There was an interesting convergence of beer and politics this past St. Patrick’s Day.
In case you missed it, Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams, drew attention for their decision to withdraw funding for the Boston St. Patricks Day parade because the organizers would not allow members of the LBGT community to march in said parade.
Specifically, the issue concerned Irish-American veterans who identify as LBGT marching as a group in the parade and carrying signage identifying themselves as such.
After the announcement there were mixed reactions towards the company with some voicing their support whilst others vowed to boycott beer produced by Boston Beer.
In light of potential to alienate and/or engender consumers I have to ask should we mix beer and politics?
Do we want our pints and shut up please because we don’t care about the ideologies of brewery owners and operators or do we want to know the people behind the beer, what they stand for and what lines they will not cross?
More cynically should we view these public ‘stances’ merely as a means to thrust a company into the headlines because, as the adage goes, all press is good press?
Personally, I was impressed with Boston Beer Co. for taking a stand and making their voice heard and, if anything, the fact that I know what they stand for and stand behind makes me more likely to be a customer.
They took the opportunity, when presented, to do what they felt what was right and perhaps this means that there are more important issues than number of beers sold or the number of events sponsored.
Perhaps it is naiveté on my part but all too often we seem to hear that companies made choices and taken stands without much publicity. Unfortunately these stands include abhorrent working conditions, unfair labour practices, horrendous environmental impacts etc. When we learn about such practices our moral outrage surfaces and we vow to change our consumer habits.
On the other hand, what if we knew what organizations stood for because they simply told us and backed their words up with actions? This gives consumers the power to endorse or boycott as they choose because we know how the company aligns itself.
Breweries, of all sizes, support causes, fund raise, make purchasing choices etc. Craft breweries in particular seem to be leading the way by brewing beers for causes, hosting beer events for local and international non-profits, and generally keeping things local. As such, they participate in shaping the development of the craft beer community and culture and we all have a stake in what that will look like and how it reflects upon us.
So maybe we all need a little more politics with our beer.