For those of you beer geeks that already know, and or follow Beer Advocate you probably seen Dann of Pretty Things post about pay to play in Boston. Here's our stance -
I debated for a long time whether to chime in, or or whether to comment on this post or not. As somebody in the industry in MA who has some industry information, but no dog in the race because we run a package store as opposed to a bar and we're not in the Boston area, perhaps I could clarify some things and add some insight. Please note; that I'm not in the bar or brewery industry, so I can't fully speak for them. My goal is not to call anyone out, nor to judge, but perhaps for something good to come out of this. I would like the industry to instill some sort of ethics into craft beer standard operating practices.
If I had to bet my money on what will become of this and how things were done, I would say that every bar, distributer, and or brewery is currently operating within the legal scope within the law. At least they are on paper. In short, everything was done legally. Much like every other industry there's loopholes within the laws and there's ways to get around certain laws without breaking them or changing them but that requires one to walk a fine line. Perhaps some bars and/or corporations blatantly break the law, but it promise you, on paper it is well within the guides of the law.
The real question is "Is it ethical?"
What should be ethical in the craft beer community? I'd like the community to use this opportunity to talk about it and set ground rules.
And now let me take this time to play devils advocate and explain how pay to play has perhaps helps/helped the craft beer industry. Let's say the year is 1970, and bar X is just setting up shop in Boston. Distributor X and distributor Y walk-in and deals are made within the legal scope of the law. ( though perhaps as I said earlier perhaps probably not ethical) Distributor has six lines, distributor Y also gets six lines. Now this is 1970 and at the time there's less than 100 breweries in the USA.
Fast forward to the year 2014. Five new distributors have popped up as well as 1000's of breweries. By the years and, they're set to be 4000 breweries in the USA. This bar, still has the same 12 lines it's always had. It was set up by distributor X and distributor Y. Without pay to play, how would these new 3000-4000 breweries get on tap? Again I'm not saying it's right but I'm saying it's probably done within the legal scope of the law and again, it doesn't make it ethical.
I'll go on my own rant now and ask the question why does everybody care which beers on tap in Boston? The reason is statistics show that up to 60% of beer sold in Massachusetts happens in the greater Boston area. So to be there, is to be where the moneys is so of course money is going to be involved. It's just the Capitalistic way. Just my 2 cents.
Now, now how to educate the consumer to find the real dirty lines. Go to your local package store and ask for a keg list. Now look over the list.
If you notice bar a bar X has five beers from a specific distributor, and if you go back there some time later and that distributor has three beers on tap or six beers on tap that's probably evidence that the lines are probably free play.
My 2 cents - we stand behind Dann