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|Rob & Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers -- long and interesting interview with The Street.com|
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Registered Member #510Joined: Sat Jul 07 2012, 08:02AM
City & State: Cheyenne, Wyoming
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| ...well worth the read. Kurt and Rob deal directly with Widmer being kicked out of the (Craft) Brewer's Association in 2007 and the politics behind that decision... |
After you joined the Craft Brew Alliance in 2007, the Brewers Association craft beer industry group reached the decision that Widmer Brothers was no longer a craft brewer because the 32% of the Alliance owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev exceeds their 25% threshold for a big brewery's ownership stake. Does it sting a bit that because of a business decision you made, people you've worked with for decades -- people you probably still see on a regular basis -- hold this opinion of your brewery?
Kurt: It was a political decision.
At the time, it shocked me and stung. I know who was on the board and I know exactly how they voted. It was not public, but having good friends on the board, they told me "this is how it went down."
I can hold a grudge longer than anyone in the history of mankind. Even though I can be on a friendly basis with the people who voted against us, it always taints the relationship. Also, it's been positive for the people who voted on our behalf.
We've kind of gotten over that, but we've made it pretty clear that even if they changed the definition, we wouldn't want to be a part of that organization because it's a political organization, and that's not why we got into this.
Rob: Plus, as most people point out, it's a trade organization. They do good things for beer, but their No. 1 purpose is the protection of small businesses -- that just happen to be brewers. Large brewers.
Kurt: From my standpoint, it may be somewhat best that we are distanced from that organization. We just came back from the Craft Brewers' Conference and it's a continuation of a bad direction in which they purport to be promoting harmony, beer, good times and positive things, but then there are examples like creating dissent in the ranks by throwing us out. There were members who were not in support of that, but that was a board decision. While they're saying one thing, they're doing the opposite, and I'm not sure it's great for Craft Brew Alliance to be affiliated with an organization that does that.
There's no point in provoking the large breweries, which they do; there's no point in provoking wholesalers unnecessarily, which they do.
However, there are plenty of people who monitor the industry and track the numbers who consider Widmer Brothers a craft brewery and state emphatically that they can't understand how Kurt and Rob Widmer can't be considered craft brewers.
Kurt: The folks at Modern Breweries, the folks at Beer Marketer's Insights, all those guys -- the Beer Institute...
Rob: As time goes on, the folks who are at the BA under the level of the board wish that they didn't have to deal with that. Every once in a while we get someone at the BA who contacts us about participating in something and we have to remind them that we're not members. Their reactions indicate they wish that they weren't in that position. And the board changes ...
Kurt: The initiative was Jim Koch. This was all his idea. He had his own explanations that were politically motivated and there was a sufficient majority of the board that went along with him.
Jim is a very intelligent man and you can't knock his success -- he's the most successful craft brewer -- but it was always a fascination that he started as a virtual brewer and we started as bricks and mortar from Day 1. He contorted the definition so that a bricks-and-mortar brewer doesn't exist, but a virtual brewer does. We were fascinated that enough people went along with that, but one of the membership stood up on our behalf and asked to put it to a popular vote. The board said they weren't going to do that, but they would have lost. I guarantee that.
Follow link for full interview:
[ Edited Sat May 03 2014, 08:35AM ]
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