IRELAND – On March 17th, The Irish Times printed a “Value for Money Stout” article that reviewed and ranked 5 Irish Stouts. Out of the five stouts ranked – which included Beamish, Guinness, Murphy’s, and Mark’s and Spencer – O’Hara’s Leann Folláin, Carlow Brewing Company’s newest product, was the only one that received 5 out of 5 stars. This new stout is similar to their Celebration Stout and currently is only available in Ireland. Another interesting note to point out is that Mark’s and Spencer Irish Stout, which received 3 stars, is also brewed by Carlow Brewing.O’Hara’s U.S. products are represented and imported by Distinguished Brands International, Littleton, CO.
ENGLAND – Fuller’s launched its Gales Seafarers Ale as part of its year-round portfolio of cask ales. This previously seasonal ale was introduced twice and proved itself to be a big hit with both pubs and customers alike not only because of its taste, but also because Gales Seafarers Ale helps raise money for Seafarers UK, a charity that helps people who have worked at sea, including serving and former members of the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and fishing fleets and their families. Gales Seafarers Ale has helped raise over £8,000 over the last two years for the leading UK maritime charity. The brew uses only the finest quality English malt and hops along with the unique Gales yeast. The Admiral hops used continues the nautical theme and add to Seafarers fresh aroma.Fuller’s U.S. products are represented and imported by Distinguished Brands International, Littleton, CO.
INDUSTRY – Recently 540 bartenders from across the U.S. were surveyed and asked about consumer trends they were witnessing in the on-premise market. Here are some take-aways from the bartenders surveyed:
• 63% stated consumers are sticking with brands they are familiar with, and shy away from unfamiliar specialty brands.
• 49% stated consumers are ordering fewer drinks, but are ordering stronger drinks.
• 67% stated consumers are ordering lower priced brands and not requesting specific named brands.
• 53% stated consumers are more often ordering a beer versus a mixed drink.
• 78% stated that consumers are more often asking about the cost of drinks, and
• 85% stated that more consumers are requesting drinks that are on special
It has already been well reported that in these tough economic times consumers are opting to stay home rather than going out to bars and restaurants, and that when they do go out, they are more consciences about what they are drinking and how much they are spending. The results of this survey seem to support that data as well as supporting reports that wine and spirits is losing market share to beer.
UNITES STATES & CANADA – Diageo North America announced they appointed Mark Hubler as President over the U.S. control states effective April 1st. These control states represent 19 jurisdictions and contribute over 20% of Diageo’s U.S. spirits volume. Mark will oversee the GMs for the West, Central, Northeast and Southeast control states. He will also serve as liaison to the NABCA on behalf of Diageo and as a member of the Control State Industry Steering Committee. Hubler’s most recent role was Senior VP and General Manager for Diageo’s mid-south cluster.
CALIFORNIA – Partida Tequila, LLC announced that Michael Mondavi, co-founder of the Robert Mondavi Winery and new founder of Folio Fine Wine Partners, and Maurice Kanbar, noted inventor who created Skyy Vodka in 1993 and eventually sold it to Gruppo Campari in 2005, have made capital investments in the company and have also joined the board of directors. The investment terms were not disclosed. Not long after this information was released, Partida Tequila has entered into an agreement with Republic National Distributing Company to begin distributing their brand in Texas. Partida Tequila made its debut in 2005 and is currently distributed in 17 states as well as Mexico, the UK and Australia..
ILLINOIS — FORTUNE BRANDS appointed Matthew Shattuck as CEO of its Beam Global Spirits & Wine business. The appointment is effective April 22. Shattuck spent 6 years at Cadbury Plc as the president of the Britain, Ireland, Middle East & Africa region which accounted for nearly one-third of Cadbury’s total revenues. Before joining Cadbury, Matthew was COO of Unilever Best Foods North America. He, his wife and three children plan to relocate from the UK to the Chicago area.
UNITED STATES & BELGIUM – Anheuser-Busch InBev has completed the sale of InBev USA LLC (Labatt USA) to KPS Capital Partners. Terms were not disclosed at the time. If you recall, AB-InBev was required by the U.S. Department of Justice to sell that business to win antitrust approval for its $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch last year
NEW JERSEY — Governor Jon Corzine proposed raising wine and spirits taxes by 25% for wholesale purchases. State retailers would be responsible for paying the increased taxes which may or may not be passed through to consumers. The proposed tax increase would not be applied to beer. The current tax on wine is 70 cents per gallon; liquor is $4.40 per gallon. In comparison, the current beer tax is 12 cents per gallon. According to local reports, there have been no changes in the wholesale tax in the past 20 years.
