Last week our local craft beer scene was rocked by the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev was buying our own Blue Point Brewing Company. The sale, scheduled to close later this spring, will combine the Patchogue-based Blue Point, ranked number 34 in U.S. craft breweries, with the world’s largest brewing conglomerate.
While many locals did not know what to make of the announcement, we are viewing our pint glass of Hoptical Illusion as half full and think this news signals an even brighter future for our beer scene.
Most Long Islanders were first introduced to the world of craft beers by Mark Burford and Peter Cotter in 1998 when they opened Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue. Burford’s vision, as stated on the company’s website, was to see Blue Point become “part of Long Island’s culture and heritage”. These guys have been working day and night to produce beer that, over the years, we have grown to know, love and consider our own. They started with nothing, have no doubt sacrificed much along the way and have ended up with something of worth. Isn’t this the American dream?
The details of the agreement with A-B InBev have not been disclosed, so any presumption that Blue Point will change is conjecture. (That has not prevented intense speculation in the world of social media. Our contributor, Niko Krommydas, details some of the Twittersphere chatter here.) We are hopeful the influx of capital to the brewery will bring more Blue Point beer to more consumers. If you’re a fan of Blue Point, wouldn’t it be awesome to find your favorite brew while on vacation? Blue Point has made a point of stating their intention to remain in Patchogue, so the resources of A-B InBev should allow innovation, more production and local jobs.
Of course, these sorts of acquisitions are not uncommon as large food and drink companies have, time and again, needed to jockey in order to facilitate growth and diversify their offerings for customers seeking something new or better. For example, Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen are owned by General Mills, Stonyfield yogurt is owned by Groupe Danone (Dannon to us) and Vermont’s colorful and freespirited renegade Ben and Jerry’s parent company is Unilever. In many cases, the acquired brand retained control of the quality, ethics and sourcing of its products, even as the new parent company helped the brand “go big”. Corporate shmorporate. (Read Mother Jones insight on this issue here.)
All in all, this news speaks volumes about the state of the craft beer scene in our area. More light and attention is being shed on Long Island’s craft breweries from curious beer drinkers, beer critics and the operators of better beer bars and beer-serving restaurants. If you decide that you can no longer stomach the idea of Blue Point being owned by a corporate giant, then look no further than your own backyard; the nano and micro brewery landscape is alive and well on Long Island, as we document here and here.
And, just as the guy (or girl) brewing out of a garage must decide when it is time to take the plunge, quit the day job and fully dedicate to crafting beer: Consider the garagiste at Blind Bat, the Crooked Ladder firetruck and the latest to plunk down in Patchogue, Moustache Brewing Company. New York breweries of all sizes must figure out how to meet their demand. Some, like Sixpoint Ales in Brooklyn and Southampton Publick House in Southampton, have outgrown their home bases and now brew most of their beer at large, regional breweries. A few years ago, Brooklyn Brewery completed an impressive expansion in the county of Kings, and recently broke ground on a brewery in Sweden, but it still depends on brewing in upstate Utica to supply six-packs nationwide. In contrast, Kelso Beer of Brooklyn and Greenport Harbor Brewing Company have decided to only sell what they can brew themselves, a choice that may limit growth even as it strengthens control and allows greater freedom with projects like Edible Ale or featuring locally grown malting barley.
As hometown fans, we have stood by Blue Point as they slugged it out in the minor leagues for the past 15 years. They have now been called up to the majors. Play ball, Blue Point. We are still big fans. We look forward to sipping and chronicling your every play as you continue to grow along with the shifting teams of the Long Island beer scene.