This week we catch up with some of the issues covered in the last few weeks. Firstly, lets discuss the Portman Group, the creche nurses of the alcohol industry. I first discussed this group a few weeks ago in Pubpaper 754.  I mentioned at the time that Brewdog had encountered their “wrath” on more than one occasion.  Well, its happened again and this time Brewdog are coming out all guns blazing after the panel upheld a complaint regarding their Dead Pony Club beer.

The Portman Group said that concerns regarding the labeling of the 3.8% Californian Pale Ale were valid and use of phrases such as “rip it up down empty streets“, “drink fast, live fast” and “we believe faster is better” could encourage anti social behavior.

James Watt described the industry body, of whom Brewdog is not a signed up member as “a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages.” and issued the following statement “On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders,I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.”.

I like people who are direct and to the point and James Watt is one of them, no doubt he has an ego, but with the success of Brewdog over the last 7 years, he has a right to have one, he’s made his name being outspoken and straying from the collective beer herd, and I can’t see him changing his spots now.  The shareholders certainly are not complaining and ultimately it is these people James Watt answers to now.  He is right about the Portman Group and I hope he get all the publicity he can out of this, if only to prove my theory in the previous article.

Next onto Florida Beer Growlers which I covered last week in Pubpaper 756.  A compromise amendment (dated Mon 28th April)  has now been tabled against the stricter Senate Bill which would allow craft brewers producing over 2000 kegs a year to sell no more than 20% of their production in bottles and cans with their own brew pubs.  Anything over that amount would have to go through a recognised Florida distribution company.  It would also restrict keg sales to 1 per person per day.

This potential law will soon go to the vote in the Florida senate and the Florida Brewers Guild (FBG) still are opposed to legislature, even in its amended state, and I don’t blame them at all.  The mark up though going via the three tier producer-distributor-vendor model is estimated to be approximately 30%, a significant cut in profits for these small to medium businesses who don’t have big profit margins on their products unlike the mass produced big brand beers who can produce more in one day in one plant than some of these smaller brewers can do all year.  It would certainly affect the ability to share and swap beers with other microbreweries and their brew pubs, a common practice both in the US and the UK within the craft beer scene.

The Florida Brewer Guild representative said “They’re saying that…2,000 kegs, would put you in the same league as all the big breweries, Anheuser-Busch conservatively brews 100 million barrels. So what we’re saying in this law is that 2,000 kegs puts you in the same big league as your 200 million keg competitor”.  The disparity of these number shows who is really behind the bill, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association who represents the Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) distributors and who would gain most by making the tastier, far better quality beer more expensive for most outlets to buy.

Four brewers are currently estimated to produce more than 2,000 kegs of beer a year in Florida, with that number expected to double in the next year.  So the bill may only affect 10% of the states craft brewing concerns in 2014, but with the craft beer scene growing all the time on both sides of the Atlantic, it will catch more and more.  The ones it will affect most are those just over the 2,000 keg limit.  For example if you produce 2,001 kegs, you can only pre-package 400 kegs worth before going through the distribution network.  If you are a more major concern like Cigar City brewery who make 78,000 kegs a year, then you can pre-package 19,500 kegs worth.

It is a blunt tool for a job which need finesse, or alternatively a tool which is not needed at all.