Tracker Pixel for Entry

Drink the good stuff while you still can

by Tom Bixby | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Editorial | April 26th, 2017

We’re living through hard times, but they are hard times with an important basic amenity: strong, tasty beer and ale, brewed by independent craft brewers.

When did it all start? Historians are in disagreement. In 1976, the low point, there were only 50 breweries left in the entire nation, all of them brewing yellow soda pop. That was when Jack McAuliffe, one of our heroes, founded New Albion Brewing in Sonoma County, California, and kept it going for six years.

And though he didn’t make it, he inspired many others to try their luck. The first brewpub, a brewery that served beer and food, was the Yakima Brewing and Malting Company, founded in 1982, in Yakima, Washington.

By 1996, 20 years after the founding of New Albion, there were a thousand breweries in the U.S., and craft breweries had one percent of the market. Now there are around five thousand, with 11% of the market.

We only realized how important they are when we found out we’re losing them.

There is no legal definition of a craft brewery, but we all know who they are. Or do we? The Brewers Association defines it as a brewery that produces less than 6 million barrels of beer and is less than 25 percent owned or controlled by a larger brewer.

What concerns us is that we’re losing so much and no one seems to care. Take, for example, one of the great brewing nations, the Czech Republic. It’s not a big secret why they are what they are. The weather and soil are ideal for growing hops, and they’ve been brewing for at least 13 centuries. It took time -- for the first 400 years, they were home brewers. The first brewery was built in 1188, and the oldest existing brewery, the U Fleku microbrewery in Prague, was founded in 1499.

And now, after only 40 years, the U.S. has huge variety, a superbly tasty product, and a craft beer culture worthy of a European country -- a national treasure, a beer-drinking golden age, and we’re losing it. But we don’t have to, at least not in North Dakota.

AB InBev and Molson Coors—which together control 81% of the U.S. market —have announced craft beer deals as they aim to gain greater exposure to a consumer-led movement away from mass-produced beers, in favor of locally produced ales.

These brands, some of them once independent, are now just subsidiaries of AB InBev or Molson Coors or Heineken, which do not disclose their true ownership.

They choose a craft brewery with a strong market share in a major city and give it national distribution.

When the three monstrous multinational corporations buy a craft brewer, they know that part of craft beer culture is local and regional pride. They will not put their name anywhere on the bottle.

What they will do is sell their craft beer for less than a real craft brewery needs to break even, and push the little guys out of draft lines.

And that’s just the first step. The actions of multinational corporations are predictable. The independents will lose shelf space at retail, be excluded from distributors, and finally lose access to the best ingredients.

We’ll pay more for independently brewed, even if it costs more, and we bet a lot of other people will too. We support a law requiring the true ownership to be on the label or can, in print big enough to be read without a magnifying glass.

We can’t of course pass such a law by ourselves. We invite you who can -- Al Carlson and Doug Burgum -- to have a few and see if you don’t agree that we have something worth saving.

There are lots of independent craft breweries in North Dakota, but it’s easy to choose one. They’re all good. You, Al and Doug, won’t have far to go. There’s one in Bismarck, Laughing Sun. Go on down there and have a few. See what we mean? We do have something worth saving. Now have a few more and don’t worry about getting to work on time tomorrow.

That law would be a good first step. After that, there need to be laws and regulations governing promotion, equal visibility and shelf space for small competitors, and marketing support, all of this to protect small independent brewers.

Lots of industries have entered this stage: get big or get out. But it is unfair if only

Two or three companies are bidding.

And AB InBev, Molson Coors, and Heineken should not even be able to buy craft brewers if the antitrust laws are properly applied.

Craft breweries are buying one another, fair enough. But Molson Coors, AB InBev, and Heineken, if left to their own devices, will cherry-pick the financially strongest, the most creative.

The probable winners: the duopoly, the big two.

Certain losers: beer drinkers, brewery employees, and the U.S., since the result in the long term will be mediocrity, almost the same fizzy colored water we started with 40 years ago, before Jack McAuliffe got started in Sonoma.

Recently in:

Katrina Klett grew up running in fields with bees stinging her bare feet. Her parents constantly reminded her to put on shoes, but she rarely listened. Today, the family company she helps run in Jamestown, Klett Beekeeping, has…

How long have you had your computer monitor? Is it time to get a new one? How do you know if it is time to get a new one? Many people got their monitor bundled with their computer. I don’t have too much to complain about if that…

May 31-June 1Fargo Civic Center 207 4th St N, FargoA platform for you to build your business, your unmanned expertise, or network with fellow enthusiasts. Even more useful, on May 30 and June 2, Part 107 Drone Ground Training…

We’ve just read Mike McFeely’s interview with Governor Burgum, are intrigued by the governor’s vision of the future of higher education; that online courses will largely obviate the need for campuses, tenured faculty, and…

The rich live 20 years longer than the poorSeveral recent incidents in the airline industry are sending messages to the Ninety-Nine Percent around the world. If you can’t hold it, don’t book a flight. A male passenger was…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Do you eat enough vegetables? Almost no one does. The current USDA nutrition guidelines for adults recommends 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables to be eaten daily. Other nutrition sources indicate this number can be upwards of 6 cups of…

Nine band lineup at The AquariumLocal radio listeners are likely to be familiar with 95.9 Radio Free Fargo, a station devoted to serving the Fargo-Moorhead area and run completely by volunteers. The station plays a little bit of…


​Killer serial makes Blu-ray debut

by Christopher P. Jacobs

“Daredevils of the Red Circle.” Who are they? What is it? Before the internet, before television, serialized drama was still a significant part of popular culture. Novels were serialized in magazines and newspapers going back…

Artist Anna Lee brings years of knowledge to Fargo in new workshopsOrganizing and participating in locally-grown fashion shows, years at corporations like Target. And now working as an independent artist, Anna Lee has done it all,…

When we had a chance to catch up with Corey Ruffin, the mastermind behind the Grand Rapids-based traveling burlesque troupe Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, he was at the repair shop getting a tune-up on their tour bus. The retired…


​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

This Memorial Day weekend, thousands of hands will be reaching into icy cold coolers for a refreshing beer to wet the whistle. Mark Bjornstad, co-founder and president of Drekker Brewing Company hopes that at least once during the…


​Gut instinct

by Amber Schmidt

While many of us suffer with the occasional upset stomach, long-term digestive issues can lead to increased problems down the road. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 60 to 70…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

With the recent passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the U.S. House of Representatives, it is important to have an honest and truthful discussion regarding what the AHCA is and what it is not. But before we get into…