The tokenomics of craft beer
💀 Murdered darlings: cra(n)ft beer edition! Plus: Starbucks union gets *nice* + more!
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I just published a story at VinePair about the arrival of craft beer’s non-fungible future, which takes a look at some of the ways breweries and other beer-adjacent companies are using NFTs to promote, fundraise, and develop online community around their IRL and even digital products. An ongoing critique of blockchain-oriented stuff generally and NFTs in particular is that they are “a solution in search of a problem,” but the fact that they’re being applied successfully in this business sector complicates that narrative somewhat in a way that I found interesting and worth exploring. As the article went to press, Goose Island—a Chicago craft brewery that has been owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2011—announced its own NFT project, and over the weekend Friend of Fingers and SFGate editor Dan Gentile tipped me off to a craft brewery marketing Bored Ape-themed beer (one of at least two U.S. breweries doing so.) Whether you think these developments are unbearably corny or seriously cool depends on how you feel about web3 more broadly, but the developments are happening, and the American craft brewing industry is not exempt from them… to say nothing of the overall beverage business.
I hope you’ll check out the full piece for more detail, because there’s a lot in there. And as usual, here are a few “murdered darlings” from the reporting process—i.e., interesting insights and quotes from sources that didn’t make the final cut, printed here for the Fingers Fam’s reading pleasure.
The quotes below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
— Joey Rubin, an owner of Parade Agency and head of programming and partnerships for Friends With Benefits, on the difference NFTs’ underlying utility and the speculative hype of popular projects:
I'm really optimistic and enthusiastic about the technology that's coming into play with smart contracts. It’s really exciting. No, I'm not down with PFPs, and cartoons, and quarter-million dollar monkeys smoking cigarettes, and bad art forms. Like that's not super-interesting to me. But this new technology provides utility when you get past some of the superficial subject matter of the category… First, we had the read-only web. Then we had read/write. Now we have the ownership economy of web3. When people have assets in their in their possession, that asset can be a relationship, and that relationship on-chain can now be programmed and updated with new drops, with discounts, pricing supports, promos, premiums and merch. All of that is so exciting.
— Jesse Friedman, a marketing entrepreneur with blockchain company The Internet Computer and a co-founder of Almanac Beer Co., on the similarities between tokenomics and reselling beer:
When you design a crypto project, you decide how many you're gonna make. All of the building blocks are anonymous but open-source. So when you say, We're going to release 1000 of our VinePair NFTs [hypothetically speaking], people can go look at this open database that is on the blockchain and say Yes, that’s true. There are 1000 of these. Here's where they're stored. Here’s what they sold for. You can see the transaction history, it's all open source. That's tokenomics. So you decide how you’re going to sell them, how you’re going to restrict them, all those things. That release of the tokens into the market and then [the reselling that theoretically] happens in the secondary market, it’s exactly the same as craft beer traders, who say, OK, this brewery is releasing this beer on this day. There will be this many beers and I've already lined up these trades. That culture and that sort of push and pull between people who support the community and individuals attempting to turn a profit all feels very familiar to me in crypto as well as craft beer.
— Eric Hild, senior lead brewer at Toppling Goliath, on his ambivalence towards NFTs because of how they predicate a secondary market for IRL beer and experiences:
I'm more leaning on the negative side of potential ways of how NFTs could be used in craft breweries. A lot of the [existing applications] that I’ve seen, it’s usually more sort of subscription services, or like mug club-type deals, where you can pay for an NFT and that will give you access to your bottle reserve, or what have you. But then you're still leaning more into the secondary market, which is something I don't really look fondly on. Just due to it’s gonna skyrocket prices for the availability, for the option to get the bottle. Even at that point, even as like as a brewery, if you're gonna go the NFT direction, instead of just saying, Hey, we have your name and a ledger somewhere that basically confirms that you're a member of mug club, well you you lose control of that, at that point. Then you have no idea who's actually technically in your membership, realistically, because [the NFT] has traded hands so many times.
— Doug Veliky, chief strategy officer at Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, on mitigating backlash to NFTs vs. backlash to artificially scarce beer releases:
We’re always trying to increase the amount of [beer we produce] for the couple of releases that we know are going to have more demand outside our markets than the rest. We're always trying to do better on that, but if someone tells us, Hey, I saw someone selling you know that four-pack for $100 even though you guys only charged him $40, we don't have anybody at our brewery that gets upset about that. I totally understand that there are breweries that do… Is it gonna rub people the wrong way? Absolutely. But I think the breweries that are going to do NFT programs and do them well, are the breweries that probably run their rare releases well, also. It’s not something that I consider to be terribly different from what they're already doing with their beers. I think the reputation will probably follow them. If every brewery did an NFT program, the ones that rub people the wrong way with their releases, I guarantee you their NFT programs would rub people the wrong way too.
— Michael Kiser, founder of beverage consulting firm Feel Goods (and, full disclosure, a Fingers Founding Member) on the tech-readiness of contemporary craft breweries for web3 implementations:
Oh god, nobody in craft beer knows how to do that. You’re gonna need some kind of consultant in that space to basically like, hold breweries’ hands and make it happen. But I'm old enough to remember when breweries needed people to help them fucking set up their Facebook pages and like, develop a Squarespace site. So it's not surprising to me that craft brewers who are not necessarily historically technological hub of any sort, would need help with that. And there's no shame in that.
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☕ Starbucks unionization efforts reach *nice* milestone
Over the weekend, the anonymous traveling musician who maintains EveryUnionStarbucks.com and its corresponding Twitter handle commemorated a momentous occasion in the ongoing push to unionize the coffee giant’s ~8,900 U.S. locations. Given how nice it is, it went viral immediately. Check out their big map of all the unionized shops right here.
👮 D.U.Why would you willingly subject yourself to this?
I’ve been trying to find a way to include this in a newsletter for a few weeks now but keep running out of space. The video above, originally posted to TikTok, follows a group of girls that deliberately get drunk at a police department so that probationary cops can get practice doing D.U.I./disorderly conduct stops with real drunk people. Apparently this is a thing with law-enforcement agencies across the country! A recent description of the practice from 2News in Reno, Nevada explains that:
Rather than being told what a drunk person looks like, this part of the [Reno] police academy shows future officers what to look for. And while it's easy to know when someone is really drunk, recruits are getting training to catch the drivers who are harder to detect.
Uh huh. So I guess they get people juuuuuust around too drunk to drive and then turn them loose on rookies in a parking lot somewhere? Are incoming police really that unfamiliar with the effects of alcohol that they simply wouldn’t be able to recognize them unless confronted repeatedly with tipsy volunteers in a controlled environment? This hardly seems like a good use of taxpayer dollars, but then again, our boys and girls in blue are constantly in need of new and creative ways to spend all the cash that leaders up and down the tickets of both political parties are hell-bent on funneling into their war chests, and there’s no shortage of white people in this country willing to simp for the police in exchange for free drinks (or nothing at all lol), so… there you go! Frankly, the most surprising thing about the video is that the station in question (which appears to be in Suffolk County, Long Island) doesn’t have a dedicated set of Thin Blue Line bullet glassware. Kinda assumed every LEO in the country owned one of those at this point.
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