Beer In Grocery Stores: Oh, The Horror!

grocery-cart
Here in sunny California, we can stroll down to the local grocery store, or convenience store, and buy a six-pack of beer. It’s not a big deal. It’s been that way since I moved here in 1985, and probably was that way long before I arrived. I pretty much take it for granted, but there are still states where adults still can’t buy a beer without going to a special store, sometimes run by the state itself, to protect its tax revenue, but more importantly to tightly control the distribution of demon alcohol. My home state of Pennsylvania was (and is) one such state. All of the states’ alcohol laws were written in the wake of prohibition’s end, and were designed with that failed legacy in mind. Most of these laws today are antiquated and out-of-date in the face of modern life.

But changing alcohol laws are harder than many other laws, because there’s a special layer of angst that lawmakers must face. Alcohol is still treated as a toxic substance, one that poses a danger, despite it having been around since the dawn of civilization and having been legal for adults for literally the entirety of human history, with the notable exception of thirteen years in the mid-20th century. But prohibitionist strategy since essentially the moment the 21st Amendment was ratified has remained unchanged: to make it as difficult as possible for adults to obtain legal alcohol. And so for the past 80+ years they’ve been tireless in their efforts to make us work for our beer. So now the state of Kansas is seeking to modernize the state and allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold in grocery and convenience stores. The modest bill takes into account liquor stores’ current monopolies and gives “them 10 years to adapt to increased competition in the marketplace. Beer sales would not be legal until 2017, wine in 2020, and spirits in 2024.” But that would mean there would be more places where adults could legally buy something that they’re legally entitled to purchase, and we certainly don’t want to encourage that. Or rather the prohibitionists don’t want people to be able to. Alcohol Justice tweeted out their displeasure with Kansas, chastising lawmakers there with a simple admonishment: “Bad move.”

I’m sure they have an excellent reason why it’s a “bad move” for adults to have more freedom and convenience in purchasing their alcohol, something they’re already allowed to do, but so far A.J. is mum on the whys are wherefores. Although you can be sure it has something to do with protecting children or how much more the state will be harmed if people can increasingly be able to engage in the legally permissible act of enjoying a beer. They’ve never been too strong on logic or rational thought, so maybe it’s best they stick to the sublimely absurd. Because as far as I can tell, Alcohol Justice telling the legislature of the state of Kansas “bad move” is the schoolyard bully equivalent of “because we said so” or “because we don’t like it.”

beer-in-grocery

Offline Sales Traffic Drivers

wall-street-journal
Earlier today there was an interesting infographic tweeted by the Wall Street Journal, by their WSJ Graphics division, entitled Offline Sales, showing how “retailers rely heavily on consumer products to drive store traffic.” In the top spot was “food and alcohol,” with 99% of $884 billion in sale made in stores, and only 1% online. That’s not too much of a surprise, as it’s somewhat a pain in the neck to order food or alcohol online, and in some states it’s even illegal (for the alcohol, at least). Even where it is, it’s prohibitively expensive for most beers. The majority of beers bought online, I’d guess, are of the rarer, hard-to-find variety. But the chart also suggests that beer is therefore very important to retailers trying to persuade customers to get off their laptops and drive down to their brick and mortar stores.

wsj-offline-sales

What Breweries Did During Prohibition To Stay In Business

18th-amendment
Here’s an interesting list from Mental Floss concerning something most of us rarely think about. What did the few American breweries that managed to keep the doors open during prohibition do? Some of the products they continued to make included.

  • Ice Cream
  • Pottery
  • Malt Extract
  • Dyes
  • Beer

But check out Mental Floss’ How Breweries Kept Busy During Prohibition for a fuller explanation.

pabst-malt-extract

Trouble Brewing: Changes In FDA Rules For Spent Grain

barley
There was an interesting article recently on Craft Beer Business detailing how changes to the FDA regulations regarding spent grain might effect breweries. Under a proposed new “definition, craft breweries would be labeled animal feed manufacturers and be regulated as such by the FDA.” Given that most breweries have to find something to do with their spent grain, whether selling it or donating it, if the proposed rules take effect, it will undoubtedly alter the way breweries dispose of their grain. Check out the article, FDA rule regulates spent grain sold as animal feed, to see the rule changes.

P1070466
Spent grain at Russian River’s production brewery after brewing a batch of Pliny the Elder in May 2009.

