7-11 Debuts Game Day Private Label Beer

7-11
7-11, the largest convenience store chain in the U.S. with over 6,000 stores, sells a lot of beer, most of it from the big beer companies. In fact, they’re the third-largest beer retailer in the country. With more limited shelf space, C-Stores tend to focus on fast-moving brands and usually carry very few local or craft beer brands. So those stores have been one of the few outlets where space has not be eroding due to craft beer’s growing popularity. But, according to an announcement in Fortune magazine, that’s about to change, though not toward more craft beer. 7-11 has announced the release of their own private label beer, called Game Day. Apparently it’s a “premium beer selling at a budget price,” though further details were not forthcoming. While not yet confirmed by 7-11, it’s being reported that there will be two varieties of Game Day, Game Day Light and Game Day Ice and each will likely be sold in two package sizes, 12-pack cans and 24-oz. singles. Prices are expected to be between $6.99-$8.99 for 12-packs and between $1.49-$1.89 for singles, depending upon distribution and state specific costs, like taxes. The contract brewing is being done by City Brewing in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

game-day

Boycott UPS For Refusing To Ship Beer

ups
Wow, this is one of those seriously WTF stories (thanks to Lisa Morrison for tweeting it). The Idaho Statesman has a disturbing little story entitled UPS, FedEx Side With Wine in Beer Battle by their beer columnist, Patrick Orr. To work yourself up into the proper lather, I recommend reading the whole column first.

But essentially, an internet beer retailer — Brewforia.com — after 18 months of uneventful UPS shipping asked UPS for a specific contract to ship to other retailers, beyind the regular customers he’d been shipping to all along. Instead, UPS “told him they weren’t going to deliver Brewforia products anymore — no matter if a state allows such deliveries direct to consumers or not — and were not going to offer a contract.”

Their website has an entire page on wine shipments and how they do them. UPS ships wine for countless online wine stores. Beer is mentioned just once, here:

UPS provides service for other alcoholic beverages (beer and alcohol) on a contract basis only. For shipments containing beer or alcohol, shippers must enter into an approved UPS agreement for the transportation of beer or alcohol as applicable, must be licensed and authorized under applicable law to ship beer and alcohol, and may ship only to licensed consignees. UPS does not accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers. UPS accepts shipments of beer or alcohol only among and between selected states.

According to the Idaho column:

“When asked why UPS will deliver wine and not beer, [Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for UPS] said ‘that has just been a policy that we have had. It’s a program where our focus has been working with a number of licensed wine shippers.'” “For right now, UPS has chosen policy where beer contracts are for business-to-business shipments.”

UPS goes on with even more nonsensical gobbledygook:

Rosenberg said the issue is complicated by some states defining wine differently than beer and having different distribution requirements. UPS officials have been working with wine retailers for longer and don’t have any immediate plans to revisit their beer policy, Rosenberg said.

No, heaven forbid thy revisit their beer policy to bring it in line with the world in 2010. So the obvious answer now to “What Can Brown Do For You” is nothing if you’re beer, everything if you’re wine. That they utterly fail to see the hypocrisy in that is baffling, especially since they’re essentially throwing away money by their refusal to treat beer equally. It’s important to remember this is a policy decision, not a reaction to any law. Beer can be shipped to consumers in a majority of states, UPS has just chosen not to.

Personally, I think we need to organize a grassroots response and inundate UPS with just how ridiculous they’re being. Hypocrisy should not be rewarded.

Olympics & Beer

olympics
I may have some of the facts here wrong or may simply be missing something, but over the last week of paying some passing attention to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver — especially Curling — an odd picture has emerged concerning beer and America at the Olympics. A few nights on the Stephen Colbert Report, Colbert visited several nation’s International Houses, places for the athletes, visitors and sponsors from individual countries to go and relax with their fellow citizens and watch the competitions they don’t have tickets to, as well. Usually, they show off part of their culture — or the sponsor’s products — and they’re also places to celebrate. For example, at the Swiss House they had fondue, the Irish House featured folk music and the Russian House had foosball hockey. After visiting several houses, Colbert ends the segment back at the Irish House, saying it was because USA House didn’t have a bar.

