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Three Pint Stance - Don’t worry about the sellouts, encourage the buy-in!

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A sign against large beer companies is placed on the bar Thursday near bottles of Wicked Weed beer at Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Brawley's is among at least a handful of stores or restaurants that announced they don't intend to stock Wicked Weed in the future. A sign against large beer companies is placed on the bar Thursday near bottles of Wicked Weed beer at Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Brawley's is among at least a handful of stores or restaurants that announced they don't intend to stock Wicked Weed in the future. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

In the struggle of small, independent breweries versus the giant multi-national macro breweries, another one of the good guys bites the dust. 

Earlier this month, Wicked Weed Brewing from Asheville, NC announced a partnership (read: buyout) from AB InBev, better known as the Belgian company that owns Anheuser Busch, the makers of Budweiser, Bud Light, Natural Light, King Cobra and many other cooler staples at your local Quick Stop.

Normally, these articles go one way. The author (in this case, me) would spew a bunch of statistics about how much of the market share large conglomerates already control and how they are looking to limit small independent breweries from encroaching on that market share, buying them up to fill store shelves with mass produced “craft” beers that undercut local breweries. They use their immense wealth to lobby state and federal law makers to create a regulatory environment that puts smaller produces at a disadvantage.

To me, while they do serve to educate the reader with regards to some of the backroom politics of the beer industry, these sorts of articles just underscore the feeling that we are helpless to stop this spread of conglomeration and the only solution is to wag a finger at the bad guys while we sulk into our mugs of local craft brew.

But there is a better way!

Instead of retreating to the comfort of our like-minded brethren in the tasting rooms, craft beer bars and bottle shops around the state, we should all be out there advocating for our local beer, cider and wine producers!

In the decade or so that I have been drinking local beer, and in the 3.5 years I have spent owning a small brewery, one thing I have repeatedly found is that many people just don't understand the logistics of the beer industry past the cooler or bar where they purchase their libations. With just a quick chat about how distributorships and wholesaling of beer actually work, more and more consumers will learn how much power they hold in their individual purchasing decisions.

So, without being a nosy, know-it-all beer snob, how does one become an advocate for locally-owned independent breweries? Here are a few tips that I am going to come up with off the top of my head as I write them down:

Ask for local beer EVERYWHERE you buy beer. The one thing I repeatedly tell my customers who ask why Gneiss isn't on tap at such and such a location is that they should ask for it! If you go to a bar and you don’t see beer from your local brewery, ask the bar tender why they don't carry it. Take it a step further if you want and find out which distributor your local brewery uses for wholesale accounts and ask the bar if they purchase from them. Even if you are at a local dive bar, or a corner store that specializes in 6 packs of PBR pounders, ask them to carry local beer. Sure the margins may not be as lucrative, but keeping those dollars in the local economy helps everyone thrive.

Convert a friend! If you have a friend who is a die-hard macro beer drinker, make it your mission to find a local beer that closely matches that style and see if you can convert them. If your mark only likes light beers, find a local Kolsch (Orono’s A-OK Kolsch) or Lager (Marsh Island Wooly Bugger Pils) and buy some for them. Many people need a little nudge to get out of their ordinary choices. Be that nudge!

Be Nice (Or Gneiss, if you are into that sort of thing. Finally - and you can apply this to every sector of life - be nice. If you see someone drinking a Miller Lite, don't belittle them for their choices. Ask them if they have ever had a lager made in Maine, of which there are now many! If you notice a bar has no taps dedicated to local beer, don't make a scene or scoff. Simply ask them if they have ever considered rotating on a local brewery for more variety. Nobody likes being told they are wrong, but everyone likes to be informed. Find a productive way to educate the beer drinkers in your surrounding area and they will be lifting a glass of local suds with you in no time!

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