Opening up the boozeletter archives for your reading pleasure.
Editor’s note: Greetings from vacation! Fingers will be back in your inboxes with more original journalism about drinking in America next week, but today, I’m resurfacing some all-time boozeletter classics for all the newer members of the Fingers Family who weren’t subscribed when they were first published. Some of these stories are behind the paywall, so if you haven’t bought a subscription to support my work yet, please do that now and I’ll love you forever. Here’s 15% off an annual subscription. See you in a week!—Dave.
Behold: early boozeletter bangers, for your reading pleasure
Screaming “WHITE CLAW!!!” and “MANGO WHITE CLAW!!!” into an interviewer’s microphone, like Proud Boys’ (now-former) chairman Enrique Tarrio did at an October 2020 rally outside Portland, Oregon is demonstrably weird behavior. But then again Tarrio runs Latinos for Trump, has appeared in photos with noted Nixonite Mr. Peanut Roger Stone, and—though he identifies as Afro-Cuban—heads up an SPLC-designated extremist organization of self-avowed “Western chauvinists” who occasionally truck with skinheads, so he seems to have a bit of a flair for disorienting self-contradiction.
In August 2021, restaurants, breweries, and bars around the country began putting out 13 full pints of beer to honor 13 American soldiers who were killed in a bombing in Kabul as the U.S. war machine withdrew from Afghanistan. There’s a longstanding tradition of U.S. veterans ordering beers and shots for fallen and POW/MIA comrades they’ve lost. That’s a deeply personal and intimate act, whereas this practice seems to have sprung up in response to a specific, highly politicized attack on U.S. troops to whom the participating businesses have more indirect connections. So what’s going on here?
Coors Seltzer was late to hop onto the hard-seltzer bandwagon. Rolling out its namesake fizzy booze water in mid-2020, the brand needed a fresh angle to catch up with runaway market leaders White Claw and Truly—to say nothing of the eleventy bajillion “artisanal” lookalikes from craft outfits*, or compelling cross-category plays from the likes of Heineken x AriZona and Coca-Cola x Topo Chico. Rival Bud Light had feted its own hard seltzer line extension with its (depressingly well-received) Chief Meme Officer campaign earlier that summer. Without a similarly strong hook, the Colorado brand—owned these days by Chicago-based parent company Molson Coors—would be facing the worst kind of bubble trouble: a flat reception. (Ahem.)
So in a bid to disrupt the rapidly forming hard seltzer hegemony, Coors turned to one of its favorite advertising tropes: natural, clear, refreshing water. “When drinkers buy Coors Seltzer, they help restore 500 gallons of water into America's rivers. It's that simple,” the brand proclaimed in a press release marking its debut. It may shock you to learn, dear reader, that it actually wasn’t that simple.
Bang Energy’s chaotic chief executive, Jack Owoc is an iron-pumping MAGA maniac who likes to be photographed with TikTok fitness influencers less than half his age, and once got sued by a competitor for claiming that his products could “reverse mental retardation” and “help” Alzheimer’s.1 The high school science teacher-turned-“chief scientific officer” has a catchphrase that objectively rules (“If you ain’t Banging, you ain’t hanging”), which he often bellows hoarsely in videos posted to his 1.1M-follower Instagram account. Owoc’s Instagram has been a small obsession here at Fingers HQ for a while now. It’s like Creed Thoughts meets Tony Perkis, Ben Stiller’s psychotic fat-camp fuhrer from the 1995 Disney classic Heavyweights. As I’ve written before, if you’re looking for a quackishly unhinged #content machine to add to your feed, @BangEnergy.CEO most certainly has you covered. Case in point: in September 2021, Owoc posted a video of himself receiving an injection of what he referred to as “CTM Boost.”
“They could get the same output from [an ad agency] that they would from a Chief Meme Officer who's 22 and making $5,000 a month,” one longtime public-relations professional with knowledge of how CPG firms execute these earned-media campaigns told Fingers. “But the value in this is that they're getting people to share this and being like, ‘oh my god like this is so me,’ […] I guarantee you that they paid more than $15,000 for the idea, and they will spend more than $15,000 on a recap deck, just to show” what it accomplished. As for the value of the headlines themselves, they estimated that would “easily” exceed the dough Bud Light Seltzer pays its Chief Meme Officer. Even bad press, like influential media reporters’ derisive tweets accusing the campaign of exploitation and cringe, is good money, said the PR insider: “Unless [a critic] is like ‘they're killing babies!,’ they’ll flag [the negative headline] as neutral, or even positive, because it's still getting the word out.”
Production workers face the “dream job” paradox, in which workers are so passionate about the product that they accept low pay, unsafe conditions, and poor treatment from customers and bosses, lest they lose the privilege of pursuing their passion to a more pliant replacement. Front-of-house workers—like bartenders and servers in a taproom, for example—are told that their labor is replaceable and that their jobs can’t be careers, which makes organizing a tough sell compared to just moving on to something else. Finally, these firms tend to be small, making workers vulnerable to the bosses’ “we’re a family” fallacy, and making it hard to attract support from cash-strapped unions that must be strategic with their limited resources. Organizing 10 breweries with 15 employees each is almost always going to be more time-consuming than, say, one hotel with 150 workers—and costlier, too.
I was raised for most of my life in New Jersey, and lived in New York for almost a decade after college, so I have drank a lot of beer in those two states. I also cover the beer business for a living. Despite all that, until October 2021, I had never heard of, much less laid eyes on, Kelsey Grammer’s vaguely Christian craft beer brand, which apparently distributes exclusively in New York and New Jersey.
Maybe I lost you at the phrase “Kelsey Grammer’s vaguely Christian craft beer brand,” and frankly, I kind of lost me, too. Let’s break down the key terms here:
Kelsey Grammer: The actor who played Frasier in Frasier and a rich guy in 2020’s Money Plane, a movie that is exactly what it sounds like.
Christian: A devotee of the monotheistic religion centered around the teachings of Jesus and a book called The Bible.
Craft beer brand: A product line of full-flavored, malt-based alcoholic beverages marketed to drinkers as an alternative to macrobrewers’ light adjunct lagers.
Does that clear things up? No? Well, too bad. Kelsey Grammer has a craft beer outfit called Faith American Brewing Company, and we’d all better start wrapping our heads around it.
📬 Good post alert
Don’t miss out, follow Fingers on Instagram today. It’s free and your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)