That’s right, even after doubling the size of USA’s hospitality and having two separate houses (one in Vancouver and one in Whistler) there was no bar for American athletes or sponsors. Now, I don’t know for certain that we’re the only international house without a bar, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. We’ve done our level best to separate alcohol and move it into this otherworld that’s separate from the regular world that everyone lives in. So besides the fact that every other country can handle having alcohol be a part of their celebrations, at USA Central it’s believed that sports and alcohol can’t mix. You see it in college sports. You see it in the drive to eliminate drinking at professional sporting events. It’s always motivated by the fact that because some people can’t handle themselves, so then the logic is everyone should be prohibited from enjoying themselves. I’m sure other countries have their share of people trying to ruin it for everyone else — but somehow they’ve managed to make it the problem of those individual people and not the majority who can just get on with it. I, too, cringe whenever I see a bad drunk but not because I fear for that person, but because I know that neo-prohibitionists will look at that person and extrapolate his problem to include everyone who drinks. And so one result is the American Olympic Committee concludes it’s too risky for there to be a bar in our international house, despite the fact that craft beer is something America should be justly proud of.

James Beard Foundation Nominates 4 Beer Personalities

james-beard
The semi-finalist nominations for the prestigious James Beard Foundation awards were recently released. If you’re not familiar with the awards, here’s a description from their website.

Deemed “the Oscars of the food world,” by Time magazine, The James Beard Foundation Awards are the country’s most coveted honor for chefs; food and beverage professionals; broadcast media, journalists, and authors working on food; and restaurant architects and designers.

In the misnamed category “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional,” four luminaries from the world of beer made the cut. Those semi-finalists are Larry Bell (Bell’s Brewery), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery), Jim Koch (Boston Beer Co.) and Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery), any one of which deserves to win, or at least move on to the final round. Of the 20 semifinalists in each category, five final nominees will be announced March 22, and the awards themselves will be presented May 3.

At the risk of losing my own media nomination (that’s a joke BTW) isn’t it time to lose the wine and spirits bias? With 20% of the semi-finalists from the world of craft beer, wouldn’t something like “Outstanding Beverage Professional” be more appropriate and less insulting?

Ouch, ABIB Begans New Round Of Layoffs

abib
Ouch, according to St. Louis Today, Anheuser Busch InBev has announced layoffs of 90 key people, including four vice-presidents. Some of the people let go “included workers responsible for handling every facet of the brewer’s national sales.” Though the layoffs were spread among 25 states, HQ in Missouri lost the most — 17 — and California lost 12, the second highest number by state. An inside source told the St. Louis newspaper they believe about 450 U.S. jobs will be cut over the next few months. Current President, Dave Peacock, told reporters that the cuts were designed to make ABIB “optimally organized and as efficient as possible,” as meaningless a bit of gobbledygook business-speak as I’ve heard in quite some time. Wasn’t this exactly what InBev said they would not do when they were courting the sale? But cost-cutting is classic InBev behavior, as we saw before the sale and have continued to see afterward, too. It comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to their actions, and not their homilies, for the last several years. Now, with more cuts coming, you have a workforce that’s scared for their own jobs, not exactly the work environment anyone would enjoy. Maybe it will make some perform better, work harder, to save their livelihoods but in the end all it does is breed resentment and will likely be ABIB’s ultimate undoing, at least until the next bigger corporation swoops in and buys them.

Sticker Shocking

under-21
It appears MADD is up to their old tricks and actually this has probably been going on for some time albeit somewhat under the radar. In 1996, MADD created a youth organization of indoctrinated kids to do their dirty work for them called Youth In Action. One of their many “projects” is called Sticker Shock, which is described on their website:

YIA teams meet with local retailers that sell alcohol and ask permission to place warning stickers on the packaging of alcohol products (primarily beer). The stickers are very visible and warn of the consequences of purchasing alcohol for people under the age of 21. This project is designed to remind adults that they can be arrested for purchasing alcohol for minors.

Thanks for the “reminder” kids, but surely you could do something more constructive with your time. Maybe it’s the old curmudgeon in me, but it’s times like these when I miss the old days when children were to be seen and not heard. Do we really need these Stepford teens to lecture adults on the law?

This practice has apparently heated up in Massachusetts, with the state chapter there conducting raids of stores that sell alcohol to sticker the beer there.
madd-sticker-ma
Happily, Todd and Jason Alstrom, from Beer Advocate, take them to task in a recent column in Boston’s Dig entitled Fascist Youth Vandalize Liquor Stores. It almost reads like a headline from The Onion, except that it’s true. After detailing MADD’s Hitler youth in action, they strike the right note of indignation, certainly the same one I had.

Shocked? No, we’re pissed off! This is wrong on so many levels! First, while we agree that selling alcohol to minors is not cool, these sticker shock campaigns are outright acts of vandalism. Who cares if the storeowner gave permission? Who cares if these neo-prohibitionists are accompanied by an adult? Who cares if the adult’s a cop? Their little stunt is still illegal: Brewers must get approval from federal agencies for all packaging, including labels. Not only do these stickers alter the packaging, but sloppy placement could cover crucial information that, by law, must be visible to consumers.

