The great Ypsilanti Beer War

Rene Greff, the owner of Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery, just left the following note in a thread about the renaming of the Ypsitucky Jamboree, and I thought that I’d move it up here to the font page, as I we haven’t had a good, bloody fight here in the past few days.

How about (we call the event) the Anheuser-Busch Jamboree? Looks like Gerry French and the fine folks at the DTCDC are going to thank us for all of our support by freezing us out yet another Ypsi festival. Budweiser bought the rights to the Heritage Festival for $5,000 and evidentally the French’s believe that should give them exclusive rights to all of the DTCDC festivals including the jamboree. So it looks like another “local” festival with no local beer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I’m an investor in the Corner Brewery. So, I guess you could make the assumption that I’m on the side of the Greff’s in this one. And there’s also the fact that I think Budweiser is pisswater. Then again, though, I’ve also recently been called a bitch of the French’s.

Putting all of my alliances aside for a moment, can someone explain to me how decisions about which beer is served at festivals is made? I’m guessing that most festivals are produced by private individuals. Entities, like the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, I’m assuming, rent the park for a day, to host something like the Summer Beer Festival, and, in return, they pay the City some rental fee, plus enough money to compensate us for police and other services. So, in a case like that, I’d imagine that the entity renting the park would call the shots relative to what vendors get brought in. Then, however, there must be other cases, where some quasi-public entity, like the Depot Town Community Development Corporation, is the organization renting the park and hosting the event. And, in those instances, I would imagine, the organization would request proposals, and make a choice accordingly. And, I think that’s probably where the event formerly known as the Ypsitucky Jamboree finds itself, right? So, I guess, my question is – what, in this instance, was the process for selecting a beer vendor?

I don’t think I’d want the City to demand that private entities renting the park choose only local beer, but, if it’s a City-sponsored thing, especially one run by a non-profit dedicated to local economic development, it would seem as though our local tax-paying companies would at least be given a chance to compete.

Sorry if I come across as terribly naive, but I’ve really never given much thought to the politics behind such things before… At any rate, I thought that it would make for an interesting discussion.

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  1. Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know anything about the politics, either, but $5000 doesn’t seem like a lot to me. I mean, I couldn’t afford it, but I would think that “buying the rights” to something would be more expensive.

    Given what seems to be the low price, I would think that local breweries would maybe be able to pay for the rights. I don’t know the Corner’s finances, but they do get several hundred bucks each month from me :)

  2. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Damn hillbillies and their pisswater.

  3. John Gawlas
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I may have been the individual who negotiated the original “sponsorship” deal with John Craig of Daniel Jacob (Budweiser distributor) for the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival at least 10 years ago. Yes, we agreed to give them exclusivity for the beer served at the festival (which included the WEMU Jazz Tent in Depot Town). Yes it was to pay the bills…but then, the YHF was a free event so there was no revenue from attendance. Then again, there were no local beers producers that we were cutting out.

    I agree that before DTDDA cuts an exclusivity deal, they need to talk with local businesses and our local producers.

  4. John Gawlas
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Make that 15 years ago. (I’m trying to remember the last year that WEMU had the Jazz Tent during YHF.)

  5. Merrill Guerra
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    I would like to address a couple of points.

    The beer decision for the Jamboree has NOT BEEN DECIDED UPON. This additional controversy is neither welcome nor appreciated when we haven’t even made a final decision.

    From my personal standpoint (not the view of the board here), I do not appreciate being brought out into the public arena for a public hanging when I am in the midst of trying to resolve an issue which, as I state above, HAS NOT BEEN DECIDED. It makes it very difficult to make a reasonable and responsible decision when we are under attack. Bringing this to the public forum makes it much harder to negotiate and come up with a solution that is win-win for the different parties involved.

    Again, personal feelings here, I really appreciated Rene’s thoughtful and reasoned and passionate support during the Ypsitucky controversy! It was amazing! I am a bit hurt that she didn’t give us an extra day or two to work through the issues we’re dealing with to try to come to a resolution that works for everyone (which may or may not be possible, I understand that, but we’re trying).

    I’m sure no one has noticed SE Michigan is in a depression here and $2500 plus in kind services (signage/advertising) is a LOT of money when you’re trying to start a festival. That said, there is the importance of supporting local businesses and we GET THAT! So as a board, we’re trying to be creative as well as support a relationship (with another LOCAL business) that has existed for over 10 years and been worth over $25,000 to the DTA/DTCDC and has helped contribute directly to the improvements that have been done in Depot Town. Please tell me that you understand the value in trying to preserve a relationship like that and give us time and space to both do what is both right AND prudent (which as board members we have a FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY, the DUTY OF CARE and the DUTY OF LOYALTY to uphold).

