As the results of the recent presidential election reverberate through living rooms and tap rooms across the country, statements and stops from candidates visiting breweries are having real consequences on shelves and tap handles.
Leading up to the Nov. 8 election, Eric Trump, son of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, visited D.G. Yuengling & Sons of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, makers of Yuengling Lager and other beers. Yuengling is considered to be the largest craft brewery in the United States, as calculated by the Brewers Association.
According to media reports, Trump promised that his father would make it easier for business to be done in the United States. “Our guys are behind your father,” Dick Yuengling Jr., the head of the company responded. “We need him in there.”
The reaction by supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, as well as others who opposed the republican nominee was swift and seemingly severe.
Bars throughout Pennsylvania and beyond denounced Yuengling, pulled it from inventory, and announced a boycott.
Wolf Sterling, the owner of Pint, a bar in Jersey City, New Jersey, announced on Facebook that it will no longer serve Yuengling products, saying that Dick Yuengling Jr.’s support of Trump supports a “racist, anti-gay, anti-women” mentality.
“The $15,000 a year we paid for their products will go to companies that do support diversity,” Sterling said in the post. “We are also closing our account with Peerless Beverage Company, the distributor of Yuengling, until they drop Yuengling products from their lineup.”
After All About Beer made several requests for a comment from the Yuengling brewery, marketing manager Jen Holtzman responded to this reporter via email: “We are not able to comment publicly but I appreciate the opportunity.”
Sterling, who signed the statement that currently has more than 1,000 reactions on Facebook and has been shared and commented on more than 100 times, says he doesn’t “expect that dropping Yuengling will change the world. But it will tell our neighbors, our friends, and you, that when you come to Pint you’re welcome here—regardless of who you love, what you look like, or whether you sit or stand to pee.”
(Full disclosure: I am a regular customer of Pint, as it’s in my hometown and the bar is featured in my most recent cookbook Dishing Up New Jersey.)
The actions of Sterling, coupled with countless other bars and accounts, show the divide politics can have in business, something many service and goods companies have long sought to avoid.
The Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co. also found itself in the crosshairs leading up to the election when it hosted former President Bill Clinton for a rally urging support for his wife’s campaign.
The local newspaper, the Coloradoan, said that while 2,500 people gathered to hear the former president speak, a hearty bunch of Trump supporters gathered in protest nearby.
New Belgium, the fourth largest craft brewery in the country, is no stranger to politics. In 2014 it launched a political action committee, and has given verbal and financial support to a number of causes. A Facebook group called “Boycott New Belgium Brewing” is an active page that is against the brewery for its funding of “anti-coal, anti-fracking, anti-natural gas, anti-hydro, anti-gun, and anti-oil advocacy.”
The brewery, having taken stances on a number of political issues, has experienced physical boycotts and removal from shops and bars.
Before, during, and after the Clinton rally, customers on social media weighed in quickly, announcing that the brewery would lose their business. Brewery spokesman Bryan Simpson said this week: “We’ve always wanted to make the work we do here meaningful. We have a responsibility to engage on the policy and practice that impact our business and community.”
He specifically cited clean water initiatives, something vitally important to all people and especially breweries. Simpson said that the brewery was approached by the Clinton campaign for the rally and it was “an honor to do so. You don’t turn down a former president.” While New Belgium—the company—didn’t specifically endorse Clinton’s candidacy, Simpson said there was one candidate “who more aligned” with its perspective.
As for the accounts that have dropped New Belgium, Simpson said: “Yes we take positions, and that’s something that can bite you in the ass. That’s the cost of advocacy.”
Interestingly enough, Pint’s stance on Yuengling will have equal consequences for New Belgium, since it shares the same distributor in northern New Jersey.
While all politics is local, this recent cycle was a reminder that it can also be as close as the glass in your hand.
John Holl is the editor of All About Beer Magazine.