Shots fired. Throughout the modern craft beer era, there’s been a healthy rivalry between Big Beer and the smaller independent craft brewers. And now the latest feud pits the Colorado craft brewers against none other than Molson Coors chairman, Pete Coors.
The Colorado craft brewers fired the first salvo last week at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. According to a report at Brewbound, the brewers complained about Big Beer’s intrusion into the independent craft brewery sector; appropriating their culture in order to pass themselves off as craft brewers and overrun the smaller breweries in the process.
Eric Wallace, co-founder of Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, Colorado, and executive committee chairman at the Brewers Association gave a speech at the conference on the very topic. “The many faux craft, crafty, captive, capitulated and acquired brands are weapons in the arsenal of the big breweries and used to control as much of the market as possible,” Wallace said. “Through clever and deceptive packaging design, omission of ownership statements on labels, intellectual property violations, denigrating and expensive marketing campaigns, monopolistic practices choking off raw materials and distribution channels, rampant violations of trade practices and exclusionary tactics in venues and accounts in many markets. These guys are out to eat our collective lunch and take your kids’ lunch money as well.”
Those comments and others made at the conference didn’t sit well with Pete Coors. A member of the Brewers Association, Coors wrote an open-letter to the non-profit organization and accused its leadership of making statements that could harm the entire brewing industry.
The letter, published in Beer Business Daily, reads “Competition in our industry should be honored and cherished. I agree with you that craft brewers are ‘exemplars of the American Dream, of entrepreneurial spirit.’ However, you must realize that big brewers are as well. There should be no room for cheap shots and insults (‘faux,’ ‘crafty,’ ‘capitulated’ beers) for each other.
“Should the quality of beers produced by them, including hundreds of quality medals be insulted by the Brewers Association simply because the parent company isn’t part of your ever-changing ‘club?’
“That is a slippery slope that does not end well for our industry. We have enough competition inside the beer business and outside it with wine, spirits and, increasingly, marijuana.”
The Beer Business Daily report also claimed that several distributors for the large brewers shared a similar view: “It is those brands which keep (the craft brewers’) doors open.”
Bob Pease, president, and CEO of the Brewers Association responded to Coors with this statement on Monday: “The Brewers Association has the utmost respect for Pete and the Coors family and we would look forward to sitting down with Pete over a beer and discussing his concerns. We look forward to doing so in a thoughtful and respectful fashion.”
One could only imagine that beer would be from a small and independent craft brewery.