WEST VIRGINIA – On March 11th, after previous attempts failed, the West Virginia House of Delegates finally passed a bill, HB2719, to allow the sale of high-quality craft beers in West Virginia. The new legislation will allow the permissible maximum alcohol level for beer sold in the state to jump to 12 percent by volume from the previous 6 percent. Next step is for it to head to the Senate. Supporters of the bill state the current restrictions put the state at a competitive disadvantage for the fact that the sale of craft beer and microbrews is a $5.8 billion a year industry nationally which they have not been able to tap into. West Virginia is one of only two states that continue to restrict distribution of beer with alcohol content at or under 6 percent. Kathy Folio, president of North Central Distributors in Clarksburg, said that distributors are realizing that the lack of beer selection was driving customers to bordering states. Folio said she had never thought of what the distributors were losing due to this law until she spoke with a distributor in Pennsylvania, who said 70 percent of his sales are from West Virginians.
MASSACHUSSETTS — The Boston Beer Co., brewers of Samuel Adams beer, announced it will be raising prices by 3% in order to help offset higher packaging costs. The company is predicting an increase of costs, roughly 7% – 9%, in part due to a new contract for the packaging for its glass bottles. The company is expecting earnings per share for 2009 to be $1.40 – $1.70 per share while analysts are predicting $1.63 per share.
AUSTIN, TX – On March 10th, a statewide poll conducted during the last week of February 2009 by Baselice and Associates was released with results showing the majority of voters oppose opening liquor stores on Sundays. One reasons for the opposition was that there was no additional demand from the voters to be open on Sundays. According to the poll, more than 80% of voters think current liquor store hours already provide enough time and convenience to shop for alcoholic beverages. Another key point that fueled the opposition was the report that New Mexico saw a definitive rise in alcohol-related vehicle fatalities on Sundays after the same type of law was passed in their state. The margin of opposition was a strong 67% against to 29% for (with margin of error of +/- 3.5%).
INDIANA — Southern Wine & Spirits is filing a suit against the state of Indiana after the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission said it is not eligible to distribute liquor in the state because the owners are not residents of Indiana. The SW&S lawsuit argues that Indiana is violating the Commerce Clause by violating the company’s right to do business across state lines. Indiana dropped its residency restrictions on beer and wine distribution years ago because beer and wine distributors are protected by franchise laws. However, liquor wholesalers do not have the same protection. Franchise laws prevent suppliers from switching distributors without some sort of compensation. Liquor wholesalers also feel that state regulation for companies based outside the state of Indiana would prove to be a more difficult task. Currently, alcohol distribution is controlled mainly by National Wine & Spirits. On a side note…SW&S already won a similar court battle in Texas in 2007 where a law required distributors to live in the state at least one year. Stay tuned…
UTAH – It’s looking probable that Utah legislature will do away with the state’s private club law and Zion curtain requirements. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was one of the biggest advocates of eliminating the private clubs in order to boost the state’s $6 billion a year tourism industry. The “liquor reform package” came about after intense negotiating between Huntsman’s staff, state legislators, representatives of hospitality and restaurant industries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The negotiations led to a compromise that will replace “private clubs” with a scanner that will be used to verify driver licenses of people who look younger than 35 years old. Changes relating to the Zion curtain would allow bartenders to pass a drink to a patron across the bar. Previously, drinks had to be made behind a glass barrier and then walked around the bar to serve drinks to the patrons. New restaurants will be required to have a separate area for drinks to be made that is out of the view of children. The new legislation will also include stricter penalties for drunken driving. Examples would be repeat offenders could forfeit their vehicles, underage drunken drivers could lose their license and bar owners could face more legal liability if drunk patrons are involved in accidents. If the legislature passes, the provisions could be put into place as soon as May 12th.
ILLINOIS – Wirtz Beverage Group will rename all of its distributors across the U.S. to Wirtz Beverage Illinois, Wirtz Beverage Iowa, Wirtz Beverage Minnesota, Wirtz Beverage Nevada and Wirtz Beverage Wisconsin. The distributorships will begin operating under the new names in May 2009. The new Senior Vice President/General Manager for each state operation will be Julian Burzynski for Wirtz Beverage Illinois, Kevin Ryan for both Wirtz Beverage Iowa and Wirtz Beverage Minnesota, Ray Norvell for Wirtz Beverage Nevada, and Dick Deutsch for Wirtz Beverage Wisconsin. President of the company, Rocky Wirtz, stated this renaming is part of a corporate investment to unify its brand, operations and infrastructure.
TOPEKA, KS – The Kansas Senate committee killed a bill that would allow gas stations and grocery stores to sell full-strength beer. Currently, grocers and convenience store owners can only sell beer that is 3.2% alcohol by weight or less. Liquor stores vehemently objected and fought back stating the change in the current law would create thousands of new competitors and could drive many liquor stores out of business. This request has been raised many times before and has failed as many times as well.
