Over the past few years, Omnipollo’s Yellowbelly beer has found its way into mainstream media’s attention span. Perhaps the conversation was truly part of the design from the beginning.
For those unfamiliar, the collaborative brew was developed in 2014 as part of Berkshire Brewery Siren’s Rainbow Project Challenge. 14 breweries were paired off, each creating a beer inspired by the colors of the rainbow.
Sweden’s Omnipollo and United Kingdom’s Buxton Brewery were paired and pulled the color yellow. The duo thought yellow was the color of cowardice and created Yellow Belly, an 11% imperial stout with peanut butter and biscuits. Interestingly, the beer contained neither. By design, name and packaging, the beer’s intention was to denounce hate organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. The final flourish – Yellow Belly was packaged purposefully in white paper twisted to a point with eyeholes, similar to a KKK hood.
Since the beer’s debut, the beer would surface on national news in Europe, Canada and the U.S. concerning the racial overtones of the packaging. Most recently this week, when World of Beer in Connecticut pulled Yellow Belly from their inventory after a customer’s Facebook post went viral after apparently being “blindsided” by the packaging.
“This is the $40 bottle of beer that was promoted and presented to my black husband and his white friend tonight at World of Beer. After researching it at home, we discovered that it was ‘created to denounce racism… promote open-mindedness… packaged in paper deliberately to denounce organizations like the KKK,'” the Facebook post read. No picture of the actual bottle in the restaurant was included in the post.
“Please accept our apologies for the lapse in judgment in serving. While we can’t speak for the intent of the brewer, the visual representation does not have a place at our establishment. We appreciate you bringing it to our attention and welcome the opportunity for discussion,” World of Beer said in a public statement following the incident.
As Beer Street Journal reported in 2018, Yellow Belly was discontinued after an unresolvable trademark dispute. This beer is no longer in production.
The comments on the customer’s Facebook post predictably devolved into fights about what is racist, name-calling, and per usual, someone gets called a nazi. Godwin’s Law on full display in yet another comment section.
Other than making a catchy, clickbait headline on larger media sites, followed by an apology headline by a corporate beer chain, perhaps this article will serve as a lasting reminder of what Omnipollo and Buxton Brewery intended by Yellow Belly’s creation and packaging choice all along.
What most of the internet commenters have never, or may never know about Yellowbelly… it was brewed by a Henok Fentie, CEO and co-founder of Omnipollo, who also happens to be a black man and father to three. Going back to the brewing duo being assigned the color yellow. To them, yellow represented cowardice. Brewed the imperial stout with the “Yellowbelly” name and label description wasn’t enough. The beer’s packaging had to invoke more.
As found on every bottle:
To us, one of the most cowardly deeds is to act anonymously, hiding behind a group. A signifying trait of institutionalized racism.
This beer is brewed to celebrate all things new, open-minded, and progressive. A peanut butter biscuit stout with no biscuits, butter or nuts. Taste, enjoy, and don’t be prejudiced.
Grossly simplified, the message of Yellowbelly was always – “Be Better.”
To us, beer and brewing have always been an art form, from kettle to artwork, to glass. Omnipollo and Buxton’s imperial stout in its four years of existence was equal parts delicious and thought-provoking. It seems like the beer’s story never really got told, just the story its social media shock reactions.
Even in death (discontinuation), the beer comes back to haunt it’s creators, rising from the cellar somewhere to shock, scare, or offend another would-be drinker.
We will leave you with this eulogy, posted to Facebook this week by Fentie.
I am a black man, father of three black boys, and in my youth I was both harassed and beaten for being black. As such I personally wanted to write a response to the recent media coverage of our beer Yellow Belly (first brewed in 2014, now discontinued due to trademark dispute).
We want to use our craft to talk about the things that matter to us. As a black-owned and operated brewery, in the case of Yellow Belly, it was brewed to show a deep concern over racism in Europe, the United States and beyond. A question that has run through the DNA of our company since it’s founding ten years ago.The more specific message was and still is that light needs to be shed on the quiet and creeping racism that is sweeping through Europe and the world, leading to acts of inhumanity.
Quote from the bottle of Yellow Belly:
To us, one of the most cowardly deeds is to act anonymously, hiding behind a group. A signifying trait of institutionalized racism.
This beer is brewed to celebrate all things new, open minded and progressive. A peanut butter biscuit stout with no biscuits, butter or nuts. Taste, enjoy, and don’t be prejudiced.
We fully acknowledge that the format is unconventional and taken out of context can be both confusing and unintentionally offensive. As such we hope to engage our audience in this question now and going forward.
