January 4, 2017
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — The brief war between Bent Water Brewing Co. and Craft Beer Cellar’s (CBC) corporate office has ended and the local brewery has declared victory.
Bent Water will continue to be sold at CBC’s 29 franchisees in 13 states, including the shop on Paradise Road in Swampscott. In a month, the local brew went from “not fit for consumption” to the “approved” list.
“We’ve had a fantastic launch this year, sold more than 2,500 barrels and are thrilled to be on the list,” said Aaron Reames, Bent Water’s co-founder. “For us, nothing changes, the stores that we were selling well in will keep selling our beer.”
The skirmish began last month when Brewbound, an online publication covering the craft beer industry, reported that Belmont-based Craft Beer Cellar, a popular Massachusetts-based retail franchise, issued a list of required and banned products for its stores. Reportedly on the list of forbidden beverages was Bent Water beer.
In a memo to franchisees and obtained by Brewbound, Craft Beer Cellar founders Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow outlined changes they said will transform store owners into “industry leading” retail operators, not just beer resellers.
The email to store owners named specific Greater Boston companies, including Bent Water, as examples of producers who made beer that was “not fit for consumption,” Brewhound reported.
The reaction from Bent Water, the local beer maker that launched last spring with a $200,000 city loan, was swift.
Reames said he was perplexed, and noted that his beer is sold in nine CBC stores, and they are the top-selling brand in some.
Scott Claussen, owner of the Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, could not be reached for comment. In a previous interview, he said the store was awaiting final word from the franchisor on how to proceed.
Mark Goodman, a CBC spokesman, acknowledged that Bent Water is on the approved list.
“It just goes to show what we’ve been saying this whole time is that the list, in whatever form it’s taken, has always been fluid and always up for change,” he said. “It is still our modus operandi going forward.”
Goodman declined to say why the firm did an about face on Bent Water.
“There are a number of factors that we look at, quality and consistency of the beer is the most important,” he said. “We also look at packaging and price. If an amazing beer is too expensive, no one will buy it. We take all that into consideration.”
He said the company’s mission is to sell the most amazing beer they can provide for their customers. When the company’s flagship store in Belmont opened in 2011, CBC had 350 beers on their shelves. Today, they have 800 beers and that’s a fraction of what’s available, Goodman said.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.