Occupy Ale Street

The economy has taken a turn for the worst and people everywhere are feeling the sting of a lengthy and unforgiving recession, but no one is feeling it as hard as the beer industry spokespeople.

The Budweiser frogs have been bouncing from gig to gig, the Labatt Blue Bear has been on unemployment for three years now and Keith Stone is barely making rent. The downturn has even had a negative effect on other related industries as with Captain Morgan who lost all his booty in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. As these mascots suffer, so do the loyal patrons of the brands they represent. Overall it’s a dark time for the industry that many thought was recession-proof.

Meanwhile, microbreweries and their benefactors are living like fat cats on Bourbon Street.

Last year, craft brewers sold an estimated 9.9 million barrels of beer in 2010, up from 8.9 million in 2009, while overall US beer sales were down 2.2% in 2009.

Microbreweries, as their label suggests, make up only a microcosmic percentage of spokespeople employed by the beer industry. According to a poll released by the Daily Beer Bugle Times on Tuesday, only 10% of Americans could name a single microbrew mascot and of that 10%, 100% named Jim Koch from the Sam Adams commercials, who is neither a mascot nor is his company, Sam Adams, a microbrewery. Researchers at the Ale Institute in Chicago attribute this misinterpretation to the expectations of consumers. Commercial viewers see bikinis and three young men standing around a grill, they think macrobrew; they see a wimpy-looking guy talking about quality beer, they think microbrew.

So if Jim Koch is not a microbrew spokesperson, then who is and where are they? Who are these elite few trampling the 99%? The fact is no one knows anything beyond a few statistics and hearsay. The operations of microbreweries remain hidden while their successes are paraded in plain sight. Needless to say, the confusion and frustration they have caused has many upset to the point where they are no longer sitting at home and hopelessly browsing the internet for job listings.

A rebellion has begun, beginning in September with a small group of protesters gathered outside the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Some of them were Coors drinkers, some were Budweiser fans, and some were even craft beer drinkers who supported the cause. They came from all around the country to put an end to the 1% that were controlling the beer industry and give back power to the 99% who have been persecuted for so long.

Some called for microbrews to give jobs to spokespeople. Others called for a radical redistribution of beer. Some even called for a nationwide boycott of craft beer. The causes are many but the desire for change is universal. Demonstrators are now active in different cities all across the country. The months may have worn on, but the enthusiasm for change has not worn off.

At a demonstration in Boston last week, celebrities, including spokespeople from similar industries, showed up to voice their support. At around noon, Captain Morgan came out to show his sympathy for the protesters, saying, “Arrrrrrr… Me pillagin’, pirate heart goes out to all ye poor, poor fellers.” Joined by Chester Cheetah and Chef Boyardee, he went on to sing “We Shall Overcome.” The audience was overcome with emotion as tears cut him short mid-song. Before running off stage, the choked up Captain managed to say a few words to the silent crowd, “Scallywags… How can they do this to regular, normal folk?”

His cry is the same as many these days. Disappointment with this economy along with the pressure to fit in with this craft beer crowd at odds with brand loyalty may cause an all out revolution if the 99% do not find satisfaction.

People are torn. People are scared. But most of all people are just plain thirsty.

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