Monday, August 11, 2008

Crying in Our Beer

We've already posted on legislation that's being advanced to protect the independent beer wholesalers of New York State (our client); especially so in the wake of the rash of mergers that have left few large brewers in the hands of American companies. This is the subject of an interesting Op-Ed by Jeff Nussbaum in this morning's NY Daily News: "When InBev completes its takeover of Anheuser-Bush, the Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams, will be the biggest brewer in America. Once the contract is finalized - when all of the "i"s are dotted and, given that this is Dutch, the "o"s are crossed - Anheuser-Busch will be Belgian and MillerCoors will be both Canadian (MolsonCoors) and South African (SABMiller). Pabst, the beer that time forgot and our country's fourth-largest beer maker by volume, might be considered American, but they contract to have their beer made in Miller breweries."

And yet, in the State of New York we still allow the anointed franchisees of these foreign conglomerates to monopolize distribution at the expense of local independent beer wholesalers and, even more importantly, the state's consumers. The current situation, already unfair, has now become un American as well: "I don't think any Budweiser-drinking Joe Sixpack wants to become a Stella Artois-drinking Joep Zespak, nor do I think his loyalties will translate into Dutch that easily either."

Nussbaum suggests that we tap into this void and create a new uniquely American beer company: "A truly American mass-market beer company could tap into - pun fully intended - the national pride we would feel from seeing American workers actually producing something other than a PowerPoint slide deck. Homer Simpson once called beer the cause of and solution to all of life's problems. Just as I believe that the sale of Anheuser-Busch is an indication of all that is wrong with our economy, perhaps the innovation, national pride and jobs that would come with the creation of a true American macrobrew can demonstrate what's right."

We certainly agree with Nussbaum here; but while we're at it our first priority in NY State should be to protect the 400 independent beer distributors who do so much to nurture our local neighborhood economies. Let's hope that the sponsor of the bill (S-6752), the new majority leader Dean Skelos, will move this as soon as possible.