Pete Coors to Brewers Association: Cheap shots do “great disservice” to beer industry

In an open letter to the Brewers Association, Molson Coors Chairman Pete Coors expressed his disappointment at the tone adopted by the trade group's leaders during the organization's Craft Brewers Conference last week.

The letter, published this morning in Beer Business Daily, says by using "cheap shots and insults" in their comments during the conference's general session, Brewers Association leaders "undermine (their) credibility by pitting us against one another to the ultimate detriment of the entire beer industry."

In its report on the letter this morning, BBD said Coors' letter reflected the sentiment of "several" distributors who attended the conference and "took umbrage with the tone" of the BA leadership. These distributors noted that brands from companies like Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch and Constellation Brands "keep their doors open."

Here's the Pete Coors letter, in full:

As a paying member of the Brewers Association I enjoy my subscription to The New Brewer.  It is the reason I have taken the time to write a point of view concerning the ongoing vitriol expressed in its pages and most recently reaffirmed by BA Chairman Eric Wallace and President Bob Pease toward the large, non-independent brewers. Congratulations on the remarkable attendance at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville.  The high turnout speaks to the interest and passion that brewers, suppliers, and the general public have for beer and the brewing industry.

The brewing industry is not exclusively made up of “large, multinational brewers” or “big brewers” or “faux craft brewers.”  It is not exclusively made up of “mass produced” beer, craft brewers or home brewers.  Rather, the beer industry is a combination of large and small brewers, retailers, distributors and suppliers who are passionate about their craft and committed to their businesses.  And, they are passionate about competing for the millions of American consumers who love beer.

The leadership of the Brewers Association does a great disservice to the entire beer value chain by attempting to pit one part of the industry against another.

You must know that it is insulting to those of us who don’t meet the clever criteria of your self-proclaimed definition of “craft brewer.”  This approach prioritizes insults and division over unity for a beverage that has been used to unify and celebrate together for generations.

Should the highly educated and trained brewers who work for large brewers or the breweries that have been purchased by them be included in the disdain you seem to have for them?  Should the quality of beers produced by them, including hundreds of quality medals be insulted by the Brewers Association simply because the parent company isn’t part of your ever-changing “club?”  Didn’t all large brewers start as craft brewers?  Don’t all craft brewers wish to grow and be prosperous?

We share distributors, many of whom would not be able to distribute Brewers Association beers without the scale provided by the large brewers.  You claim that your members are precluded from distribution at retail, while I visit account after account that do not carry any “big brewer” products.

Competition in our industry should be honored and cherished. I agree with you that craft brewers are “exemplars of the American Dream, of entrepreneurial spirit”.  However, you must realize that big brewers are as well.  There should be no room for cheap shots and insults (“faux”, “crafty”, “capitulated” beers) for each other.

That is a slippery slope that does not end well for our industry.  We have enough competition inside the beer business and outside it with wine, spirits and, increasingly, marijuana.

You undermine your credibility by pitting us against one another to the ultimate detriment of the entire beer industry.

Keep your independent seal, your pride and your zeal for brewing, but let’s be united as an industry.  There are other enemies we all must fight together.

— Pete Coors