    BTW, Daniel L. Jacob’s IS a local business as well (located on Carpenter Rd in Ypsi). The money comes out of their funds not the huge BUD coffers.

    In the end we may not be able to make everyone happy, but we are trying to do what is right both for the jamboree and for local businesses.

  6. Kristin
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, Merrill. That was a complete overreaction. And a *lot* of mid-sentence capitalization.

  7. Simon
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I grand Ypsitucky tradition, shouldn’t we each bring our own moonshine?

  8. Merrill
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I apologize if that came across too strong (lots of caps – guess italics would have been a better choice for emphasis -didn’t mean the “yell”). It’s been a challenging couple of weeks and I’ll admit my filter is a bit scewed right now, but my basic argument is the sound and the feelings behind it are very real.

  9. Whatever
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    You make a good point about Daniel L. Jacobs Dist. being a local business. Sorry that all the whiny ass hipsters can’t sip their precious microbrew at their little festival. What a load of Bull-puckey. A local distributor steps up, donates time & money out of their own coffers, and some people just have to take a shit on it. Hey Corner Brewery…Sorry about your luck, I guess you should have been a little more on the ball. You didn’t know they were planning a festival? It’s all “Go Local” for you kids, until something doesn’t suit your fine, highbrow taste. Well, I’ll be in the park that weekend, enjoying some fine music, and an ice cold Bud with friends. Thanks Daniel L. Jacobs…This Bud’s for YOU!

  10. Oliva
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Take a walk along the river or in town, and what litter will you see more than any other? Budweiser cans and bottles, along with Slim Jim wrappers and mini liquor bottles. But Budweiser dominates among litter, not just here either–you see it across the country. Why is it that Budweiser drinkers litter so much? (Jeffrey Daumer [sp?] drank Budweiser. Jacques Chirac once said it was his favorite beer. Such a schmoozer.)

  11. Kevin B
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Also to note….Top of the Park in Ann Arbor does not serve any Michigan beer. Factoid: Michigan is in the top 5 when it comes to amount of micro-brewers per state (according to the Brewer’s Association).

  12. Aaron
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    That’s a shame that local beer would not be represented and especially so since the Corner Brewery has some really tasty beer… this bums me out even more about this festival.

  13. Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I would like it better to have local brews there, but they have legitimate authority over their festival, since they’re authoring it. Seems not many people get that concept for one reason or another. Also, a lot of people who might go to these festivals like bud better than microbrews, blasphemous though it be.

  14. Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    …but we’d all like it better if they used their legitimate authority to promote local beer.

  15. Whatever
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Yeah…and also to promote local businesses! Oh…wait…the Budweiser distributor who is helping them out IS a local business. Oops. Hey, I love the Corner Brewery, and on many occasions they have floated me down a sudsy river into dreamland. Unfortunately, not at the Ypsitucky Jamboree. but who knows. that’s a long way off. First we need a name.

  16. Trent
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Some occasions call for Bud. Here’s an idea though. How about have multiple beer vendors?

  17. West Cross
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Can’t say I’m thrilled about the idea but it’s pretty common. Ever wonder why you can only get certain types of beers at arenas? Whoever pays the most gets the rights. Same all the way down to schools. I remember my high school got a sweet free score board from Coke. Not completely free though, as all of a sudden all the Pepsi machines dissappeared.
    Who’s hardcore enough to drink Corner beer in the sun all day anyway? Pisswater is useful in certain situations.

  18. West Cross
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Even if they can’t sell it at the event I suspect the Corner will be doing good business the day of the festival, along with the rest of Depot Town and downtown. I suspect the beer on site will be expensive (whatever type it ends up being) so I know I’ll be planning to make a stop before and after the event and one of the local watering holes.

  19. Whatever
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Now you’re thinking West Cross. If you all want to support The Corner…then let’s organize a time when all of us blog reading festival attendees head over to grab a nice IPA or blonde. That may be a good show of support for the beers and brewery we love…

  20. Rumpleshirtskin
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Bud is swill, but that may fall in 2-step with the jamboree. ( Mark, please tell Mr Stringy I said I’m sorry.)

  21. purr-fect
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Better yet, let’s just all go to the Corner and drink instead of going to the festival. My palette is already soured by the whole Ypsi-tucky fiasco, anyway. Why the hell can’t we call it what we want? Why can’t we drink what we want? I’m just gonna take my bad attitude down to the Corner and wash the bad taste away with some good beer. Heck with the damn festival! I’ll bring a banjo and play my own damn bluegrass in the beer garden.

