A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Amy -

The world is more complicated than big beer is bad and craft beer is good. Drinking a beer that is locally made or eating an artisanal cheese is not a political act. It isn't necessarily an ethical or moral act either. The big brewers - Anheuser-Busch, Miller have had unions for over a hundred years. Prohibition didn't just wipe out breweries, it basically destroyed the Socialist United Brewery Workmen.

Claudia -

Well, this post certainly brings out the reality behind what happens behind the doors of our favorite beer brands. It is sad to see the things we love the most have such morbid backgrounds. And it gets worse when people start politicizing an alcohol product saying it is not democratic and is not really a drink for the masses. And boycotting your favorite drink to relieve the oppressed employees is certainly not the solution. It is equivalent to giving up wearing diamonds for the people working (or ill-treated) in diamond mines. Whether we like it or not, the truth must be acknowledged; the ratio of people who care are far less than the people who don't.

Alan -

"...boycotting your favorite drink to relieve the oppressed employees is certainly not the solution..."

Of course, it is a solution if that is your goal. No retailer fails to feel the sting of cash drying up. Wallowing on the basement on you sofa in your give ups sure as heck isn't.

Alan -

From Jeff's comments, a Rogue worker gives more details:

"...I can tell you as an employee that it sucks to work for Rogue. It's common for managers to yell at staff in front of the customers. It's a regular thing for them to not pay employee's for training even though it's illegal not to. They constantly take away our employee meals and won't let us bring outside food in. They force us to tip out to the bartender and kitchen (which I don't mind paying, but it's illegal to force it, it's just common courtesy). Any Rogue employees that read this should file complaints with the Bureau of Labor and Industry when you don't get paid for training and if a union rep comes to you listen up. If we band together we can make sure we get treated right. Anyone that's reading this, please tip your server or bartender well when dining at Rogue, we really need it. They are screwing us left and right, but it's tough to find work these days. The employers know it too, so practices like these are common place..."

Mark -

Go work somewhere else, or better yet, open your own brewery and treat your staff how you feel they should be treated.

Alan -

Yah - because decency only works in advertising!

dave -

Don't all cultural groups have their associated arseholes in them?

Boors or not, beer ratings should always be taken with a large grain of salt.

*Passion alert* (mentioned within the first 10 seconds actually): http://beerculturemovie.com/

Alan -

I am wary of any claim to "passion" as a call to waive your interests to the person claiming that the project, job, sandwich involves passion.

Anonymous -

To Mark who said "Go work somewhere else, or better yet, open your own brewery and treat your staff how you feel they should be treated."

I am sure anyone who has ever worked in a brewery has aspirations to one day open their own brewery. The problem is not everyone has the means to do this (and certainly will not gain them through working at an employer like Rogue).

The brewing industry is so popular in Oregon that any brewing job is coveted. If you move to Newport to work at Rogue to get that base brewing experience, you don't have many options when that relationship turns sour. Rogue has plenty of corporate experience in upper management and is very good at dangling the carrot in front of workers, combine that with the difficulty in finding any other brewing jobs within commuting distance and you have a captive employment base.

This does not excuse them from treating their employees poorly, underpaying the bulk of the brewery employees while handing out large bonuses to a select few at the end of the year. They have been known to take away verbally guaranteed benefits on a whim, suspend employees for shallow reasons, and treat employees with a complete lack of respect upon termination.

Rogue is a marketing company first and brewery second. This in no way is meant as a slight to the brewery workers who could give a rat's @$$ about the marketing, unfortunately, these production workers have no say in product decisions. Please support local breweries or at least regional breweries with integrity.

I have been following this story several places and see people waiting to pass judgment until they hear Rogue's side of the story. You will not hear that unless it is a calculated release parsed by their hired thugs (I mean, lawyers). Go look on probrewer.com in the employment section and you will see that they are hiring brewers, a head brewer, director of production, and national sales manager. To me, this indicates that people who don't like the employment conditions are doing something about it!

FlagonofAle -

As I read that article on Beervana, I wondered a couple things. One is that Jeff, as a self described socialist (whatever that exactly means these days) certainly wasn't a neutral source on a story that is highly political, and I'm not sure how we should feel about the ethics of beer writers highlighting stories like that.

The second is that these brewers act like rock stars because we make them rock stars. We expect them to be open, affable, and accessible all while making the product that we love. We also expect them to make that product in a fashion that complements our impression of <i>how</i> they should do it (ecologically, sustainably, locally, traditionally etc). If Rogue was acting within the law (although somewhat distastefully) behind closed doors, do we really have the right to expect (or force) them to comply with our own aesthetics? At what point is boycotting Rogue going too far? What if we learn that John Maier is a die hard Republican (or that he supports gay marriage or whatever hot button issue)? Are we going too far to boycott them on purely political or personal grounds?

Alan -

"I'm not sure how we should feel about the ethics of beer writers highlighting stories like that..."

FoA, I am not disagreeing with you but I have no idea what you mean. I see Jeff as declaring his bias and read it from that perspective. I, too, have a bias and that is that I expect those I support with my cash not to be arseholes.

Let's be honest. Nothing Rogue makes is all that singular that I can't find an easy replacement. Craft brewing is a oligopolistic market and I am happy as the consumer in that sort of marketplace to act on fine distinctions. On this count, so far, they are failing the messaging war to earn my money.

And let's be honest again. If enough people boycotted them, they would soon become employer of the year... and likely make more money. This is not about ideology. It's about who is being a jerk to their employees.

FlagonofAle -

Well, they may become employer of the year, or they may go out of business. That's the balance between employer needs and employee needs. I also rarely buy Rogue but because they're so overpriced, so I'm coming at it from the other perspective. Who's right? Presumably, if they got large enough they would both be able to pay employees well and sell for cheap, but then, we already have that in Budweiser. My point here (at least right now) is that the expectation that a company meet all the needs and expectations (they should be cool, they should be nice, they should share my politics) of every person is a bit unfair and might not be any good for the industry.

To my earlier point, I would just say that stating your bias does not discount it. A beer writer highlighting a story for political reasons, and not beer-related reasons, is definitely in the grey area for me. I'd say it's right there with writing a positive review because of gifts and insider access.

Alan -

Good points. I don't know really what a "beer writer" is in any ultimate sense. I am sure I am not even though I have written lots about beer. But Jeff is now writing that book. Insider access for me seems to be more problematic than either gifts / samples or bias. Yet, I have adopted a brewery myself. So, I think I can only like declarations of bias the best.

But on the meeting of expectations, if a firm operates differently from either its brand or its competition in a negative way they really have to live with that decision. Rogue seems to have made a decision about this and one other craft brewers do not make.

Jeff Alworth -

Flagon and Alan (since probably no one else is reading--maybe even you!). Two things. First, by "socialist" I mean I would love America to adopt the public policy of Sweden. Or even Britain or France. This is radical only in America, but radical it is. This was a part of the disclosure of personal bias--which, of course, every writer has--that allows you the ammo to question my ethics in the first place. Bias does not preclude journalism, but the ethical thing is to note it.

The second thing relates to the question of what qualifies as appropriate material to cover. Flagon, you write, "A beer writer highlighting a story for political reasons, and not beer-related reasons, is definitely in the grey area for me." I was quite self-conscious in saying it WASN'T political. Go back and read those posts. My point was: is it reasonable to make purchasing decisions based on the behavior of a brewery? I know it wasn't a political post because I have political opinions that I had to work to keep corked. They weren't appropriate for that venue, and I left them aside.

BeerAdvocate takes your view: they don't report negative information and they don't report on business critiques. But that is a very clear political position. And, since BeerAdvocate offers itself as a critique site, it is a compromised one as well. If you refuse to consider the negative side of the brewing world, you have a political/economic agenda. I find that one far more disturbing because it's hidden.

I didn't break the story--it was already out there. Once it became public, the ethical road forked into two choices: discuss it or not. Either choice reflects an agenda. It's not possible to avoid that.

Finally, I report these because I think it's critical information for people to determine my credibility. I occasionally ding breweries for bad beers, bad strategies, blunders, or bad behavior. When I later praise them--as I have with Rogue many times--it lets the reader know that I'm doing my best to offer objective opinion. I recognize that once a person starts offering opinions on blogs, s/he instantly loses credibility with some folks. If my decision to approach blogging this way loses me cred with you, I will live with it. For me, it's the most ethical approach.

Alan -

"If you refuse to consider the negative side of the brewing world, you have a political/economic agenda. I find that one far more disturbing because it's hidden."

BINGO! And besides - what is so precious about craft brewing that it can't handle a three-dimensional discourse? People throw around "passion" and "community" without realizing these things are euphemisms for "don't rock the boat" or "don't look beneath the hood."

One thing I am starting to think about is how "small" is being used to excuse a lot of sins by quite a number of mid-range national brewers who want us all to pretend that they are not that much different from a brew-pub operated by people who man the bar, too.

FlagonofAle -

I don't have much to add here, but I have really enjoyed the conversation.

Jeff, I think it is definitely prudent in some cases to table stories to avoid the appearance of politically motivated writing even if there is none. After reading your reasoning, though, I think I understand where you were coming from since you do peak behind the curtain to discuss branding and industry news.