Bud, Beer and California Distributors

By Tom McCormick

This is a story of a non-story. And a very dis-jointed one at that.

Two weeks ago it was disclosed that the California Beer and Beverage Distributors (CBBD), which represents the beer wholesalers in California, contributed $10,000 to the “no on Prop.19” campaign – the measure on the November ballot to legalize marijuana in California.

Supporters of Prop. 19 caught smoke of this and upon looking at the CBBD website, noticed that a few craft brewers were listed as “associate members” of the CBBD. Those craft brewers were soon hammered with emails from pro-19 folks threatening a boycott. Even the blogosphere got rolling on the issue, with comments like “brewing industry” is “paranoid of the competition.”

This misinterpretation was beginning to grow on the internet like a weed and more than a few beer enthusiasts got fired up. They simply didn’t understand that beer wholesalers are not directly associated with brewers and thought that craft brewers themselves were opposing Prop. 19. Nothing could be further from the truth of course.

The California Small Brewers Association smelled a skunk (and it wasn’t in green bottles). This wasn’t just creeping through the internet nor was it a one-hit deal; it was going higher and higher, and the CSBA and local craft brewers knew this had to be nipped in the bud.

In press releases and internet postings, craft brewers and the CSBA made the case that the CBBD did not represent the political views of craft brewers. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company said in their press release that “although we are members of this organization, we were neither consulted—nor informed of—their decision to take a stand against California Proposition 19. Sierra Nevada’s role as an associate member grants no access or influence on the political agendas of the CBBD, and we had no knowledge of the organization’s intention to fight this ballot proposition.”

But the buzz just wouldn’t stop. Both CNN and The Huffington Post had picked up on the story and Holy Smokes, by the next day, mainstream media outlets were calling craft brewers to get a story. But no story existed. The wholesalers contributed money to the no-on 19 campaign, not the brewers.

The CBBD released their own defense, stating that the “CBBD believes Prop 19 is poorly written and lacks a regulatory structure – Prop 19 contains no state controls over product standards or sale and distribution.” Ah! Maybe if Prop 19 passes, those distributor trucks will carry not just Bud but also buds. And then they’ll start to pass cannabis franchise laws. That’s scarier than the movie Reefer Madness!

Finally the media got sleepy over it, the blog got tired of it and this half-baked story began to drift away like smoke. By a little before 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday, we pretty much had the situation rolled up. It was a dead soldier and it was time for a big fat one. A beer that is…IPA…hops…and lot’s of ‘em.

 /> alt=Tom McCormick has been the Executive Director of the California Small Brewers Association for the last five years. He began his career in the craft brewing industry in 1982. He started and owned a craft beer distributorship for 10 years in Northern California, was co-founder of Wolaver’s Organic Ales, has been an instructor of sales, marketing and distribution classes for brewers at UC Davis and for the American Brewers Guild, has done consulting for craft breweries, distributors and importers and is “Admin” at the ProBrewer website.