Something smells in Gilroy these days, and it’s not the garlic. That odor is the smell of hypocrisy wafting up from the South Bay town. Since 1979, Gilroy has been putting on the Gilroy Garlic Festival in order to, in their own words, “provide benefits to local worthy charities and non-profit groups by promoting the community of Gilroy through a quality celebration of Garlic.” Wow, what a great idea. Celebrating local communities and promoting the support of local foods like garlic is what the local food movement is all about. They should rightly be proud of the area’s garlic production and how much it has added to the economic benefit of the town and their surrounding environment. That’s without question a good and worthy goal.
Unfortunately — you knew there’d be a catch — such forward thinking does not extend to all of the community’s local riches. The town’s local brewery, Coast Range Brewery, is not allowed to sell its local beer at the annual event in late July, not even their own garlic beer. According to the Gilroy Dispatch, since the festival’s inception 29 years ago, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has “been the sole beneficiary of the hundreds of kegs served up over the three-day weekend” and has enjoyed the exclusive right to choose the beer distributor whose work ultimately lines its coffers. So not surprisingly, all of that high-minded rhetoric about supporting local businesses is thrown out the window when their own greed gets factored in, especially when over half of the revenue realized from the festival comes from beer sales.
The beer this year will again be distributed by Bottomley Distributing, the area Budweiser distributor. So expect to see such local fare as Budweiser (from Missouri), Corona (from Mexico), Redhook (from Washington), Rolling Rock (from New Jersey) and Widmer (from Oregon). Bottomley could, of course, distribute Coast Range’s beers just for the event but they’ve refused to do so. “They can make this work,” Jeff Moses, GM of Coast Range, said of the chamber. “They can purchase the beer if they like. They just won’t do it.”
Susan Valenta, the chamber’s chief executive officer, defended the chamber’s questionable actions by saying “[i]t’s a turnkey operation … At the end of the day, we’re not in the business of beer, but in fund-raising.” I’m glad to see she cares so deeply for the health of all of Gilroy’s businesses, not just the garlicky ones. What self-serving hypocrites. You can’t really claim to be promoting the local economy and then turn your back on a local business because you may not make as much money or it may be more complicated. Shame on Gilroy. I, for one, think all beer lovers should boycott the place until they get their heads out into the sunshine again.
More from the Dispatch article:
Getting local businesses involved in the festival has been a top priority for [Brian] Bowe [executive director of the nonprofit Gilroy Garlic Festival Association], who approached the chamber and several distributors about letting Coast Range Brewery into the event.
“I have tried working with the distributors directly to get them to carry the (Coast Range Brewery’s) Farmhouse products, and they have declined,” Bowe said, adding: “I think that the chamber has tried to give (Coast Range) a fair shake.”
Well it sounds like his heart is in the right place, but if he thinks that sounds like a “fair shake,” someone should buy that man a dictionary. Because from where I sit, nothing at all about this sounds fair at all. This is all about excuses. They “declined!” and that’s that? I’m pretty sure it’s your festival, Mr. Bowe. Either you or the greedy chamber could demand Bottomley do you what you claim to want them to do — include the local Coast Range Brewery — or risk losing their contract in the future. But you didn’t do that, did you? So much for local communities sticking together. It’s enough to make me want to stop eating garlic altogether.
Steve Beaumont says
In principle, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Jay. The one problem is that Bottomley Distributing is a member of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, while Coast Range is not, at least according to the Chamber’s member listing at the website. Local CoCs are very much member-driven organizations, and so a dues-payer like Bottomley will always trump a non-member like Coast Range. Not fair, perhaps, but reality nonetheless.
Coast Range should simply apply for Chamber membership, and if they get it, I’m betting their beers will be pouring at next year’s fest.
Interesting, did you notice that they’ve been a member since 1979, the same year that the festival began and they likewise began selling beer for the event. Did they join for that reason alone? Perhaps this is another example of unequal resources. The A-B distributor certainly has the money to join every chamber where they do business, whereas Coast Range has been struggling most of their 12 years. Of course, the fact that they’re a local business should count for something, especially when the festival’s mission is purportedly to promote the local community.
Good detective work guys. Now, who is the brewer at Coast Range now that Steve Donohue left to go to…Firehouse?
I also think Coast Range is up against the perception of beer as unworthy of gourmet treatment. There appears to be a diversity of wine vendors at this festival. Maybe Coast could partner with a local restaurant to offer a dish made with the garlic beer or paired with it so a cup could be offered as a “sauce”.