Ed note: Allegedly, Savor Growl, a local carryout, purchased all of the supply of Bell’s Hopslam from competitor Giant Eagle, with the intent of creating a shortage and reselling it. This post is not to re-hash alleged events that happened on the last weekend of January. You’ll have to read it all for yourself. There’s just too much. Links are provided. This post is intended to clarify the motivation behind my role in said events.
On Saturday morning, I was at my computer putting the finishing touches on my Address for our fifteenth annual Robert Burns Dinner to be held later that night.
Just then, a post came across my newsfeed on Facebook. It’s a link to a Reddit post.
The internet being the distraction it is for all of us trying to get work done, of course I paused to click on the link.
Hmm. A local carryout is trying to corner the market on a very limited release of a seasonal beer that carries a hefty price tag ($17.99 a sixer.) Shit.
Then another post popped up. “Savor Growl employee attempting illegal purchase of beer from GE…” (Giant Eagle.)
I went back to tidying up my notes. “Next, let’s turn to Burns the patriot and an outspoken critic of the wrongs of the State…” My mind was multi-tasking now. Wrongs of the State. What about wrongs of the individual? That’s where it starts, right?
I couldn’t get these posts out of my head. Great, I thought. What I need right now is a distraction as I’m getting ready for a big night at the ‘House.
I have been in the craft beer industry for going on a quarter century. I have seen much as we’ve grown from zero to almost 3,000 micros and brewpubs today. Well, 200. That’s about how many there were when I got involved.
In that time, I have met the most on-the-fringe, bordering on lunatic, characters I have ever met. If you put these characters in one room and didn’t know better, you might be scared for your life.
Individually, they are sharp-minded hard workers who have created a remarkable industry for you. Perhaps the most remarkable industry in America. They are, for the most part though, not Fortune 500 types. They are rogues and rapscallions; artists and inventors; ziggers versus society’s zaggers.
As a group, these characters are also the most upstanding, honorable people I have ever met. This group collaborates. They share. They laugh. They’re razor sharp. They don’t ask for handouts. They know it’s their ideas, coupled with work harder than you can imagine, that will bring them satisfaction and possibly, success.
I am proud to be a small part of this movement, important in ways far beyond the contents in your pint glass. I don’t think it’s hyperbole when I write that the liquid pleasure in your glass represents the American Dream. It’s inspiration that leads to perspiration that results in innovation. Our industry is very communal and sharing. I can pick up the phone and can expect to get a call back from just about anyone in our business, including the heavy hitters.
Now I think: desecration. My motivation in posting was to protect a really cool industry of like-minded individuals who, collectively is a gale-strength force.
Storm’s A Comin’
It’s not really a big deal, is it? A retailer allegedly trying to corner the market. I mean, capitalism and all. Supply and demand. The American Way.
Nope. Alchohol is a highly regulated business. The State of Ohio lets you know that obtaining a license is not a right. It’s a privilege. If what I read in the posts is true, Savor Growl broke the law. Big Time.
We live in a three tier State, with laws written after prohibition to keep the alcohol that you enjoy–at your favorite watering hole or at your kitchen table–an orderly process. The tiers: manufacturing > distributing > retailing. Pick which tier you want to be a part of and stay out of the other two. (There’s an exception for breweries, who can also self-distribute their products.)
Savor Growl allegedly bought product from another retailer for the purpose of creating even more scarcity and reselling it themselves. That’s against the law. More importantly, it’s just not cool.
You may not know, but we all scrap to get our share of sometimes very limited supply of a beer. If that beer has a “must-have” reputation, it’s nearly impossible to get our hands on it.
So is the case with Bell’s Hopslam. This IPA is one of the more sought-after beers in the country. It’s ranked 19 in a list of the top 250 beers on beeradvocate.com At the Smokehouse, we were unable to get even one keg of it. We understand. The beer is portioned out to the very best accounts. Because we sell so much of our own beer, we don’t sell as much of others’ beer as we would otherwise. We get it. We accept that we’re not going to get every gem that comes into our market.
Savor Growl is in the same boat. Allegedly, they wanted to appear as one of those star accounts. In the process, they broke the law.
Frankly, if true, it pisses me off.
We’re in a competitive enough business as it is. But it’s a beautiful, even elegant business. We’d just rather play on a clean level playing field.
The Smokehouse really doesn’t have a dog in this fight. We don’t compete with Savor Growl. But I don’t like someone taking a public shit in my world.
So I decided to post on our wall. On Saturday morning I posted, “We don’t normally get ‘political,’ but this is just despicable. Not to mention illegal. We are getting reports that they are reselling at $3-4 per bottle.” I linked to the Reddit thread.
What happened next can only be described as surreal. I went back to my work. After awhile, I checked my post. Almost 1,000 views. Soon, thereafter, 2,000. As this is being written, this post has had 7,904 views and a ton of comments.
My post is now referenced in the original Reddit post. Columbus Underground has started a thread. There’s a thread on beeradvocate.com. DrinkUp Columbus tweeted the story out to 6,000 people. Miles Liebtag blogged about it. The story’s been picked up by BeerPulse, who tweeted it to 50,000 followers. Savor Growl, for their part, has scrubbed their Facebook page of all posts and comments regarding this subject.
This thing went viral.
People don’t like cheaters. Alleged, in this case. But I am so proud of the craft beer community who showed this weekend just how passionate and protective they are. The craft beer industry has had very little drama as far as shady shennanigans, so it would be a shame to not shed light on an alleged shady and illegal practice.
If this dust up helps elevate discussion and protect the reputation of craft beer, then my post on Saturday was worth it.
We all keenly feel frustrated over today’s “leadership” in Washington, DC. It’s been said that the way to affect change is to start where you can make the biggest difference–at the local level. Hello, local level.
Just remember: innocent until proven guilty.
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
–Robert Burns (1759-1796)
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Premium Beverage Supply: (614) 777-1007
Ohio Liquor Laws Violations Toll Free Hotline: 1 (877) 464-6677