Bluepoint, Bells and the Future of Beer in New York

Bells-BrewingWell, unless you were passed out from drinking the past week, you couldn’t have missed two big “news” items in the NY beer press: Bells Brewing—sure to be on many beer peep’s short list of best breweries in the U.S.—is coming to New York; and Long Island’s oldest existing brewery, Blue Point, sold out to AV-InBev. The latter move brought forth a ton of vitriol (best rebutted by Niko Krommydas, a long-time LI beer writer), whereas the former was embrace as if it were Christ’s second coming.

Rather than rehashing what it does or doesn’t mean that Anheuser-Busch has figured out that it’s a hella lot easier to buy good craft breweries than to make craft beer, I’d rather consider the state of, well, New York, and what the fluctuating market means for us.

Here’s the thing… You could drink a different good beer every day for the rest of your life. Period. And this expansion works in both directions. For every job that is lost on Long Island (and whatever Mark and Pete are saying—possibly in earnest—jobs will be lost at Blue Point), NY will gain a job thanks to Bells expansion (distributors are people too!). Not to mention the jobs that will be created in Michigan, which probably needs them more than we do anyhow. If we want to drink Bells, or Cigar City, or—gasp and perform CPR to the Bitch’s stalled heart—3Floyds (yep, the “we’ll never sell except at the brewpub” brewery is expanding), we have to realize that some of our favorite local brewers will be on the radar of the big three and be acquired.

Frankly, I’m a little pissed off that one of my favorite beer shops no longer carries Goose Island. Wanna know where I got my BCBS this year? My local C-Town! Yeah, that’s right. The (relatively) tiny grocery chain has upped its beer cooler. I can get 60 percent of what’s available at Whole Foods for 2/3 the price! And the local growler shop is undercutting C-Town’s price by about 10 cents per bottle.

This is what used to be called “healthy competition” in this country. We all know that craft beer has a severe mark-up, but most of that is based on the supply chain. If AB-InBev wants to distribute Blue Point (or Goose Island or whoever else they acquire in the coming months and years), the bottom line will be more access and cheaper beer. So long as the quality doesn’t go down (and based on the deal with John Hall, it isn’t), I’ll be happy to pay less and not have to wait in line for great beer releases.

And let’s consider Lagunitas and New Belgium and Green Flash… they’re all moving eastward. Opening up breweries in cities that could never be called “west coast,” but Chicago, Asheville, and Virginia Beach (respectively) are all going to benefit from their expansion. And what point does it serve to get pissy about it? Will Lagunitas Sucks (ha ha, irony) be any less sublime if it comes from Chicago?

I had a conversation with the assistant manager in charge of setting up the beer case at C-Town awhile back. He wanted to arrange breweries by location. I interrupted—as I am wont to do—and said, “Well, how will you do that with New Belgium? Because they’re only moving into our market because of Asheville.” I suggested either sorting by type or, better yet, mouth feel. Now that would be interesting.

But I get “brand loyalty,” so maybe we just arrange alphabetically. It won’t help you if you’re looking for a cool new IPA, but you can google that shit. In the meantime, I don’t really care if Miller or Coors or AB is buying up “the good stuff,” just so long as it continues to undermine their shitastic beer. I predict that in 40 years, the only people who will be drinking actual Budweiser will be climate change deniers bemoaning the fact that our President is a gay… woman.

In the meantime, I’ll take Bells and AB can take Blue Point. It’s all good.

2 thoughts on “Bluepoint, Bells and the Future of Beer in New York

  1. Meh, I much prefer to give my money to a local guy than some huge corporation and so I generally avoid big three owned breweries. It’s a shame that Blue Point is no longer an option for me because I really liked them, but I’m not gonna cry about it. There are so many amazing options from independent breweries. I just wish there was more transparency in ownership lineage.

    You can’t blame the owners. Craft breweries are generally not very lucrative, and they are a ton of work, so it makes all the sense in the world to sell out for a lot of people.

    The benefit for the drinker is that consistency will improve for almost any brand that gets bought out, at least until the pencil pushers start getting in there and forcing corner cutting, which is pretty much guaranteed. At this point though, there are so many

    • I 100 percent agree with you, Lewis. Bottom line is there is SO MUCH GOOD (not necessarily great, but good) BEER! I am a locavore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do fuzzy math. I will buy from my local grocer or local growler guy (as opposed to Whole Foods) but maybe I want a beer from Germany. I mean, I drink Ommegang, which both is and is not a NY brewery. It’s very complicated, but we need to drink with our hearts and our minds. Drink conscientiously. 🙂

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