CEO and co-founder,
Pabst Blue Ribbon has been synonymous with lager for decades. These days, Pabst is doing so much more. 2019’s biggest additions to the Pabst Blue Ribbon lineup weren’t beer at all. Specifially, a PBR branded whiskey, an 8% alcohol by volume Stronger Seltzer, and a Hard Coffee. 2020’s newest addition – Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Tea.
This new summer-inspired alcoholic sweet tea is brewed with tea leaves and natural peach flavor. Each can of Hard Tea has 3 grams of sugar, 100 calories, and just 4% alcohol by volume.
Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Hard Tea is deliciously effervescent with a natural peach flavor, it’s a uniquely Pabstidian evolution of the seltzer market, and a perfect alternative to artificial and over-sweetened products
Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Tea is available in 12-ounce cans across 26 states starting in July 2020.
Style: Hard Tea
Availability: 12oz Cans.
Distribution: GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, SC, SD, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY
Debut: July 2020
The Great American Beer Festival, usually held in Denver, Colorado, will be held virtually this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beer festivals across the country have been canceled or postponed all the way through summer, but the largest – GABF had yet to make an announcement until today. This decision was bolstered by Colorado Governor Jared Polis issuing an Executive Order temporarily suspending certain statutes to allow the operation of alternate care sites in Colorado. This order means GABF can not be held at the Colorado Convention Center.
Instead, the festival will pivot to an online experience, taking place October 16-17. Expect live and virtual experiences, that will include tastings, brewery conversations, and at-home beer and food deliveries.
“While we are disappointed to not be gathering in Denver this fall for the craft beer community’s annual big tent event, the health and safety of our attendees, brewers, volunteers, judges, and employees is and always has been our top priority. As the world is still greatly affected by the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to be affected for the foreseeable future, we must stay true to our priorities and pursue other ways to host GABF.” – Bob Pease, president, and CEO of the Brewers Association
While the 39th annual festival will be virtual for usual attendees, the beer competition will still take place as usual. A panel of more than 100 judges will taste 7,000 entries voting for the three beers that best represent each style category. Brewers, the registration for this year’s competition opens June 9th.
The “virtual” GABF is still in planning, with more details to be released in the coming weeks.
Coronavirus lockdowns across all 50 states have had America’s breweries scrambling to find new ways to serve their customers. With May just hours away, many states are cautiously reopening their economies, including Monday Night Brewing’s home of Atlanta, Georgia. The Peach state’s shelter-in-place order at the end of April and the next day brewery taprooms could open again with extra precautions.
Sounds like life could get back to normal in May right? Not so fast. Even with relaxed restrictions, it appears consumers might make a different choice.
Monday Night recently surveyed 740 people that had been to one of the brewery’s taprooms in the past 3 months. A series of questions about customer expectations surrounding taproom sanitation practices and changes to their expected visitation behavior were fielded and the results don’t look good for craft brewers.
Almost 40% of the respondents said they would wait until at least June before going back into a brewery taproom. 21.7% said July, while 13.8% said they would wait until late summer before going back to a taproom again.
Any vision of a normal Friday afternoon in a brewery taproom looks to be a further into the future than most hoped or thought. This could spell financial disaster for some operations hoping for “if you tap it, they will come” situation as we transition into summer.
Who do you listen to?
Monday Night’s survey revealed the consumer is more self-reliant than we assumed. Just because the Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says it’s ok to eat out, go bowling, get your haircut or grab a pint, doesn’t mean the consumers buy it. Respondents placed trust in the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization the highest determining factor as to when it’s safe to hit bars and breweries again. In just close second, when their own research says it’s safe. Interestingly, the state government’s advisement confidence level as guidance was dead last.
The biggest takeaway from this survey is that America’s breweries will probably see a drop in taproom attendance and along with it, in-house revenue through the summer.
Perhaps those numbers might trend upward if consumer confidence with efforts to slow the Covid-19 pandemic improves.
One thing is certain, there is no magic switch get back to the beer world we knew as 2020 started.
COVID-19 has been claiming lives, jobs, and events worldwide. The latest casualty? Germany’s famed Oktoberfest.
The annual event kicks off in September, attracting 6 million people from around the world. With no vaccine on the horizon, Bavaria state premier Markus Soeder has made the difficult decision to scrap this year’s festivities.
said the Prime Minister about the decision. We agreed that the risk is simply too high. The spread of the coronavirus would not allow any other option. “We want to continue to protect Bavaria,” said Prime Minister Markus Söder.
Germany is home to over 1,600 breweries, who, like breweries in the United States, has been forced to cut production and furlough employees.
The cancellation of the 2020 festival will increase financial damage the coronavirus pandemic has dealt to Germany’s 1,600 breweries. Many of the nation’s brewers have already cut back production and furloughed employees. Each year, the festival serves nearly 70,000 barrels (U.S equivalent) of beer to the millions of attendees.
