A New Year’s Resolution You’ll Enjoy Keeping
Happy New Year from team Tria! This inaugural issue of our new newsletter, A Taste of Tria, falls on New Year’s Day, so we couldn’t resist offering a New Year’s Resolution that might (or might not) be embraced by the Tria community.
2019 Resolution: Support Wine, Cheese and Beer Entrepreneurs, Not Mega-Corporations
Surely you didn’t think we’d suggest that you give up drinking for a month! Our resolution is far more enjoyable to keep.
There is nothing wrong with being agnostic about who produces the stuff you consume. That won’t stop us from preaching the virtues of supporting with your wallets the intrepid individuals who make Tria possible. Today’s beer industry gives us the most dramatic example supporting our premise.
A Tale of Two Witbiers
Do you enjoy Witbier? Nice choice! You could drink Hoegaarden, brought to you by beverage behemoth AB InBev, whose predatory, anti-competitive and just-plain-not-nice business practices are widespread and widely publicized. Alternatively, you could select Allagash White. Allagash Brewing Co. was founded by Rob Tod, who launched his exclusively Belgian-style ale brewery in 1995, back when hardly anybody cared about these beers. (Click here for our interview with Rob.) Today Allagash is a Top 50 craft brewery both in ratings and production, and remains proudly independent. Rob, a frequent Tria visitor over the years, happens to be a great guy. Does that make Allagash White taste better than Hoegaarden? Allagash White arguably is the better beer, but we concede that something doesn’t taste better simply because of who made it, with the possible exception being mom. (Anyone’s mother, really.) There’s more to the story.
Say “No!” to Beer Bullies
Big Beer, and especially AB InBev, doesn’t behave anything like mom. If Big Beer had its way we would return to the bad old days. Those of you of a certain age remember when American food and beverage was primarily industrial. In 1976 the United States celebrated its Bicentennial, but not with good beer; we had just 50 breweries producing boring lager. Today the United States has nearly 7,000 breweries. That’s roughly a 14,000% increase in 43 years! Will you drink to that?
The entrepreneurs who deal in flavor, character, creativity and authenticity have made our lives more delicious. The rise of craft beer has resulted in declining demand for industrial beer. Big Beer has smartly responded by acquiring formerly independent craft breweries. Here’s a list of breweries owned by AB InBev - you may be surprised. This is not the problem. That problem is that AB InBev is using its power to gain unfair and often illegal advantage. Need proof? Just look here. Here. Here. Here. And here. As Big Beer aims to get crafty (double entendre intended), the Brewer’s Association, representing independent breweries, is fighting back with a new package seal that displays a brewery’s independence. Hey, it’s something, right? Tria doesn’t offer Big Beer’s beers because we have a distaste for bullies. Besides, there are literally thousands of breweries making great beer owned by cool people with whom we’d want to enjoy a beer. We’re with them.
Good Stuff Comes in Small Batches
We’re not here to judge those of the mindset that “if it tastes good, then it is good.” But keep in mind that much of the mind-blowingly tasty stuff necessarily comes from the independent producers. Painstakingly crafted greatness doesn’t often lead to increased shareholder value. Beyond economics, though, many wonderful wines, cheeses and beers (and anything else, really) physically cannot be produced in large batch sizes. Big producers make big batches due to their production facilities, distribution demands, or maybe just because the bean counters said “No!” to passion projects.
No Time to Turn Back
If independent producers of food and beverage aren’t allowed a level playing field, there is a risk that the pendulum will swing back towards consolidation. That would result in less choice and therefore less deliciousness. The beer situation is especially dramatic, but industries historically gravitate towards consolidation. This is the exact opposite of the proliferation of food and beverage producers over the past several decades who have gifted us a golden age of culinary greatness. Let us resolve to support the men and woman who have changed and continue to change how we eat and drink.