  22. Burt Reynolds
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    People find it strange my two favorite beers are New Castle and Bud Heavy. I guess I do too…

  23. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s fun to fight over stupid stuff sometimes. I think they normally call it “sports.”

  24. Posted June 18, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I need to happily report that Candace threw a bigger hissy fit than me and threatened to quit the CDC if they didn’t serve local beer at the festival. Candace – you’re the best. So while I’m a little dissapointed that it’s not going the be the Stone Bone Jamboree – at least Corner Brewery will be able to serve a Stone Bone beer. If only it were so easy to get the Ann Arbor Summer Festival to support local beer…

  25. Posted June 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    My editor got to my post too late. I don’t know all of the politics but Candace couldn’t have made this decision without a majority of votes from other CDC members so thanks to everyone who voted to support local beer – you know who you are.

  26. Posted June 19, 2009 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    What? They are going to have the good beer at the Lame Name Jamboree? Well, I dont care what the name is now. I am going!

  27. Posted June 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    So, a public apology is very definitely in order. As you probably know, there are many Frenches in town and certainly all are invidivuals with their own opinions and persoinalities. I made an aggregious error assuming that Andy French was on the same side as Gerry French in the whole Bud vs Local debate on the CDC which I absolutely shouldn’t have done. In fact Sandee, Bill, and Andy have all been HUGE supporters and have had our beer on tap at Cady’s (RIP) and Aubrees since the day we opened our doors. So, next time I go on public rant, I will choose my words a bit more carefully to avoid any collaeral damage – (sorry Andy, you didn’t deserve that).

  28. talk-is-everything
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    What are the taxable boundaries of this little ‘berg, if Carpenter Rd is a local, tax contributing business?

    Not to denigrate at all, but I thought our tax powers stopped with Golfside and Michigan or so as boundaries.

  29. Ricker 76er
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Wait, so is Rene saying that Corner Beer WILL be served at the festival?

  30. Posted June 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I saw Matt at the Brewery last night and he confirmed that they will be selling beer there. I didn’t ask, however, if they’d be the exclusive provider.

  31. amused1
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Why do I kinda hope they come up with special brews like “fat abbot-wiser” or “strawberry blond-bush” for the event?

  32. ArcadiaJon
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I’d like to point out 1 big detail you are all missing from this whole silly argument (that hopefully looks like it’s being resolved as we speak – rock on, Rene!)…
    If the cash that is/was supposed to be paid for a sponsorship demands exclusivity, the local A-B wholesaler is in the wrong. We all know these things happen all over the place and all the time, as we see the effects in stadiums, etc., but it is illegal for a brewery to demand exclusive access to an event or facility in exchange for a monetary “contribution” or “gift.”
    Also, to clarify, any funds paid for beer events, etc by wholesalers are co-op dollars, typically split 50/50 with the brewery being promoted. Especially in the case of the large brewers, wholesalers have a HUGE amount of money dedicated to local “advertising” efforts, etc for each calendar year. I put advertising in quotes because everyone involved knows damn well the majority of those dollars from the large brewers are going toward pay-to-play situations such as this.
    To reply to an earlier comment as well, as a representative of a small brewery myself, I can say that $5000 is a huge amount for companies of our size, when you consider our operating costs, ridiculously high taxes, etc.

    That being said, it sounds as if this may be beginning to turn the right direction. If AB wants to pay for advertising, fine. But don’t try to push out the small brewers. These simple extortion attempts and tough-guy tactics are getting really old. Maybe it’s time we small brewers started blowing the whistle on the big brewers and wholesalers who constantly use these practices to try and make us disappear.
    We try to play fair, so should they.

    On that note… Drink Michigan Beer

  33. ArcadiaJon
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I’d like to add that I don’t mean to imply that the Frenches or anyone else in the DTCDA (is that the right acronym?) are trying to facilitate a pay-to-play situation or commit any type of wrongdoing. Simply to clarify some points and let everyone know that these things happen too often from the big brewers, and it’s about time the public was made aware of the intricacies of these situations. Play nice, Budweiser.

  34. Linda
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I understand they will be serving Frog Island beer also..

  35. Linda
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Gotta love those Michigan Beers!

  36. Joe
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Frog Island-love the Cousins Cream Ale!

One Trackback

  1. By Localwashing: the corporate co-opting of local on August 5, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    […] and you know what this reminds me of? Remember not too long ago how we had a little dustup here over which was more local – a Budweiser bottled here, or a pint of Arbor Brewing Company ale? […]

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