FORT COLLINS, CO – New Belgium Brewing, known for its flagship brand Fat Tire Amber Ale, will be drastically expanding its distribution and portfolio in 2009. In addition to seven year round beers and four seasonal releases, New Belgium will be producing four small batch Lips of Faith beers, four collaborative beers with Seattle-based Elysian brewing, and four new Loose Lips beers – the latter being for internal and tasting room consumption only. The creative surge is said to be due to the fact that the brewery will be entering six new markets by the end of summer 2009: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota and Wisconsin. No distributors have been announced at this time.
GEORGIA – For the third consecutive year, a bill allowing voters to decide whether to legalize beer, wine and liquor sales on Sunday didn’t survive. Sen. Seth Harp pulled the bill because he didn’t have enough votes to pass it out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. There is a similar bill relating to sales on Sunday that currently remains alive in the House. Although, alcoholic drinks can be sold on Sundays in restaurants and bars in most parts of Georgia, it is one of three states, including Connecticut and Indiana, which completely bans beer, wine and liquor sales on Sunday.
ARKANSAS – On March 4th, Arkansas became the 36th state to repeal its prohibition era Blue Law which banned spirit sales at liquor stores on Sunday. The new law also permits restaurants to serve alcohol for 4 hours longer on Sundays, from 10:00 am to Midnight. Senate Bill 121 was sponsored by Senator Robert Thompson and was signed by Governor Mike Beebe. It took effect immediately upon signing. The most obvious effect of the new law is that it should help raise revenue without raising taxes in this tough economy. Fourteen other states still cling to Sunday sales bans: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Of those, Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota and Texas all have pending legislation to repeal these Sunday Blue Laws. Another significance of this repeal quick to be pointed out is that Arkansas borders 4 states listed above; Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Consumers from these bordering states may be making road trips in the future.
BELGIUM — Anheuser-Busch InBev’s fourth quarter profit dropped 95 percent due mainly to restructuring charges – paying the costs of debt refinancing for the $52billion takeover that formed the company last year. The fact that beer sales fell flat did not help either. It was stated that executives would not get bonuses because the company missed targets to expand last year. The focus of the world’s largest brewer is now on reducing the debt from the $52billion takeover by aggressively shaving costs and raising money by selling off nearly $7billion in assets. The company also plans to reduce capital spending and cut an additional $500million from its U.S. operations this year – not necessarily in the way of job cuts. AB-InBev said it already saved more than expected so far – $250million in 2008. AB-InBev expects a flat year ahead but refused to give a 2009 profit outlook. Sales volumes were down 0.3 percent last year, which was not as bad as the total beer industry, where volumes fell 0.8 percent. Although, AB-InBev total 2008 profits were down 41%, revenues increased 12% from 2007.
FLORIDA – On March 2nd, Southern Wine & Spirits (SWS) appointed Kevin Fennessey to the newly created position of Senior VP of Marketing. Kevin has been in the business almost 30 years and most recently served as President and CEO at The Absolut Spirits Company. The appointment becomes effective April 1st and he will report directly to Brad Vassar, Executive VP and General Manager.
ALABAMA – On March 3rd, the Alabama House voted 49-37 passing a bill allowing the sale of beer with alcohol content up to 13.9% by volume. Previously the cap was 6% by volume. Next step – the bill moves to the Senate. A similar version of this bill has already been approved by the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville. Jackson said beer with higher alcohol content was available in neighboring states and he felt that allowing the sale of these beers in Alabama will keep that money in Alabama.
And finally….for St. Patrick’s Day….
DISTINGUISHED BRANDS offers a wee bit of Irish humor….
“You’ve Been Out Drinking Again”
An Irishman had been drinking at a pub all night. The bartender finally said that the bar is closing. So the Irishman stood up to leave, fell flat on his face. He tried to stand one more time; same result. He figured he would crawl outside and get some fresh air and maybe that will sober him up. Once outside, he stood up and fell on his face again. So he decided to crawl the four blocks home. When he arrived at the door, he stood up and fell flat on his face. He crawled through the door and into his bedroom. When he reached his bed he tried one more time to stand up. This time he managed to pull himself upright, but he quickly fell right into the bed and was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He was awakened in the morning to his wife standing over him, shouting, “SO YOU’VE BEEN DRINKING AGAIN!” Putting on an innocent look, and intent on bluffing it out he said, “What makes you say that?”
“The pub just called; you left your wheelchair there again.”
The Irish Reunion
A man stumbles up to the only other patron in a bar and asks if he could buy him a drink.
