of Pete Coors, the chairman of Molson Coors’ board of directors.

Coors, who’s family ranks 71st on Forbes’ list of the richest American families, sent an open letter (reprinted at the bottom of this article) slamming the BA for supposedly creating a division within the industry between craft brewers and crony big beer.

Molson Coors owns the both Coors and Miller brands of beer, along with Blue Moon, Keystone, Leinenkugel, and several others making it the seventh largest producer of beer in the world, with 24% of the US marketshare in 2017.

With such a large production, and widespread demand, Molson Coors doesn’t have a problem getting its beer distributed, something that its smaller competitors have to face. Many states have made it illegal for breweries to self-distribute their own beer, with some states making it even difficult to even sell beer directly at breweries.

This is all because of the lobbying efforts of the the big beer producers like Molson Coors. They promote legislation against small craft brewers so that it difficult for them to access markets and drives up costs.

Molson Coors also makes it difficult for craft brewers by controlling much of the hop production industry. Hops are an important ingredient in beer, and without hops it is impossible to make. So Pete Coors’ claim that the BA is a “detriment of the entire beer industry” is laughable while Coors’ actions prevents smaller brewers from growing or even out of the industry all together.

I do have to agree with Coors on one point: “Competition in our industry should be honored and cherished.” He just needs to learn to practice what he preaches. Let consumers decide what they want, stop using the government to fight your competitors, and stop calling valid criticisms of your business “cheap shots and insults“.

Coors’ open letter in its entirety is below:

A Letter to the BA From Pete Coors

Congratulations on the remarkable attendance at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville. The high turnout speaks to the interest and passion that brewers, suppliers, and the general public have for beer and the brewing industry.

As a paying member of the Brewers Association, I enjoy my subscription to The New Brewer. It is the reason I have taken the time to write a point of view concerning the ongoing vitriol expressed in its pages and most recently reaffirmed by BA Chairman Eric Wallace and President Bob Pease toward the large, non-independent brewers.

The brewing industry is not exclusively made up of “large, multinational brewers” or “big brewers” or “faux craft brewers.” It is not exclusively made up of “mass produced” beer, craft brewers or home brewers. Rather, the beer industry is a combination of large and small brewers, retailers, distributors, and suppliers who are passionate about their craft and committed to their businesses. And, they are passionate about competing for the millions of American consumers who love beer.

The leadership of the Brewers Association does a great disservice to the entire beer value chain by attempting to pit one part of the industry against another.

You must know that it is insulting to those of us who don’t meet the clever criteria of your self-proclaimed definition of “craft brewer.” This approach prioritizes insults and division over unity for a beverage that has been used to unify and celebrate together for generations.

Should the highly educated and trained brewers who work for large brewers or the breweries that have been purchased by them be included in the disdain you seem to have for them? Should the quality of beers produced by them, including hundreds of quality medals be insulted by the Brewers Association simply because the parent company isn’t part of your ever-changing “club?” Didn’t all large brewers start as craft brewers? Don’t all craft brewers wish to grow and be prosperous?

We share distributors, many of whom would not be able to distribute Brewers Association beers without the scale provided by the large brewers. You claim that your members are precluded from distribution at retail, while I visit account after account that do not carry any “big brewer” products.

Competition in our industry should be honored and cherished. I agree with you that craft brewers are “exemplars of the American Dream, of entrepreneurial spirit”. However, you must realize that big brewers are as well. There should be no room for cheap shots and insults (“faux”, “crafty”, “capitulated” beers) for each other.

That is a slippery slope that does not end well for our industry. We have enough competition inside the beer business and outside it with wine, spirits and, increasingly, marijuana.

You undermine your credibility by pitting us against one another to the ultimate detriment of the entire beer industry.

Keep your independent seal, your pride and your zeal for brewing, but let’s be united as an industry. There are other enemies we all must fight together.