14 April 2011
I’ve been asked and prodded by more than a few of my readers and listeners, to state my opinion on the battle between Mad Elf and Rude Elf. I’ve been requested to pick the Troegs-team or the Brew-Works-Team and write blazing commentary or even boycott Troegs…but I’m afraid it’s just not that simple…
I think we’d all like to feel that the craft beer community is just that….a “community.” I know I’ve always felt like craft beer lovers and craft beer brewers were all one big extended family and we should all just get along. I know the brewers from Troegs and Brew Works and I also know many of the people involved personally, so again it’s just not quite that simple.
As consumers of craft beer we see the brewing community as our brothers and sisters, and I’ll admit I hate to see siblings fighting. I’d too would like to think the craft beer community should all get along and just co-brew beers together instead of arguing...but sadly I have to burst whatever warm-and-fuzzy bubble you may have by saying, craft beer is a business. Yep, I said it…the brews and breweries we love ARE at their core, a business. And while the heart of that brewery may be the creative endeavor of crafting a beer, the head of the brewery will always be business.
We’ve seen the number of craft and regional breweries grow dramatically over the last 10 years (11% in 2010 alone), and we’ve witnessed the proliferation of more and more new pico, nano and even macro breweries…all of which are producing more and more beer (an increase in over 1-million barrels in 2010 alone). And with that increase in beer comes an increase in competition. Breweries not only compete for your palate, but also for your money…and therein lies the reality.
Breweries NEED to compete. Brewing beer, running a brewery, packaging beer, and distributing beer is expensive…and it’s no longer enough to just brew a great beer…you have to compete. And with competition comes the pressure of business, and with the pressure of business comes legalities…and I’m sad to say that legalities bring us to where we are with Troegs and Brew Works today.
Do I wish Chris & John Trogner and Beau Baden could sit down over a beer and agree that the beer comes first?…sure I do….but I’m not paying the bills at either brewery. Do I wish the guys could just get together and brew Cooperative Elf or Collaborative Elf?…of course I do…but I’m not financing the expansion going on at Troegs or the growth going on a Brew Works.
If you were expecting a long diatribe on the technicalities of copyright law or labeling legalities, or even my over/under on who I think will “win” in this mess, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I haven’t done that in the past when national breweries slugged it out over beer naming and I definitely won’t do it with two of our local breweries involved.
In the end I say to my readers, “Please just stay out of the brewery business.” I cross my fingers for a common-sense resolution to this matter, but barring that…Let the lawyers fight this out. Don’t point fingers at the brewers or the beers they brew, and don’t do anything that would injure the reputation or future business of either of these great local breweries. Enjoy their beer and unless you’re paying their bills, just stay out of their business. I for one plan to hold my silent protest for an amicable solution by raising both a glass of Mad Elf and a glass of Rude Elf’s Reserve and toasting two great beers, or better yet maybe I’ll even blend the two and see what happiness I find at the bottom of the glass…..In the meantime, I’d suggest we all focus on enjoying the beer and forgetting the rest.