Pay-to-Play For Craft Beer?

A couple months ago, Pretty Things Beer went on a rant on twitter and exposed what many were questioning what was happening in Massachusetts.

“Ever heard the term “committed lines”? This is what it means. Breweries buy draft lines so their lame beers aren’t irrelevant.”

After Dann Paquette’s, founder of Pretty Things Beer, twitter rant, the Boston Globe released a story on how the Massachusetts regulators have launched an investigation into whether beer distributors, brewers, and retailers are violating state law by agreeing to promote certain beers at bars and liquor stores in exchange for payments that freeze out competitors. This isn’t the first time this has been reported. Back in 2010, James Ylisela from Crane’s Chicago Business paper went deep and found pay-to-play a large part of taps in Chicago.

brewhouse 2-58473

Pay-to-play isn’t just buying draft lines at bars. It’s also breweries or distributors may paying retailers to stock their beers over not competitors. Free beer, gift cards, and expensive equipment such as draft systems are also commonly used as part of pay-to-play. It’s an insanely dirty market scheme, greed is overtaking quality of craft beer. Not by breweries, but by bar and store owners. They want all they can get from those trying to make a living.

The manufacture, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages is heavily regulated throughout the United States, and much of this regulation was born in the aftermath of prohibition. These laws and regulations have gone unchanged for decades. The rapid expansion of the craft beer industry has drawn some of these regulations into question, highlighted the need for reform and increased craft beer customers’ awareness of why their favorite brew may not be offered at a particular establishment.

Another story of pay-to-play comes from co-owner of Idle Hands Craft Ales LLC Chris Tkach. He recalled an incident this year where a bar manager in Waltham said he had no room to stock Idle Hands because a distributor of competing beers had provided free keg equipment in exchange for reserving more tap handles.

“I asked if we could continue to be on tap, and the bar manager said, ‘No, this distributor bought all new [equipment] for us, and we have to dedicate those lines to them,’” said Tkach, who declined to name the bar.”

Pay-to-play is hard to expose, but it must be done. What are your thoughts on this?


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