Beer In Film #36: The Brewery Show Visits Blue Point

brookston-film
Today’s beer video is a tour of the Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue, New York by The Brewery Show. Given the announcement today that ABI is buying the brewery, I thought readers might be interested in seeing the brewery and learning more about it. It’s from season 2 of The Brewery Show and runs about twelve minutes.

Anheuser-Busch To Buy Blue Point Brewing

blue-point a-b-cos
Anheuser-Busch announced today that they would be acquiring Long Island craft brewery Blue Point Brewing for an unspecified amount. The deal is expected to close in the next quarter, and like its other recent acquisitions, the brewery will remain at its original location in Patchogue, New York.

From the press release

Anheuser-Busch today announced it has agreed to purchase Blue Point Brewing Co., one of the nation’s top craft brewers with more than 40 beers and sales concentrated along the East Coast, in a move that will bring additional resources to Blue Point’s operations, allowing it to meet growing consumer demand for its award‑winning brands. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Blue Point, known for its creativity, was founded by Mark Burford and Peter Cotter 15 years ago in Patchogue, N.Y., where the brewery will continue to operate. Anheuser-Busch also plans to invest in the brewery to grow its operational capabilities and enhance the consumer experience over the next few years.

“We are deeply grateful to our family of loyal employees and customers. Our success was made possible by the hard work of good people and good beer in Patchogue,” said Peter Cotter, who will continue to be instrumental in the success of the brands along with co-founder Mark Burford. “Together, our talented brewing team and Anheuser-Busch will have the resources to create new and exciting beers and share our portfolio with even more beer lovers,” said Mark Burford.

In 2013, Blue Point sold approximately 60,000 barrels, with 50 percent of the volume from its flagship brand, Toasted Lager. It also sells Hoptical Illusion, Blueberry Ale and seasonal brands among others.

“As we welcome Blue Point into the Anheuser-Busch family of brands, we look forward to working with Mark and Peter to accelerate the growth of the Blue Point portfolio and expand to new markets, while preserving the heritage and innovation of the brands,” said Luiz Edmond, CEO of Anheuser-Busch. “With Anheuser-Busch’s strong beer credentials, we share a commitment to offering high-quality beers that excite consumers. Blue Point brands have a strong following and even more potential.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also some additional information on the deal and its background.

Print

And in case you’re unfamiliar with Blue Point, here’s an overview, also from the press release.

Blue Point Brewing Company is Long Island’s oldest and most award-winning brewery. Founded in 1998 by Mark Burford and Pete Cotter, Blue Point Brewery is headquartered in Patchogue, New York, and is currently the 34th largest craft brewery in the U.S. Blue Point Brewing Company is independently owned and operated and its beers are available in 15 states of distribution including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan. Blue Point’s portfolio of more than 40 craft beers includes Hoptical Illusion, ESB, RastafaRye Ale, Sour Cherry Imperial Stout, Toxic Sludge, White IPA, No Apologies Double IPA, and its flagship Toasted Lager, which won the World Beer Cup in 2006.

Nine Beers In Free Fall

sales-chart-down
If you saw my post from this morning about Beer Sales Dropping. The original story mentioned nine brands that have, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights, “declined by more than 25% over the past five years.” 24/7 Wall St. listed the Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink. They are:

  • 9. Labatt Blue — Sales loss (2007-2012): 28.3%
  • 8. Budweiser — Sales loss (2007-2012): 28.8%
  • 7. Heineken Premium Light — Sales loss (2007-2012): 36.7%
  • 6. Milwaukee’s Best Light — Sales loss (2007-2012): 39.7%
  • 5. Old Milwaukee — Sales loss (2007-2012): 54.0%
  • 4. Miller Genuine Draft — Sales loss (2007-2012): 56.4%
  • 3. Milwaukee’s Best Premium — Sales loss (2007-2012): 58.5%
  • 2. Budweiser Select — Sales loss (2007-2012): 61.5%
  • 1. Michelob Light — Sales loss (2007-2012): 69.6%

freefall
Ouch.

Beer Sales Dropping

sales-chart-down
While I don’t normally get my news from AOL (although to be fair it was on the NASDAQ website), this short video “Presented by: The Aol. On Network,” has some interesting factoids contained within it, and begins with the standard line. “Beer is not selling the way it used to. U.S. sales of the beverage declined in four of the past five years. Between 2007 and 2012, beer sales fell by 2.3%, or more than 4.8 million barrels.” More interesting was that sales of the top nine brands have “declined by more than 25% over the past five years,” and that’s according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.