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Introducing the Occupy Breweries Movement

Generally, I avoid getting into political discussions, but I can’t help but draw a comparison between what’s happening on Wall Street right now and what is happening across America at breweries who are letting down gluten-free beer drinkers like you and me. Please follow along as I make an impassioned attempt at tying my own (admittedly minor) personal disappointments to those (serious issues) of the world.

To the best of my knowledge, the Occupy Wall Street movement is a plea by people who have been excluded from the democratic process and have been forced to sit on the sidelines while big business pulls the strings of the American political system. Gluten-free ladies and gentleman, I feel I hardly have to begin drawing comparisons to our gastronomic plight, but I’m going to spell it out anyway.

We are the outsiders

But you knew that already. While the Occupy Wall Street folks are the unofficial representatives of the 99%, we have the responsibility to represent the 1% of people out there forced to live in gluten-free abandonment, courtesy of the brewing industry.

Breweries are our oppressors

I can already hear the cries of “Blasphemy!” Allow me to explain. It is true that many within our digestive minority are satisfied with the handouts, the bits of crumb, the substandard alcoholic swill that has been doled out in the hopes of silencing our meddling voices. I am not one of those folks, and I’m guessing that you are not either. I can count the number of nationally-available gluten-free brews on one hand. I can count the ones worth drinking on less than one finger. And while it is true that an occasional micro-brewery or brewpub will throw us a bone once in a while and make us feel loved, the majority of the time, these brewers are laughing with the bar crowd about how little they give us and how much we are willing to pay.

We have no voice

False. Inspired by the events happening across the country, I present to you the Occupy Breweries Movement, OBM for the sake of brevity. The idea is that each weekend, a group of like-minded gluten-free folks (and those who would support our movement) will stand outside of a brewery with signs and sandwich boards, demanding that a gluten-free beer be developed, brewed, packaged and sold at a fair price. After all, the national brews that are available don’t match craft beer in taste or quality. Why the heck are they so expensive? You’re thinking, “How about an example of a sign, friend?” Well, how about this? “We came here, We want beer, We refuse to drink in fear!” My lack of skills in marketing and propaganda not withstanding, it’s a start and I’m sure more creative wordsmiths than I will succeed where I might fail.

Our taste buds work just fine

We know good gluten-free beer exists. Talk to all those who have taken gluten-free brewing into their own homes and produced such libations that would rival gluten-filled beers from major breweries. What is currently available more closely resembles the miserable beers all of America was forced to drink before the craft brewery explosion. The most popular gluten-free beer nationally simply calls itself ‘beer.’ So uninterested are they in this bottle of suds that even the website purportedly advertising this product was never updated to show off the new six-pack packaging. Sure, you can find an ale here and there, but the great majority of gluten-free beer is some sort of fruit and spice experiment that never should make it to mass production. At what point do we stop torturing our taste buds and demand something better? When do we get a hop-blasted India Pale Ale or a legitimate stout? Several of the beers taking home medals from the Great American Beer Festival the last few years have been fruit experiments soaked with lemon or raspberry. I can accept that these beers taste good and may be plenty flavorful, but we have enough limitations put on our palates. I’m sensing a dangerous precedent is being set where the brewing industry will continue to throw alcoholic fruit juice at us. Friends, I can no longer sit quietly and grimace in disgust. My previous proclivity to beer-snobbery will simply not allow me to.

The Plan

But, seriously, what are we going to do? Obviously, there are too few of us spread around in too many places to have a great impact on this issue in the conventional sit-in, stand-out, protest sort of fashion. So my thought is to inundate the biggest craft brewers, the people who really make the brewing industry tick, with emails, phone calls, twitter messages, letters delivered by homing pigeons, whatever, describing our plight and gently suggesting that they do something nice for us. After all, most of us were good enough to them before we knew we were gluten-free, how about a little reciprocity? Perhaps a request for a gluten free ale, lager, stout, porter or another fine traditional beer style to pacify our weary palates? My thought is that if a craft brewer with a high enough profile heeds our suggestion and creates something wonderful for us, that others will follow and soon we’ll have legitimate gluten-free craft beer choices. I’ve listed several top notch craft beer pioneers of our time who have the knowledge, means and influence to make our craft beer dreams come true. Reach out to these people in every conventional mode of communication. Be gentle, but firm. We deserve this.

Craft Brew Contacts:

Sam Koch, Brewer of Sam Adams Boston Lager and a host of other great craft beers:
The Boston Beer Company
One Design Center, Suite 850
Boston, MA 02210

Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Brewers of Levitation, Arrogant Bastard and many other beers:
Stone Brewing Co.
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029

Sam Calagione, Brewer of incredibly inventive ales and more (I think our best shot at a big-time gluten-free breakthrough):
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

Brett Porter, brand new Head Brewer of Honker’s Ale and loads of other terrific Island beers (they sold a portion of the business to A-B, but I believe they’ll continue to push the limits of quality craft beer):
Goose Island Beer Co.
1800 West Fulton St.
Chicago, IL  60612

So these are the big timers of craft brewing. These are some of the most open-minded brewers of our time and if we want gluten-free craft beer to improve, one or more of them will need to step up. If you think up a great slogan for our movement, share it in the comments below so we can all use it. And if anybody in the Chicago area does want to occupy the sidewalk in front of Goose Island on a Saturday, let me know. I’ll bring the posters, markers and hopefully something witty to chant.

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5 Comments for Introducing the Occupy Breweries Movement

Mike | October 14, 2011 at 6:11 am

This movement is definitely applicable to the beer industry. The big beer companies hold an incredible amount of power, in government and elsewhere. Take this story as an example:


Author comment by Phil | October 14, 2011 at 6:35 am

That’s the kind of oppression I’m talking about!

Author comment by Phil | January 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Leave it to Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione to step way up to the plate! Check this out, gluten-free occupiers: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/seasonal-brews/tweasonale.htm Now, Sam, what can be done about a gluten free 60 Minute IPA?

Author comment by Phil | January 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

Goose Island is also dealing a gluten-free beer made of red and white quinoa at the brew-pub in Chicago on Clybourn. They call it Queen-oa. It’s tasty, but unfortunately, pink. I’ll offer a full review in another post. Progress!

SoledadNEmal | July 20, 2016 at 6:54 am

Hello, I go to your new stuff daily. Your writing style is awesome, keep it up!

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