“Why, of course,” comes the reply. The first man then asks, “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Ireland,” replies the second man.
The first man responds: “You don’t say, I’m from Ireland too! Let’s have another to Ireland.”
“Of course,” says the second.
Curious, the first asks: “Where in Ireland?”
“Dublin,” comes the reply.
“I can’t believe it! Me too! Let’s have another round of drinks to Dublin!”
The second man can’t help himself, “What school did ya attend?”
“Saint Mary’s”, replies the first man. “I graduated in ’62.”
“This is becoming unbelievable!!!” They say in union.
About that time, in comes one of the regulars and sits down at the bar. “What’s up?” he asks the bartender.
“Nothing much,” replied the bartender. “The O’Malley twins are drunk again!”
The Irish Miracle
An Irishman who had a little too much to drink is driving home from the city one night and, of course, his car is weaving violently all over the road. A cop pulls him over.
“So,” says the cop to the driver, “Where have ya been?”
“Why, I’ve been to the pub of course,” slurs the drunk.
“Well,” says the cop, “It looks like you’ve had quite a few to drink this evening.”
“I did all right,” the drunk says with a smile.
“Did you know,” says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms across his chest, “that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?”
“Oh, thank heavens,” sighs the drunk. “For a minute there, I thought I’d gone deaf.”
The Irish Predicament
Drunk, Ole Mulvihill (From the Northern Irish Clan) staggers into a Catholic Church, enters a confessional box, sits down but says nothing. The Priest coughs a few times to get his attention but the Ole Mulvihill just sits there. Finally, the Priest pounds three times on the wall. The drunk mumbles, “ain’t no use knockin, there’s no paper on this side either.”
Two Irishmen, Patrick & Michael, were adrift in a lifeboat following a dramatic escape from a burning freighter. While rummaging through the boat’s provisions, Patrick stumbled across an old lamp. Secretly hoping that a genie would appear, he rubbed the lamp vigorously. To the amazement of Patrick, a genie came forth. This particular genie, however, stated that he could only deliver one wish, not the standard three. Without giving much thought to the matter, Patrick blurted out, “Make the entire ocean into O’Hara’s Irish Stout!” The genie clapped his hands with a deafening crash, and immediately the entire sea turned into the finest brew ever sampled by mortals. Simultaneously, the genie vanished. Only the gentle lapping of O’Hara’s Irish Stout on the hull broke the stillness as the two men considered their circumstances. Michael looked disgustedly at Patrick whose wish had been granted. After a long, tension-filled moment, he spoke:
“Nice going Patrick! Now we’re going to have to pee in the boat!
A man was just waking up from anesthesia after surgery and his wife was sitting by his side. His eyes fluttered open and he said “You’re beautiful.” Then he fell asleep again. His wife had never heard him say that before so she stayed by his side. A few minutes later his eyes fluttered open and he said “You’re cute.” The wife was disappointed because instead of “beautiful” it was now “cute” and she asked “What happened to beautiful?” The man replied, “The drugs are wearing off”
Muldoon lived alone in the Irish countryside with only a pet dog for company. One day the dog died and Muldoon went to the parish priest and asked “Father, my dog has died. Could ya be saying a mass for the poor creature?” Father Patrick replied “I’m afraid not, we cannot have services for an animal in the church but there are some Baptists down the land and there’s no tellin’ what they believe. Perhaps they’ll do something for the creature.” Muldoon said “I’ll go right away Father. Do ya think $5,000 is enough to donate to them for the services?” Father Patrick exclaimed “Sweet Mary, Mother of Jesus!! Why didn’t ya tell me the dog was Catholic?”
Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish whiskey!”
Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Paddy looked up again and said, “Never mind, I found one.”
Flynn staggered home very late after another evening with his drinking buddy Paddy. He took off his shoes to avoid waking his wife, Mary. He tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step. As he caught himself by grabbing the banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump. A whiskey bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful. Managing not to yell, Flynn sprung up, pulled down his pants, and looked in the hall mirror to see that his butt cheeks were cut and bleeding. He managed to quietly find a full box of Band-Aids and began putting a Band-Aid as best he could on each place he saw blood. He then hid the now almost empty Band-Aid box and shuffled and stumbled his way to bed. In the morning, Flynn woke up with searing pain in both his head and butt and Mary staring at him from across the room.
She said, “You were drunk again last night weren’t you?”
Flynn said, “Why you say such a mean thing?”
“Well,” Mary said, “it could be the open front door, it could be the broken glass at the bottom of the stairs, it could be the drops of blood trailing through the house, it could be your bloodshot eyes, but mostly…..it’s all those Band-Aids stuck on the hall mirror.