brb, pitching non-alcoholic hard seltzer to the stupidest venture capitalists I can find
Plus: Kelsey Grammer bar crawl, Scotch emissions, somm scandal update + more
Editor’s note: Welcome to the 8 new readers who have joined the Fingers Fam in the past week. We’re glad you’re here! If you haven’t yet, please consider purchasing a subscription to support this project! You’ll get access to bonus stories, podcasts, and more, plus my eternal gratitude.—Dave.
🧾 The Settle-Up
— Alcoholic Kombucha Brand Raises Another $24M, Plans Non-Alc Kombucha: California boozy kombucha darlings JuneShine are flush with cash after a successful Series B fundraise, so they’re setting their sights on the groundbreaking new segment of [drumroll] non-alcoholic kombucha, a product category that very much already exists. What? Why? You’re going the wrong direction, my komboozcha buddies! Imagine Miller Lite rolling out a root beer to steal share from Stewart’s, or White Claw introducing non-alcoholic hard seltzer to compete with La Croix. Although… *googles “stupid venture capitalists” + “CPG” + “United States”*
— Leaked Docs Show Mikkeller Bosses Knew Workplace Was Toxic For Years: Another shoe drops on embattled Danish craft brewer Mikkeller. According to internal documents obtained by Good Beer Hunting’s Kate Bernot, company brass was well aware of “culture issues related to the work environment” as far back as 2017; they also knew about a damning 2018 employee survey. Mikkeller’s founder, as well as a company spokesperson, had previously maintained that neither knew about the issues at their San Diego location until recently. How do you say “caught in a lie” in Danish?
— Sommelier Org. Expels Six Master Somms After Sexual Misconduct Investigation: Over a year following the October 2020 bombshell report from the New York Times detailing patterns of sexual harassment in the Court of Master Sommeliers, one of the wine world’s most elite organizations, a half-dozen senior members have been excommunicated from the group. The internal investigation scrutinized the records of 22 master sommeliers in total. Whether the house-cleaning rights the scandal-ridden org remains to be seen. “We’ve eroded a lot of trust,” the co-chair of the court’s diversity committee told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Esther Mobley.
— Kelsey Grammer Does Promo Bar Crawl Through Jersey Without Me: Let’s break for some happier news! Our boy Frasier—owner of Faith American Brewing Company, a vaguely Christian craft beer brand based in upstate New York—was recently spotted working the stick and the crowd at several bars in the Garden State, where he grew up. “I love it here. The first girl I ever kissed was in New Jersey,” Grammer told NJ.com’s Jeremy Schneider. Incredible. The only bad thing about this story is that I missed this gloriously goofy bar-nstorming tour by a week; I’m going to be back in NJ for Thanksgiving. MISTER GRAMMER, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL CHRISTIAN-ISH TAP TAKEOVERS PLANNED FOR THE GREATER ROUTE 206 CORRIDOR? MISTER GRAMMER! SIR!
— In Hawaii, a stream reeked of beer. Its alcohol content was 1.2%: I’ve been reading an anthology of columns by Carl Hiaasen, the great Miami Herald fire-spitter. Every week throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the dude just flayed real estate developers and commercial sleazeballs for the environmental havoc they wrought on once-pristine South Florida. Highly recommend. Anyway, here’s a story about one of Hawaii’s largest beer distributors apparently dumping booze into a fragile stream behind one of its warehouses in Oahu. “For me, this is just yet another day in paradise, another horrendous, horrible day in paradise,” one local environmentalist told the Washington Post’s Jaclyn Peiser. Somebody call Carl, his services are needed.
— Scotland’s whisky makers admit net zero targets will be hard to hit: Good little post-COP26 overview here of the challenges the Scotch industry has in front of it to slash its emissions to nil by 2040 as planned. One big one: the muddy/earthy flavors in some of the world’s most coveted and popular whiskies come from burning peat, a vital carbon-sequestering biomass. So… ah… that’s a problem. Hey, at least they’re making an effort!