And what about that cop? C’mon, with a cop backing these kids up, it’s no wonder that storeowners are consenting. And why “primarily beer”? Show us stats proving that kids are more likely to be hitting up adults for beer than for spirits. And why sticker all the beer in stock? Why not restrict it to the brands most popular with teen drunks? And why do we, the adult consumers, need to be “reminded” that purchasing beer for minors is illegal in the first place? Who said we forgot? Who decided this crap should be shoved in our faces? The YIA site says: “YIA teams look for community solutions instead of focusing their attention on their peers” — but isn’t that exactly where the primary focus should be?

This is not “reminding,” it’s intimidation, pure and simple.

madd-sticker-nm

The stickers read “Providing Alcohol to Minors is ILLEGAL. 4th Degree Felony. 18 Months in Jail. $5000 Fine. MADD’s Youth in Action.” All true, but why stop there. Why not sticker cans of soda with warnings that they can cause obesity. Coke and Pepsi would never sit still for that. In the UK several years ago McDonald’s sued a couple of activists literally for years because they had the audacity to criticize their food in what became known as the McLibel trial. But criticizing alcohol is perfectly acceptable because law enforcement and especially politicians are afraid to be reasonable thanks to the very vocal and active temperance minority, bowing to almost their every demand.

madd-sticker-va

Jason and Todd conclude with an excellent suggestion.

So we’re challenging all true beer lovers to refuse to buy any product that has been vandalized by YIA, and to tell shop owners you’ll be boycotting their establishments until they get their beer from under MADD’s thumb — literally.

Amen to that. Don’t buy if you see the sticker. We have to start standing up to these bullies. I know in some cases the retailers had little choice in reality, but if they know there are consequences for acquiescence, ones that hit their bottom line, then they’ll begin to do the right thing, which is tell these gang of youths to go “remind” somebody else. That the police give these stunts the imprimatur of legality is quite frankly Orwellian and more than a little frightening.

Agreement Reached For InBev Takeover Of Anheuser-Busch

Well, folks, it’s all over. The deed is done, indeed. The deal for InBev to acquire Anheuser-Busch has been agreed upon in principle, for nearly $50 billion. It’s not really over, of course, because it still has to wind its way through the federal approval process. But for all intents and purposes, it’s probably just a matter of time now that the two parties have reached an accord.

The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and the Financial Times are all now reporting that the parties have agreed to a deal. The new entity’s board will contain two A-B people, most likely including August A. Busch IV. Sadly, they decided to ignore my suggestion of calling the new company InBusch and went instead with the relatively boring and far too long name, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
 

 

Appeals Court Reverses Washington Costco Decision

According to a breaking news press release I received from the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reached a verdict in the lower court’s earlier decision in Costco v. Hoen (Washington State Liquor Control Board), reversing a majority of it, which, according to the NBWA, “thereby affirm[s] the right of the states to regulate alcohol under the 21st Amendment – a system that works to protect the citizens of each state. While NBWA is still reviewing the totality of the Court’s opinion, it appears that state regulation has been validated.”

Disappointingly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s report on this begins with the following loaded sentence. “A federal appeals court Tuesday dealt Costco Wholesale Corp. a setback on whether the giant warehouse club operator could lower prices of beer and wine for its customers.” I realize that was in the business section, but so much for impartiality. Swallowing Costco’s propaganda entirely, to say they sued the state so they could lower prices to consumers is at best not telling the whole story and at worst and out and out fabrication.

Of the nine laws and regulations Costco claimed restricted competitive practices, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman agreed and ruled over a year ago in their favor. Today’s appeals ruling reversed eight of those, with the exception of the post-and-hold requirement. It appears likely that it may now be appealed to the Supreme Court. According to the PI, “The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the state Liquor Control Board could prohibit discounts, ban central warehousing of beer and wine by retailers, require wholesale distributors to charge uniform prices to all retailers and require a 10 percent markup. The state had said if Costco won it could put into question the systems other states use to control alcohol consumption and safeguard the collection of taxes. At least 30 other states or jurisdictions had filed briefs in support of Washington.”

Reuters, on the other hand, more even-handedly stated that Costco “lost a bid on Tuesday to overturn Washington state liquor rules that control pricing and discounts.”

The Seattle Times and the Wall Street Journal have also now weighed in with stories of their own.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Costco’s 2006 triumph attracted a lot of attention because it suggested that major changes might be in store for the nation’s complex system of regulating alcohol sales. Changes in Washington state could have a ripple effect, because most states have similar laws.

Costco is challenging a regulatory architecture that dates to the repeal of Prohibition and was designed partly to discourage overconsumption of alcohol. Makers of alcoholic beverages sell to a distributor, which marks up the price and trucks it to a bar, restaurant or store, which then sells it to a consumer.

