A Bitter Pils to Swallow

I picked up a six pack of Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Pils tonight and it dawned on me that this may be the last time, at least for a while, that I am able to do that.

Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Pils was pivotal in my life. It was while drinking a pint of it with a friend that I had the epiphany that lead to me writing a book about how small brewers are helping to transition America to a more sustainable – and enjoyable – society.

Tuppers PilsSo you can imagine my sadness in learning that Old Dominion brewery will no longer be brewing Tuppers’ beers.

It went down like this. Several months ago Old Dominion was sold to Coastal Brewing Co., a partnership between the company that owns the Rams Head Taverns/Fordham beer brand and Anheuser-Busch, with 51% and 49% ownership shares respectively. I lamented this sale when it occurred. But the last thing I expected them to do was get rid of one of their most acclaimed beers.

Michael Jackson named Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Pils one of his top ten American beers. For those of you unfamiliar with Michael Jackson the Beer Hunter, this is somewhat like the Pope naming you on his list of top ten priests.

So I was surprised to learn that Old Dominion, now Coastal Brewing, decided that they would be glad to continue brewing Tuppers’ Ale but that in a move to “consolidate brands” they would no longer be brewing Tuppers’ Pils. Bob Tupper, a gentleman and scholar and owner of the Tuppers recipes and brand, has had nothing but kind words about Dominion and Coastal during this whole process.

Never the less, he decided that rather than allow Coastal to eliminate the Pils, he’d go elsewhere and find another brewery to make his beers.

What’s the moral of the story? Local ownership matters.
Bob created his beers because he wanted to offer beer drinkers in the Washington D.C. region better, more interesting beers. He did that successfully, while also organizing and hosting some of the country’s – probably the world’s – most renown beer tasting events at the Brickskeller. In so doing, he has probably done as much as anyone to promote the Mid-Atlantic beer scene. He loves good beer and wants to share it with his community.

The world is a better place when people follow their passions. Bob did that and created something that people love. Anheuser-Busch and apparently Coastal Brewing seem to have made a decision based on short-term business reasons, ignoring the value of Bob contributions to the local community. I argued before that local ownership matters and I believe that if Old Dominion were still locally-owned they would still be brewing Bob’s beers.

The bright side is that he is looking for another brewery and I feel confident that he’ll find one. Until then, I’ll savor the few left in my fridge.

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One Response to A Bitter Pils to Swallow

  1. Tim O'Brien says:

    this sucks. if it’s any consolation we’re having pita pockets for dinner. they’ll be stuffed with avocado, bean sprouts, organic lettuce, spinach and more.

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