— Bad Bunny accuses brewery of illegally using his images and trademark: A craft brewery stands accused of ripping off intellectual property (shocking, I know) from Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, who himself is currently being sued for allegedly ripping off unlicensed samples from a DJ in one of his songs. Fun! As beer attorney Brendan Palfreyman tweeted, the fact that Msgr. Bunny has recently stumped for Corona could add an interesting dimension to this thing. Stay tuned.
— Continent’s Biggest Can Maker Soon To Make Small Brewers’ Lives Worse: Colorado’s Ball Corporation, the largest producer of aluminum cans in North America, started notifying small craft brewery customers (who often by smaller spot loads as demand dictates, rather than establish ongoing contracts) that come January 2022, the minimum order size is going up 5x. In the new year, the firm will also stop warehousing non-contract customers’ orders. In other words, small breweries with minimal storage space will nevertheless have to take delivery as soon as their cans are available. I’ll have more on the various and sundry supply chain fuckery that craft brewers are dealing with for VinePair soon.
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📬 Good post alert
Friend of Fingers Ben O. emailed me this business-brain tweet the other week with no email body and a subject line that simply read: Seltzer : Hard Seltzer :: Ask Jeeves/Dogpile : Google
Impossible to argue with that. Emailing tweets to people is such a power move btw, good work Ben O.
🤝 Friends of Fingers exclusives
Paying subscribers to Fingers got full access to two bangers this week. On Monday, I filed a column arguing that the sale of Michigan’s Bell’s Brewing to a subsidiary of Kirin, a Japanese macrobrewer, marked a definitive end of craft beer’s “movement” era:
Also in that edition:
A “murdered darling” about potential liabilities in celebrity booze partnerships, made unfortunately relevant due to the deadly tragedy earlier this month at Travis Scott’s Astroworld concert in Houston earlier this month.
Some reporting on Barstool Sports’ beverage empire, made unfortunately relevant by Business Insider’s report earlier this month in which three young women accused founder Dave Portnoy of subjecting them to violent, humiliating sex.
On Wednesday I published an interview and podcast with Bryan Roth, journalist and news editor with Good Beer Hunting and director of the North American Guild of Beer Writers. We talked talked about messy mainstream news coverage of flavored malt beverages, the significance of hard seltzer’s SNL moment, and much more.
If you like Fingers and want to support independent journalism, consider purchasing a subscription! You’ll get access to these sorts of subscriber exclusives, and help me sustain and grow this boozeletter.
Annual subscriptions work out to less than $7/month. This project is only possible with reader support, so if you enjoy the boozeletter, please consider becoming a paying Friend of Fingers today!
🔝 This week’s top comment
Loved this good-faith pushback from beer journalist and Friend of Fingers Stephen Beaumont in response to my Monday column about Bell’s sale to Kirin (emphasis mine):
I think you miss an important point when comparing Goose Island's sale to that of Bell's, Dave. That being there is a big difference between selling to Kirin, or pretty much any Japanese brewery, for that matter, and ABI. ABI interferes and changes and 'improves,' while Kirin ([New Belgium Brewing] and Bell's) and Sapporo (Unibroue and Anchor) pretty much leave things as they are. In the short history of big breweries buying modern craft operations, the Japanese have been by far the better stewards, and it probably doesn't hurt that they're also a tiny fraction of the size of ABI.
It’s a good point that adds dimension and nuance to the argument, and thank you very much Stephen for making it. I’m delighted to be building a smart, boozy community where people can express real disagreements without immediately devolving into a psychotic, Facebook-style cesspool of bad faith. Commenting privileges are restricted to paying Friends of Fingers; to join the conversation... well, you know what to do!
Probably out of disgust for the ongoing FMB-fication of once-proud craft beer institutions, the Fingers Fam double-tapped this meme more than any other posted to the boozeletter’s official Instagram in the past seven days.
If you haven’t followed Fingers on Instagram yet, you’re missing out on free daily original content about the booze business. Don’t do that! Do this instead:
Your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)