Costco is deciding whether to appeal the ruling. “We are pleased that the central part of the anticompetitive restraints provisions was struck down,” said David Burman, a Seattle-based lawyer handling the case for Costco, referring to the “post and hold” provisions. “It will be good for Costco members and other consumers.”

Seventeen other states have post-and-hold laws, Mr. Burman said. He added that he thinks Washington lawmakers “will likely” consider overturning other provisions.

Washington alcohol regulators may appeal the part of the ruling favoring Costco. “The state got a pretty good deal. It has to decide whether it can live with a regulatory scheme that sort of has one component plucked out and thrown away,” said Richard Blau, a lawyer who specializes in alcohol law with GrayRobinson, a Florida law firm. Regulators could leave it up to state lawmakers to address that aspect of the court’s decision.

The other reason that this so-called “regulatory architecture” was partly created, in addition to discouraging overconsumption, is to level the playing field among different sizes of businesses so that advantages were not given to larger businesses by virtue of their superior bargaining position and resources to make larger buys. That was the real reason Costco went after these laws, not because they were concerned that their customers might be paying too much for the beer and wine they sold. You’d have to be pretty blind to reality to swallow that one as their motivation, yet in mainstream media story after story that continues to be the reason stated.

 

Backlash Brewing?

There was an interesting item in yesterday’s USA Today called Frustration Over Liquor Laws Brewing. The story details just a few of the battles around the country to update their state’s antiquated alcohol laws, which in many cases haven’t been updated since Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. I’m sure the neo-prohibitionists will be fighting these tooth and nail, employing their usual bag of dirty tricks, but perhaps it’s finally time to stop playing defense and pick up the ball. In Mississippi, for example, it’s still illegal to sell beer in excess of 6% abv. The argument against raising it, predictably, is, according to William Perkins of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, that an “intellectual argument ignores the ill effects of alcohol.” Well, I’d sure hate for logic or intelligence to interfere with his world view, but you can buy wine and liquor in Mississippi already and, unless it’s some weird watered-down varieties, those are all well above 6% so please tell me how that makes any sense whatsoever? Not to mention there are plenty of positive health claims that can be made not only about beer, but the moderate use of alcohol in general. If Perkins’ thinking shows nothing else, it’s illustrative that logic plays no role at all in the anti-alcohol league’s canon. By any means necessary seems to be the only rule. So perhaps it’s time to mount an offensive. After all, a good defensive very well may be a strong offense.

 

If You Have More Money Than Sense

The Cruzin Cooler, a motorized scooter with a top speed of 14 m.p.h. and using a cooler with a 27-beer can capacity as the seat, was chosen as one of three Dubious inventions we can live without from among the hundreds, possibly thousands, of new gadgets displayed at the recently held Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And it’s not hard to see why. Even if they didn’t around $500, I don’t think I’d find many uses for something like this.

From the Cruzin Cooler website:

Cruzin Cooler combines two basic necessities of life, the ability to have cold food or a beverage handy along with the means to get somewhere, without walking. With modern technology, the Cruzin Cooler is light-weight and comes in various sizes and colors and is available in gas and electric models, with a 10 mile range on electric models and 30 miles on the gas models.

The cooler is light enough to be driven to a location and then picked up and carried. The cooler can be used for hunting, sporting events, races, camping, golf or even a trip to the grocery store to keep your food cold all the way home. Marine use will be popular for the new cooler allowing you to take your fish/drinks/food/ ice to and from your boat with powered assistance and braking. Simply ride or power your way up and down ramps.

There are virtually hundreds of uses for the new coolers with thoughts of racing coolers not far behind!

As it’s big selling point, Chuck Miller, marketing director for its manufacturer, spouts the party line that “[i]t combines two basic necessities of life — somewhere to have cold food or a beverage handy, and the ability to get somewhere without walking.” Maybe it’s my curmudgeonly personality, but I have a car. That seems to work well enough to get me and my beer from place to place.

Apparently at least 38,000 people disagree with me, because that’s how many they’ve pre-sold in the U.S., and as for them, they’ll “never have to carry [their] ice chest again,” says Miller. Because that’s really be a huge burden, having to carry the cooler, hasn’t it?

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

Displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the Cruzin Cooler, which comes with either a petrol engine or electric motor, can fit 27 drink cans into its ice-box interior. But thirsty owners can also attach trailers with the same capacity, to tow behind it. Miller claims American owners are such fans they stage Cruzin Cooler races.

Races, huh? I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

And look how versatile they are. You can wear lots of warm clothing and drive them outdoors, even in the snow, or you can wear almost no clothing and drive them indoors, at room temperature.