I’ve never tasted Wasatch Brewery’s beers, but I like its style.
The Utah microbrewery is in trouble with the U.S. Olympic Committee over its slogan that proclaims it “the unofficial beer of the 2002 Winter Games.” According to the Salt Lake City organizers of the Winter Olympics, that’s a little too close to Anheuser-Busch’s real estate; the beer Borgs from St. Louis paid 50 million bucks for the right to call itself the “Official Beer of the 2002 Winter Olympics.”
“It was one of those off-handed thoughts,” Greg Schirf, Wasatch’s president, told me in a phone conversation this week. “We painted a delivery truck with the slogan and drove it around town for a couple of days. Next thing we know, we get a letter from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee demanding that we cease and desist, which we completely ignored.”
After the organizers threatened further legal sanctions, Schirf invited the local press over to the brewery for a few beers. “It was the lead story in Salt Lake City for weeks,” Schirf laughed. “The issue kind of stirred up a pent-up animosity toward the Olympic Committee.” Though the Olympics are four years away, locals are already hassled by roadway construction and the rising cost of doing business, he said.
Things continued to heat up this month when the U.S. Olympic Committee called a press conference and accused Wasatch of “ambush marketing” for illegally glomming onto the Olympic trademark.
How an alcoholic beverage can claim to be the official anything of the Olympic games is beyond Joe Sixpack – unless the sponsors are promoting the unsettling image of drunken ski jumpers hurtling over the edge of a snowy cliff.
As for the unofficial beer of the Winter Games, Schirf said, “We were just having some fun, and the big guys acted like somebody molested them. If Augie [Busch] has a problem, he can call me personally. But the only way I’m going to cease and desist is if they tie me down and make me drink Budweiser.”
Reports of Pretzel City’s death are, to steal the words of that bourbon-sipper, Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated. The Reading, Pa., brewery’s president, Scott Baver, told Joe Sixpack this week that rumors his tiny 2-year-old brewery is going out of business are untrue. In fact, he said, it has surpassed predicted revenues by 100 percent.
The company, however, is in the midst of merger talks with two unnamed regional brewers. And its bottling contract with Independence Brewing is up for renewal. Currently available: a Belgian Witbier, Duke of Ale IPA, Steam Horse Lager and a Kolsch-style Golden Ale.
Meanwhile, Pretzel City has been chosen to produce draft versions of three European brews for the American market. In addition to Germany’s Bolton Alt and Belgium’s Abbey Allun, it’ll be brewing the sweet ‘n’ strong La Binchoise honey beer, also from Belgium.
“It’s a good selling point for my brewery,” Baver, 33, said of his foreign contracts. “If I’m good enough for the Europeans, my own house brands have got to be pretty good, too.”
BURPIN’ WITH THE SHERPAS
Planning to load up your yak with beer on that long-awaited expedition to the summit of Mount Everest? Make sure it’s canned brew – bottles have been banned by the Nepalese government because trekkers leave behind an estimated 200,000 of them each year.
Cans, the officials reason, can be easily crushed and carried back from base camp.
Just like down the shore.
E-mail correspondent Mark Heineman, responding to Joe Sixpack’s report last month of stolen bar glassware, suggests that bars follow the example of city supermarkets that rent grocery carts for a quarter.
On the first round, he says, have the customers pay for their beer plus five bucks for the glass. Then, you continually trade your glass in for a fresh one. When you’re finished drinking, turn in your glass and get your $5 back. “That way,” Heineman reasoned, “if someone steals the glass, they actually paid $5 for it.”
From Anheuser-Busch’s 10-Q filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Aug. 12: The company is currently analyzing opportunities for additional discount reductions or selective price increases in the fourth quarter of this year.
What that means, according to stock analysts who read these reports over martini lunches, is Bud is pulling out of the Great Price War of ’98. One analyst told Reuters we may see modest price hikes during football season. If Coors and Miller go along, the prices will get steeper next year.
Joe Sixpack (written this week with a bottle of Yards ESA) appears every other Friday.