For eight days, we have stood quietly by and watched many of our front line consumers argue for and against the mission of Craft Beer Cellar. It’s been painful and tough to accept!
This industry means the world to us, and always has. The idea that we would sacrifice life and limb for a brewery who was making fantastic liquid, and trying to make it, isn’t far from our reality. This isn’t about them – in large part. We have seen at least one Boston-based beer business “professional” show us all that can be bad about business. Period.
We’ve read several journalists’ accounts and details. One of the articles used the term “infighting,” which gave us pause, because it is the most accurate aspect of the piece. Many of our customers, friends and family have asked about the list(s) that were mentioned in the internal memo that was simultaneously sent to members of the press and local breweries. It was just that, an internal communication. That should never have been seen by the public and it should also never have been taken to the degree it has been, especially in relation to the breweries mentioned as examples.
One thing we can promise you is that we are dealing with this and will continue to do so, in an efficient manner, so those of us who are passionate about this industry can keep our focus on selling and supporting really amazing beer as quickly as possible. We will not sacrifice the hard work, reputation and commitment of the large majority of our stores across the US, in the attempt to damage this Brand.
Craft Beer Cellar has always committed itself to continuing to re-evaluate beer, both currently on the shelf and not. In the past two years, particularly, we have seen beers move in both directions, on and off the shelf. We have never, not once, closed a door, completely, on any brewery. All breweries deserve the chance to improve and address brewing challenges, and at the same time, some will become complacent, and quality will fall below our standard.
The Brand, based in its headquarters in Belmont, MA, reached out to Lowell-based Merrimack Ales over the summer with concerns about an off flavor in their beers. Craft Beer Cellar Belmont, and several other CBC stores in Massachusetts, carried Merrimack’s beers earlier in the year, but stopped after this quality issue was detected. We had multiple positive exchanges with the team at Merrimack, who discovered a problem in their brewing operations.
After this, we recently retried three beers from the brewery, and they were all excellent. CBC Belmont received a shipment of two of their beers today, and the store is proud to have them back on the shelves to recommend and sell to customers.
We have also had several productive conversations with Down The Road Beer Company since this internal memo was circulated. Aside from communicating, listening and being heard (isn’t this a lesson from our previous election?), we’re working on nailing down a time to sit down together and talk about our companies and how we can work together, as well as taste their beer, which is just as important. We have been very honest with Down The Road, in sharing our opinions about their liquid, their company representatives, packaging and price.
And this is at the center of this challenge. We have several stores that have not always held quality, one of our guiding principles, in the high regard it should have been. These stores have often purchased beer taste-unknown, on packaging alone, but certainly not on taste and price. These stores also know that the days of a young Craft Beer Cellar not having the resources to both ensure they have the support they need, as well as holding our company philosophies in the highest regard (amazing beer, hospitality and education), are coming to their end. And this is where we are today.
It is neither Craft Beer Cellar’s intent or purpose to exclude amazing liquid that consumers are interested in. It is also not our mission to stand idly by and not participate in educational conversations about all that is going on in this industry. We have always held in the very highest regard, the beer, our education, and taking the very best care of our customers that we can. And this has not changed. We will not change what is important to the company, brewers and this industry, as a whole.
Have we not seen enough complacency from retailers in the early years of craft beer’s trek and growth?
We think so.
As we turn into 2017, we can promise you we will stay strong in our tireless effort and support for the amazing beers that make up our “Approved Beer List.” We will also never stop working, educating, listening and communicating about breweries that are newly opened, just beginning distribution, or have needed some time to work out their kinks in quality, packaging and economics. This list will be fluid and updated on a monthly basis by, namely, members of Craft Beer Cellar (The Brand and Certified Cicerone® store owners), though we expect to invite respectable members of our community to share in the evaluations.
Craft Beer Cellar was founded in 2010 by Certified Cicerones® Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker in Belmont, Massachusetts. Plans to franchise were announced in 2012 and the first franchise Craft Beer Cellar opened in Westford, MA in October 2013. Craft Beer Cellar Belmont won Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston award in 2013, 2014 and 2015. There are currently 29 stores open in 13 states, with 10 more stores currently in planning.