This isn’t the first time a pandemic has forced the cancellation of Oktoberfest. The festival was canceled in 1854 after 3,000 residents died of cholera, and again in 1873 due to another cholera outbreak.
Since then, the festival was canceled in 1870 due to the Franco-Prussian War, 1914-1918 due to World War I, and from 1939 – 1945 due to World War II.
The next date for Oktoberfest is scheduled for September 16, 2021.
This story is almost too ironic to be true. Back as the coronavirus was on its way to being a pandemic, internet searches spiked for “corona beer virus.” In hindsight, SARS and MERS weren’t really referenced in main stream media frequently as a strain of coronavirus. So, you Google what you know.
Despite some confused by the name, Corona beer sales didn’t suffer. In fact, they soared. It seemed my Corona was getting the better end of the deal as the world shut down.
Like most peoples jobs and social activities, COVID-19 has come for Corona beer as well. Today, Grupo Modelo announced they will be suspending production after being deemed unessential by the Mexican government.
Constellation Brands, who distributes Corona in the United States states that there is about 70 days of inventory left before it disappears for a while. Depending on the duration, most Americans may not seen any supply disruption at all.
Corona is exported to more than 180 countries worldwide.
America’s 8,000+ breweries are quite popular places to gather with friends. Last week, we were flooded with emails from breweries outlining their enhanced sanitation efforts in order to keep their guests safe.
The next steps were inevitable – full taproom closures.
Last evening, California Governor Gavin Newsome requested that breweries, brewpubs, wineries, and bars close at the end of business hours on Sunday night, March 15th.
According to the California Craft Brewer’s Association, this is how breweries will operate after the mandatory shut down:
- Breweries are NOT required to stop production or cease off-site sales. Breweries are still allowed to continue to manufacture beer, self-distribute beer, conduct off-site sales (to-go orders from the brewery) and deliver beer direct-to-consumers.
- While the Governor used the term “brewpub” to broadly describe breweries with on-site sales, he was likely referring to breweries with only a tasting room. “Brewpubs” are breweries with restaurants.
- While we are still seeking clarity, based on the recommendations of the Governor regarding restaurant operations, CCBA’s understanding is that brewpubs will be allowed to stay open with the directive to maintain “deep social distance” between patrons and reduce capacity by 50 percent to accommodate this.
Since the announcement, The Bruery will only be open for online beer order fulfillment and orders to-go.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee announced a temporary statewide order to shut down restaurants, bars, entertainment, and recreational facilities statewide due to the coronavirus. Restaurants can only operate in take-out, grab and go, and delivery capacities. Kent, Washington based Airways Brewing’s Bistro & Beer Garden is now only open for to-go orders.
New York City’s bars, theaters, and concert halls are officially closing, with restaurants going to to-go and delivery only.
Illinois, Ohio, Washington, and Massachusetts are also closing bars, restaurants, and theaters. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has closed all bars and restaurants for at least a month, excluding takeout and delivery.
All taprooms in Connecticut are closed until further notice, only selling crowlers and beer to-go.
Other prominent breweries are making business changes at least in the short term. Boston Beer has closed their taprooms and tour centers for a week. Dogfish Head, which is also part of Boston Beer, has canceled all events for the month of March, as well as closed their retail locations for seven days.
Colorado’s Avery Brewing announced today that they have closed their taproom and restaurant until April 5th, which might be subject to change.
Modern Times, Almanac Beer Co, pFriem Family Brewers, Map Brewing, Terrapin Beer Company, Jackalope Brewing, Yards Brewing, Bozeman Brewing, Ratio Brewworks, Brewers Art, Ardent Craft Ales, Virginia Beer Company, Interboro Brewing, Treehouse Brewing, Phillipsburg Brewing, and Port City Brewing have also closed their on-premise locations, only staffing for to-go beer purchases.
Founders Brewing has closed both their taprooms and will continue to pay their employees during the shutdown.
Some of the largest beer releases/festivals across the U.S. are postponing or canceling their events completely. This past weekend’s Hunaphu Day at Cigar City was completely scrapped, bottle pick up extending until June.
The Craft Brewer’s Conference that was to be held in San Antonio, Texas in April has been canceled, as well as Firestone Walker’s from May 2020 to June of 2021.
Ed Note: We at Beer Street Journal want to keep our thoughts and prayers with families affected by COVID-19, either through illness or loss in income through these quarantine requirements. It is important that we keep in mind that this is a very short period in our lives that will be affected by these closures as opposed to the lifetime effect of a lost family member or friend from contracting COVID-19. Please keep this in mind and follow all guidelines recommended by the experts leading us through this crisis.