Monday, December 21, 2009

A Conversation We All Need to Be Having

I got my Christmas present early this year. In part it was my wife's generous nature, in part it was done out of necessity. My 10 gallon batches being made for our holiday company are on schedule, but I am running out of storage capacity. When what to my wondrous eyes should appear, but a featured item at the Austin Home Brew Store Website, The Brew Cube.

It is plastic yes, and I've never used plastic, but I am ready to make that leap of faith. It's ideal because I can ferment 10gallons without wasting the space of two carboys. The extra three gallons leaves plenty of volume for a healthy yeast head, but its opaque exterior make it impossible to watch it form and churn, a simple pleasure I took for granted.

Ten gallons of Amber Ale Clone are in there now and ready to be transferred to a secondary vessel. The Brew Cube is so convenient that I will probably clean it and transfer the 10 gallons back into for aging, again saving lots of space.

With this extra space I will brew the Satsuma Wheat again this week. I have a slightly different recipe, more akin to the Rouge Wheat. In fact exactly akin, save Satsumas in lieu of apricots. In addition, to make it a more Winter ale I plan on adding mulling spices at flame out. Chamomile might make a nice addition as well as cinnamon, allspice, more citrus peels, etc.

Everything seems all set for an enjoyable holiday season, yet there is no joy in Mudville for a most depressing development has come to pass. The conversation transcribed below took place on Monday December 21, and carries an important Christmas Message. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the grammar corrected for the same reason:

Not Me: your off now?
Sent at 12:59 PM on Monday
me: yes i am off
Sent at 1:14 PM on Monday
Not Me: damn your black heart
Sent at 1:16 PM on Monday
me: mwha haha
Not Me: how was your weekend?
me: very nice, relaxing
we spent most of it with family
Not Me: coolio
and your working half days this week right
Sent at 1:22 PM on Monday
me: no i am off all this week
last week the kids had half days,but mine were full
Friday I took off around noon and never looked back
Sent at 1:31 PM on Monday
Not Me: hah
me too
went to nola and went to the Avenue Pub, then when I got back here, i have sinus problems now
at work and slightly miserable
me: the Avenue pub is great!
did you head about the problems with NOLA brew distributors?
Not Me: i had not
whats up
they're being sued by their distributor
Not Me: ?
me: they tried to switch distributors and got caught in a license legal argument
the old distributor sued and so a cease and desist order was called by a judge
Bar tender at the Bulldog told me all this and verifies
you can't get NOLA in this town anymore
some places have a few kegs, but when they're gone, they're gone
Blonde is nowhere in town
Not Me: wow
that sucks
me: yeah
worst case scenario is NOLA pulls out of LA for 2 years
Not Me: so they were trying to switch and got caught in a breech of contract?
wtf is with NOLA liquor producers?
both of them are screwy now
me: If I understand the situation correctly,
NOLA claims their distributor Glazer broke contract
when they claimed "premium distributive services"
Not Me: that's a hard one to press
me: to which NOLA says was not "premium" because they won't distribute on the weekends nor in the Quarter
so yeah until the dispute is settled, their new distributor, Southern Eagle, cannot sell a drop
NOLA can sell to Southern Eagle, but Eagle cannot sell to anyone else
screwy huh?
Not Me: welcome to LA
Sent at 1:41 PM on Monday

Welcome to LA will be the first thing I say to my visitors and, God willing, I will be able to serve them a NOLA brew. Now the half dozen of you who might be reading this most likely know the backwards-ass distributing laws that govern the State of Louisiana. It has taken a long time and a slow progression to repeal or amend most of the "Blue Laws" in my town. Now we can purchase alcohol on a Sunday whenever the spirits take me. (pun intended) But the 800 lb gorilla that prevents most of us Beer Nerds from satisfying our unquenchable pallet with a variety of fresh and unique brews is the distributing laws. These laws are in place as a form a political pork. There's more of gravy than grave in this set up. The only way for anyone to sell any fermented beverage in this state is through a middleman, a distributor.

These distributors are an independent company and, as with any independent company in place since Prohibition, the strong have survived by placing a parasitic, vice like grip on people's booze-to-money stream. I understand the need for such an organization. By going through a middleman we are setting up checks on sanitization and cost control, but there are only 3 of them who have any pull. New Orleans Lager and Ale Brewing Company has fallen victim to these companies greed and capitalistic intentions.

For some reason the legal norm is to hold the producers up to the whims of the distributors, not the other way around. After years of mediocrity in the beverage community, distributors need to go away like the dinosaurs. At one time 3 distributors was all that was needed because there were only 3 breweries, Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. It made sense for a distributor to hook up with a macro brewery to funnel the money from the consumers all over the world to a centralized location in St. Louis or Colorado, but the times have changed. We are clutching like barnacles on a sinking ship and trying to force an ever mutating market into a system which crushes creativity and prohibits change.

Moreover, the companies listed above are not even located in the United States. Craft brew is becoming our beer of choice and rather than embracing the change the courts of Louisiana are holding up our consumption on a technicality of legal terminology. Basically NOLA wanted to fire its distributor, it did, and now they cannot sell any brew at all. It could be that not a drop of NOLA flows for 2 years. That would cripple the company and set the flow of events leading up to where we are now back 30 years.

Update: Wednesday December, 23 Two days until Christmas

On Monday December 21, shortly after this post NOLA brew made this statement via their Facebook Page:

"We are pleased to announce that NOLA and Glazer's have resolved our differences and all legal proceedings are being terminated. Although we have had our differences with Glazer's, we are looking forward to working together in the future. They will serve as NOLA's distributor in the state of Louisiana."

So it seems the worst is over, though it appears that Glazer won the dispute. What that means as far as NOLA's desired distributing, I don't know. What I do know is that yesterday, while eating oysters with my wife, I ordered a NOLA Blonde, which has been hard to find, everyone was sure they were out, but the waitress checked and sure enough I got what I ordered. It has never tasted so good. Maybe now we'll see some of their new Hopitoulas make its way down here.