After about six weeks or so of being “temporarily down” the Wild Hop Lager website is back online. For those of you new to this story, Wild Hop Lager is actually a beer created and made by Anheuser-Busch though that fact was not disclosed on the package. It also made no mention of this fact previously on the website, though that has changed with the debut of the new (improved?) website. It’s just as slick as it was before and it’s remarkably similar in look and feel to A-B’s sister stealth organic micro, Stone Mill Pale Ale, which also recently changed its website to disclose its relationship (although they claimed it was a partnership).
Probably the biggest change is that the website does now disclose that this is a product of Anheuser-Busch. It’s right at the bottom in fine print, where it says. “Brewed by Green Valley Brewing Company in Fairfield, CA, the organically certified brewery of Anhesuer-Busch Companies, Inc.” And that’s almost the full story, although I’m pretty sure it’s the beer that’s certified, not the brewery. In my mind, they still make it sound like A-B is operating a little separate brewery called Green Valley in Fairfield, California. But unless they’ve set aside a small pilot brewery which I’m not aware of, the Fairfield Plant is a giant behemoth of a brewery that presumably churns out most of the A-B products for the northwestern quadrant of the Western United States (there is also a plant in Los Angeles). A-B operates about a dozen or so plants in the U.S., of which five offer tours, and none of them are exactly little. So while it technically may be full disclosure, it still seems a tad misleading to the majority of non-beer industry people who would not know that.
Also missing from the new website is the promise to make a donation to the Organic Farming Research Foundation of Santa Cruz, California “with every purchase of Wild Hop Lager.” It was actually a couple of days after I did a phone interview with Bob Scowcroft, Executive Director of the OFRF about the nature of the donation they were to receive, that the Wild Hop Lager website went down. And that’s a shame because it seems like a very worthwhile organization. But click on “Product Info” and you’ll see that A-B is still at least supporting the organic farming charity. And they say they’ll “join them to sponsor research relating to organic farming practices,” not that the OFRF does any other kinds of research. So while it appears they’ll no longer be donating a percentage of sales, at least A-B may make additional donations to the OFRF.
Of course, I doubt if disclosure has been made at the most important level, the packaging in the store. It may be that future packaging either on the label or the six-pack carrier — or both — will state that Wild Hop Lager is a product of Anheuser-Busch, but I’m sure there won’t be a recall. So until they sell through the initial package run, consumers will still be largely unaware of the product’s true affiliation. Until then, nothing much has really changed.
A screen capture of the new Wild Hop Lager website that has just come back online after having been down for well over a month. Click on the image to view the screen capture full size.
A screen capture of the original Wild Hop Lager website that has been down for well over a month. Click on the image to view the screen capture full size.