THE TEAMSTERS last week called for a boycott of Guinness Stout, because the brewer is using non-union workers at its facility in Fogelsville, outside of Allentown.
Well, they’re going to have to get in line.
Seems everybody, from traditional stout sippers to vegans, has a bone to pick with the world’s biggest stout maker.
First, a bit of clarity:
The Fogelsville plant, which formerly brewed Pabst (and, before that, Schaefer), produces one product, and it ain’t black as ink. Instead, it’s damn near clear: Smirnoff Ice, the popular malternative.
The plant is owned by Guinness UDV North America, the U.S. importer of Guinness and Harp. The company is a subsidiary of the multinational Diageo conglomerate, which was formed in 1997 when Guinness merged with Burger King.
It’s leased to Total Logistics Control, a Michigan-based outfit that operates factories for other firms. TLC runs plants for ConAgra, Sara Lee and Beatrice.
When I asked TLC spokesman Steve Larry what other breweries it operates, he said, “None. In fact, this is actually not a brewery, either.”
Wha. . .?
According to Larry, “There is no brewing at all. . .We get the raw ingredients, mix them and bottle them. We don’t even use the brewing side of the facility.”
The mash tuns, the fermentation tanks – unused. In other words, the facility is a mere bottling plant. That’s one reason it employs fewer than half the number of workers that had produced Pabst.
And since they aren’t unionized, that has the Teamsters ticked.
Like I said, get in line. A lot of people hate Guinness, including:
LOCAL IRISH PUB OWNERS: Beer-splashers are red-faced because of the arm ‘s-length relationship between Guinness and a firm that develops trendy, upscale Irish pubs worldwide. Two years ago, the company owned a local branch of the Fado chain at 15th and Walnut streets.
About a dozen bars, including Finnegan’s Wake, the Irish Pub, O’Neal’s and McGillin’s, stopped pouring Guinness in protest of the competition.
VEGANS: Sprout-munchers are spitting because Guinness, like many beers, uses isinglass finings to promote clarity. In its purest form, isinglass is a gelatin produced from the air bladders of freshwater fish, including the sturgeon, according to the Vegan Society. (The society recommends that vegans switch to Budweiser – which uses beechwood chips as a fining agent – thus confirming my worst prejudices about carrot-snappers.)
TRADITIONALISTS: Old-timers are steaming because of a newfangled ultrasound tapping system.
They believe a Guinness is not a Guinness unless the pour is perfect. The brewery has spent millions promoting the perfect pour, claiming it’s essential in creating the stout’s smooth body and creamy head.
According to the Guinness Web site, a perfect pour takes 119.5 seconds, “to be exact.”
Baloney, Diageo exec Paul Walsh now says. “A two-minute pour,” he said in a statement, “is not relevant to our customers today.”
Thus, the brewery is now experimenting in England with a new procedure that would pour the stout in 15 seconds flat.
CELEBRITIES: The beautiful people are hissing because Guinness dropped the ball on one of their pet causes: Thalidomide victims.
Production of the morning sickness pill was halted in the ’70s when horrible birth deformities were tied to the medication.
The company that produced the pill in England is now owned by Guinness. Though the brewery set up a trust fund to pay victims, the money has run out.
Now, world champion boxer Prince Naseem Hamed and number of English soccer players are urging a boycott of Guinness till it comes up with adequate compensation.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS: Tree-huggers are barking because of the 1996 destruction of so-called eco-village that had been built on derelict Guinness property in the Wandsworth area of London. Guinness won eviction orders to oust about 40 squatters who had been living on the 13-acre site for about five months.
Now, several worldwide environmental groups continue to urge a boycott.
THE IRISH (CIRCA 1830s): The Catholics were fighting mad 170 years ago because Guinness was Orange. In the early 19th century, Guinness’ opposition to the United Irishmen was so strong, its stout was known as “Black Protestant Porter.” A nationwide boycott ultimately turned Guinness into a worldwide seller, as it developed an export trade to England.
Today, Guinness is brewed in 50 countries.
THE IRISH (CIRCA 2002): The whole country is stinging because of a dopey Irish joke.
To mark St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this year, Guinness sent out a promotional kit to publicans that including a pair of rubber feet with “L” and “R” printed on them.
The Irish World Heritage Centre immediately called for a boycott of Guinness, for stereotyping Irish people as “stupid or drunks.”
Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a year-old bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale.