Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unconfirmed reports about Otter Creek, re: when the bell tolls, it tolls for thou

Montpelier's Times Argus carries a report by "beer journalist" Andy Crouch that Long Trail Brewing Co. is on the verge of quietly purchasing Otter Creek and Wolaver's (both owned by Wolaver's, but operated separated). Excerpts from the article:

Long Trail, the Bridgewater Center craft brewery that celebrates its 20th birthday this year, is expected to close on the deal by the end of December.

"I can say that the employees of Otter Creek and Wolaver's were informed of Long Trail's intention to purchase the brewery early last week," Crouch wrote in an e-mail. "The two companies are presently in the due diligence process and both are mum about the future plans for the combined enterprise, including the future of particular brands."

Named after a 90-mile stream that flows into Lake Champlain, Otter Creek was founded in 1991 and purchased nearly eight years ago by the family that owns Wolaver's Certified Organic Ales. According to industry reports, Long Trail brewed about 30,000 barrels of beer a year as of 2005 and distributes in 22 states.

The sale, if finalized next month, could potentially greatly boost Long Trail's slate of beer offerings and expand its network distribution beyond the northeastern United States. It was not clear Wednesday if Long Trail intends to keep the Otter Creek and Wolaver's brands. When Wolaver's purchased Otter Creek the company kept both lines intact and separate.

My feelings on this subject are fairly obvious: craft monopolies are bad for drinkers, they take away choice and dampen local flavors. It's nice to think the bigger company is purchasing the smaller in order to raise its profile and distribution, but inevitably the overlap leads to cannibalization and a reduction in offerings. Case in point: Crouch's suggestion that we'd see a substantial reduction of Otter Creek beers (w/ the exception of the popular Copper Ale) in order for Long Trail to take over their brewing capacity. That means no more Stovepipe Porter, 'Otter Summer, or Raspberry Brown Winter. You're ruining my formative drinking years, guy!

As craft beer continues to "trend" it's inevitable that bigger companies will snap up smaller, but they should remember that us consumers got into this game was for the unprecedented diversity of flavors; we're not going backwards from searching out the best new beers with the freshest and most innovative flavors in order to just drink Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Magic Hat, and the other big guys. So yeah. Take that, the man.

No comments:

Post a Comment