Commentary: Recalls Show Craft Brewers Care About Quality, Consistency

The last six weeks have been rough in terms of money loss for a few craft brewers. Four different recalls dealt with separate issues, and all pointed to the fact that these craft breweries cared more about their reputation for quality and consistency over making a buck.

It started with a recall by Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing in early September. A letter posted on the brewery’s website by Chris Lennert, Left Hand’s Chief Operating Officer, pointed out that a wild yeast caused the level of CO2 in the Longmont, Colorado brewery’s “Nitro Milk Stout” to be more than usual. Although not a safety hazard or dangerous to consumers, Lennert said Left Hand “is proud to be a brewery of integrity, quality and transparency from our kettles to the glass.” The recall came to nearly 20,000 cases.

It’s an example of a brewery recalling its item because of quality and consistency, not because of any harm it could cause, other than in reputation.

In late September, Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling issued a recall on its “Kentucky Bourbon Barrel” Ale and “Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel” Ale because of “flavor and color” problems. Again, a recall based on consistency and not because of safety.

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On Oct. 17, yet another consistency problem arose resulting in a recall. This time it was from Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, dealing with a wild yeast issue that was giving off ester or phenolic flavors in six of the company’s beers produced between August 3 and October 11, nearly a total of 10,000 barrels.

“Please note, there are no health or safety risks involved with the consumption of this beer,” the brewery posted on its website. “This is strictly a quality issue.”

A day later, the most serious of the four recalls that have recently happened was reported. This time it was in Blanco, Texas with Real Ale Brewing.

The brewery felt, with a one percent chance, that 11,000 cases of beer filled in a batch of bottles had integrity issues and was worth taking out of the market.

That meant a loss of funds, but peace of mind that no consumers were injured.

In a note on its website, during inspection of packaged beer at the brewery, quality personnel identified a defect in the bottles that could result in small pieces of glass breaking off and falling into the bottle.

The affected bottles, from a third party supplier, were limited to a single glass production date, it noted.

“Quality and consistency are what Real Ale has built its reputation on, and consumer safety is our top priority,” said Brad Farbstein, President of Real Ale Brewing Company in the release.

“I think the people that are getting into it because there’s money to be made, I don’t think they care about quality, they care about money,” Left Hand co-founder and president Eric Wallace said in an interview with Brewer Magazine recently. “The money people don’t bring the same drive, passion or soul to the business as the people that come in because they love great beer and they want to create something new.”

All four situations showed that craft breweries care about the beer and how its consumers can be impacted, even if it is just a possible bad review or comment on one beer in the system. Many times, in interviews with news outlets, these owners and brewery personnel indicated that these recalls were a way to get ahead of any possible bad publicity and being as transparent as possible. That shows maturity and care.  It indicates that money isn’t the bottom line and losing a financial gain is worth more than losing a customer.

That is worth applauding.

2 Comments

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