The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Little Brewery, Big Dreams of a Hop Bust

The hubbub today about beer distributors opposing California’s Prop 19, which would legalize marijuana, made me think of this anecdote by Anchor Steam‘s Fritz Maytag.

In this video produced by Reason.tv, Maytag relates a story about trying to get busted in the sixties with a bag of hops in San Francisco (skip to about minute 2:55 for the story, but the whole video is great):

In Maytag’s words:

“I had to drive through the Haight every night. I used to get hop samples that are green fluffy leafy things, and at one point I realized we are desperate for publicity and there’d be nothing better than getting arrested for having what would look like something green and leafy in my car and turn out to be hops. Y’know, false arrest. ‘Brewer is arrested for hops.’ In those days there weren’t any ‘little breweries.’ I mean, nobody had ever heard of anybody owning a brewery. let alone driving around with hops. I put hops on the passenger seat of my car. I had a little Porsche, and I drove home with the hops on the seat for – back and forth – at least a week, hoping to get arrested. Well, you couldn’t get arrested in the Haight-Ashbury in those days.”

Even without the bust, things ended up working out for Maytag and Anchor Steam.

Fritz Maytag is the great-grandson of Fredrick Louis Maytag who founded the Maytag Corporation. In 1965, Maytag purchased San Francisco’s Steam Brewing Company, which produced Anchor Steam Beer. At the time, Anchor Steam was known for being a godawful beer that was so bad, its brewery was on the verge of shutting its doors forever.

Maytag purchased the company, changed its recipe and brewing process, and took his “little brewery” to the big time. His success helped inspire many the craft beer movement in the seventies and the creation of many microbreweries throughout the U.S.

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Brewers Staying out of Marijuana Legalization Debate

In California, beer distributors are getting together to oppose the proposed legalization of marijuana.

On the ballot in California this November will be Proposition 19, a measure that would legalize marijuana and allow it to be taxed and regulated. California Beer & Beverage Distributors have contributed $10,000 to a committee that opposes Proposition 19, reports the Redding Record Searchlight.

The donation went to Safety First, the main coalition opposing Prop 19.

“Unless the beer distributors in California have suddenly developed a philosophical opposition to the use of intoxicating substances, the motivation behind this contribution is clear,” said Steve Fox, Marijuana Policy Project government relations director in a press release. “Plain and simple, the alcohol industry is trying to kill the competition.”

Two law enforcement agencies that oppose Prop 19 include the California Police Chiefs Association, which has donated about $30,000 and the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, which has donated about $20,500.

Meanwhile, California brewers such as Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing Co. took to their Facebook pages to release statements saying that neither company supports this campaign.

“Stone is not a part of this campaign in any way,” said Stone Brewing. “This issue has caught us of off guard. We are merely a non-voting Allied Member of the CA Beer & Beverage Distributors (CBBD). As such, Stone Brewing does not/cannot participate in the political action decisions of the CBBD.”

In its statement, Sierra Nevada also clarified its position.

“Although we are members of this organization, we were neither consulted – nor informed of – their decision to take a stand against California Proposition 19. Sierra Nevada’s role as an associate member grants no access or influence on the political agendas of the CBBD, and we had no knowledge of the organization’s intention to fight this ballot proposition,” said the company.

“We feel that people have the obligation to choose what is right for themselves without influence from outside interests,” Sierra Nevada said.

California has previously legalized medical marijuana.

Proposition 19 will be on the ballot in California on November 2, 2010.

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