Molson Coors Chairman Calls Craft Brewer Definition Insulting — But Punching Down Won’t Get Him In The Club

craft beer brewers association independence matters

To paraphrase the Big Beer baron: Can’t we all just get along?

According to Forbes’ latest published data, the Coors family is worth about $4 billion. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of money that would land you a spot on the publication’s list of America’s Richest Families, for which the collective net worth threshold is currently $10.7 billion. That is the kind of money, however, that could afford you, say — an NFL team, (maybe) two NBA teams or a few NHL teams. The mind wonders to how many beer barrels it would take to house four billion one dollar bills — for the record, 16 billion quarters inside stainless steel kegs weighs a lot.

One prominent member of the $4 billion Coors family is Pete Coors, the current Chairman of macro brewer Molson Coors, the retro-merger construct (previously MillerCoors) formed as a result of an American trust bust which was deemed necessary after the world’s largest macro beer conglomerate (AB InBev) absorbed the world’s second largest macro beer conglomerate (SABMiller), the latter being a corporation for which MillerCoors was a hugely significant manufacturing arm and marketing agent. Pete Coors also is a person who very recently preferred whine over beer in the form of an “open letter” published on Beer Business Daily and which was directed at the Brewers Association.

Apparently, the long-time, independence-boasting posture of the BA — not the ever-gaping hole in lost market share among corporate brewers — has rubbed Mr. Coors the wrong way. He is downright insulted that at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, stakeholders from within the industry would dare to stand up in front of their peers and talk about the very real challenges facing the vast majority of craft brewers in the world.

Brew Studs reached out to the Brewers Association and we received this response from CEO Bob Pease:

“The Brewers Association has the utmost respect for Pete and the Coors family and we would look forward to sitting down with Pete over a beer and discussing his concerns. We look forward to doing so in a thoughtful and respectful fashion. That said, the Brewers Association will continue to work to differentiate and promote and protect small and independent craft brewers in the marketplace  and we look forward to working with all of our members, voting and non-voting alike on building the beverage of beer in the United States.”

In writing his letter, it’s almost as if Coors wasn’t aware that in the past several years a handful of macro brewers valued at way over $100 billion bought a class of craft breweries, tried to monopolize statewide distribution, were caught engaging in illegal pay-to-play schemes, instituted a hops blockade, heavily invested in patenting malting techniques, acquired a major homebrew supplier, launched multiple propaganda websites, attempted to hijack craft branding and infringed on craft beer IP. If that’s the case, his letter (perhaps) has much more credence.

To side with Pete Coors, anyone who was at the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference could have easily walked away thinking that the speeches given by Bob Pease and Left Hand Brewing Co-Founder Eric Wallace were fiery, passionate and unapologetic about valuing independence. And yes, the Brewers Association in recent years has found a new upright position in regards to protecting its well known definition of “craft brewer” and the differentiation of real craft beer from craft beer impostors. Without a doubt, leadership in craft beer is displaying a propensity toward supporting tribalism within the greater beer industry. But to borrow from a certain wise man (George Carlin): It’s a big club, and Pete Coors ain’t in it.

In Coors’ letter to the BA, he laid out a set of theses that, although much shorter and poorly devised, are akin to those of Martin Luther’s (if Martin Luther had actually been Pope Leo X — scratch that — Henry VII). I’ll take this space now to list out Pete Coors’ Theses.

Pete Coors’ 10 Theses

  1. Et dues, BA?
  2. It’s a Big world after all.
  3. The BA is a polarizing force (*pearls clutched).
  4. Big Beer loves the kids (brewers).
  5. We’ll see your bottle shops and raise you grocery stores.
  6. Continent-sized brewers have feelings, too.
  7. Have you no honor, suh?
  8. This is your beer on drugs.
  9. You are embarrassing the industry and me, young man.
  10. The industry leaders who manipulate the market with virtually unlimited resources aren’t your enemies — everything outside of the market is the enemy.

In the hours that followed Coors’ letter, a legend in the craft brewing industry, Ninkasi Brewing co-founder Nikos Ridge, responded with answers to each of Pete’s complaints, and they are much more poignant rebuttals than I could ever deliver.

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Brew Studs Founder, Editor. Homebrewer. Good Damn Beer Drinker. Steward to Craft Beer Nation.

1 Comment

  1. stevefoolbody

    May 8, 2018 at 12:52 PM

    I’m understanding less and less, as time goes by, why we all continue to get so exercised by the comments of people who have no real part of whatever culture we’re talking about and continue to rise to the bait of snarky irrelevancies like Coors’ letter. Pete Coors whines CONSTANTLY. I’ve read at least ten of his interviews, over the past ten years and every single one had something in it that revealed wildly bruised feelings (translation: ego) about his company’s forcible relocation to the back of the bus with young American beer fans. Coors’ problem is actually fairly simple: he and his family profited richly from that irrational, 120+ year fixation on watered-down, corrupted Euro-lagers that were ALL we had to drink in the way of beer. He was royalty and his family got Respect and losing that – to some gang of unwashed ruffians, brewing beer out of warehouses – got their collective panties in a wad. Pete Coors went from Golden Boy of American beer to an afterthought, in the space of twenty years and he doesn’t like it. Who would? But instead of adapting to the changing paradigm, he and his family doubled down on their insipid lagers and opted – along with Anheuser Busch/ AB/InBev – to try to ridicule craft beer into insignificance. (Spoiler: It didn’t work)

    What no one understands – in that laughable corporate rat’s nest that is the current BudMillerCoors incestuous Pity Party – is that this shift in attitudes and tastes **has already happened** and CANNOT be undone. Americans like Choices. Not “choices” as in “will I drink Coors or Bud or Pabst or Miller?”, which are all the same beer, but “choices” in styles and ABV and flavors and colors and ingredients and producers. These craft beers that they are all whining about have – GASP! – FLAVOR! They TASTE GOOD. They have nuance and bitterness and complexity and grace notes and sensual interest. WHY would we go back to “beer” that tastes like weak grain tea with some faint hint of hops when we have Dogfish 90 Minute and Deschutes Red Chair and Stone Arrogant Bastard? WHY (more importantly) would we take our hard-earned $$$ and hand ’em over to some European mega-corporation when we can support our local breweries, our regional and state and American economy, and even our own family members, friends, and neighbors? Whether Pete likes this or not and despite what the millions people are still dumping into his coffers, craft brewing has already won. As more and more kids open the family fridge and NEVER see a Bud or Miller or Coors or Pabst, that habitual settling for the Lowest Common Denominator, that rote acceptance that kept AB and Miller and Coors atop the beer heap for over a century is broken – irrevocably. Expecting that Coors can just produce the same tired shite and talk us all out of our IPAs and Stouts and Sour/Bretts and Pales and Porters and back into dullness is a joke. Instead of meeting that growing disparity head-on and maybe Doing Something about what Coors is, Pete chooses to bitch and moan and scold craft brewing like the errant children he thinks we all are.

    It’s time to stop listening to Pete Coors and jumping to his provocations. At this point, he’s no more credible or sensible than some old drunk at the end of the bar, babbling on about “Well, in MY day…”. At some point, the bartender or some of the other patrons usually either drive that guy home to sleep it off or toss him into the street. Pete Coors deserves no more consideration or credibility than that guy.

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