When it comes to craft beer, the idea is to have options. A lot of options. Going against that grain can come back to kick you, as one franchise manager found out the hard way. Apparently, they didn’t realize that brewery owners just might be a bit upset when they sent a memo out to their franchise stores with both an accepted label list and a list labeled as “not fit for consumption”.
Craft Beer Cellars founders were certainly surprised when that memo was leaked and several on their “not fit” list were highly upset, one going so far as to mention a lawsuit for libel due to their poor choice of words and attempt to decide what is and is not fit for the craft beer community as a whole. This led to the company leaders quickly re-wording the memo, however, the damage had already been done. When an outcry was received, backpedalling began, but may have been too late.
When it comes to a company reputation, all it takes is one bad judgment call to go from glory to ruin, and the craft beer community does not easily forget such slights. As craft beer began to take hold across the U.S., one thing beer enthusiasts absolutely loved was their freedom. For once they were not being told what to like by big business or any franchise for that matter. When Craft Beer Cellars took it upon themselves to judge certain craft beers as unfit for consumption, their reputation took a heavy hit that will take a long time to heal.
Founder Suzanne Schalow’s attempt to indemnify the wrongdoing was half-hearted, to say the least. Instead of providing a list of approved Brewers to their stores, they will instead be providing a list of approved beers. However, that certainly does not take away from the fact that they’ve taken it upon themselves to decide what is good for the community as a whole, a fact that many enthusiasts are not likely to forget.
One black-listed brewer gave a statement about the slight, saying they have already spoken to a lawyer regarding the issue and that they will be pursuing it in court if there are solid grounds to do so. This is certainly good news for brewers everywhere, as their stand on the issue is solid and their defense of their rights is clear.
Schalow took the news with a grain of salt, stating that they would have a product evaluation team meeting monthly to determine what beers should be on their approved list and any that simply do not make the cut will be prohibited from sale in their franchise stores. Brushing off the fact that they have slighted the craft beer community overall, she stated, “When you have 28 stores, you have to have standards, stick with them, and move forward, it’s not personal. It’s just good business.”
Although we can certainly see Craft Beer Cellar’s point-of-view, we’re certainly not biting. We hope to see a better solution to this blatant attempt at industry directing in the future, as we’re proud of the freedom that is available to new craft breweries around the world. If we have to rely on a committee to decide what we should and should not produce or drink, why are we creating our small breweries in the first place?
Good luck Craft Beer Cellar, you’re going to need it if you want to limit what our customers can and cannot drink. As for the rest of us down here in Florida, we’ll keep serving all sorts of new brews to the many consumers that seem to love every ounce!