Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

March 22, 2011

Beer Issues:

Goodbye And Good Luck

No need to fret when a “national” craft brand pulls out of the Midwest.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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A few days ago I read this open letter from Sam Calagione, founder and prez of Dogfish Head Brewery. If you’re too lazy to read the letter, I’ll sum up: he apologetically explains that due to skyrocketing demand, Dogfish Head will limit some of their “core beers,” or pull distribution entirely, from several states, including Indiana and Wisconsin.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be all that heartbroken if Dogfish Head pulled out of the entire Midwest. But it’s not that I dislike their beers or the company. Although none of their brews are “must haves” for the beer fridge, I think they make some good stuff, and Sam Calagione is a charismatic and passionate voice for craft beer. Hell, I didn’t even hate Brew Masters nearly as much as seemingly every other beer dork on the planet.

No, the main reason I wouldn’t be at all sorry to see them pull their distribution back to just Milton, Delaware is because the days of needing a recognizable—a “national” craft brand, if you will—are gone. There are plenty of local- or at least state-brewed options to choose from nowadays, and craft beer has entered enough of the popular culture’s consciousness that the average diner or bar patron won’t be confused by a non-swill, unmarketed, “dark beer” popping up on a menu or tap handle.

It used to be when a bar or restaurant wanted to look eclectic or “sophisticated” they’d offer Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada or New Belgium or Dogfish Head. (Not to mention porpoise hork like Stella Artois or Carlsberg.) Well, it’s high time that places figured out that they’ve got just as good, if not better, beer being brewed in their backyard. And I wouldn’t be all that displeased if a couple of other bigger craft breweries tightened up their reach a bit, too.

So no offense to Mr. Calagione and the hard working folks at Dogfish Head. In fact, I salute you for deciding to pull back distribution and focusing on quality instead of quantity. It’s just that I’m much happier ordering an Alpha King, a Crooked Tree, a Cane and Ebel, or a Ballistic than a 60 Minute IPA.

Great post, I have been thoroughly trashed for saying the same up here in Canada where DFH has also left. Yes, I like some of their beers, but do we need them here? No.
posted by Mark | March 25, 2011, 4:26 PM
Great commentary, Eddie, I have to agree with you. I actually like Dogfish Head a bit more than the average bear, I suppose and the main reason is I love the imagination and experimentation that they undertake, all while keeping the focus of making damn good beer. That having been said, I agree that there's so much quality to be had locally in most areas, it's not a huge loss... and MAJOR kudos to DFH for pulling back distribution rather than turning a great product into shit all for the sake of profit margins.

As for all of the "beer dork" haters about Brew Masters, they aren't true Dorks, in my opinion. Yes, it's a show commercialized to make for compelling TV for beer drinkers and non-drinkers alike, but the absolute snobbery among the pathetic minority that has become overly obsessed with craft beer is frankly sad and disgusting. The show was fine, and gave an interesting perspective into the thought process behind some of DFH's creations. And, as you said, Sam Calagione has been a very impassioned and charismatic champion of quality American craft beer, which he deserves a ton of credit for. The jackasses who feel this is somehow bad for craft beer perhaps should look in the mirror and realize that a good chunk of the nearly 90% of the country that DOESN'T drink craft beer is watching that, and perhaps finding it compelling enough to sample some of these new creations and quality brews. As much as I love craft beer and most of the people who support it, the small minority that find any craft brewer/brewery that has even nominal national, commerical, or public success to somehow be "sell-outs" and "not true craft brewers" make me sick. Like you said, best of luck to Mr. Calagione and the DFH crew, and they are welcome back to the Badger State anytime!
posted by Nigel | March 26, 2011, 12:22 AM