In what has to be the most shocking news to hit the craft beer industry in years, it was revealed this weekend that Quahog, Rhode Island’s Pawtucket Pat’s, brewer of Pawtucket Patriot Ale; is secretly owned to some extent by Duff Brewing. If true this could serious jeopardize their position as one of the leading craft beer brewers in New England.
Pawtucket Pat’s made a name for itself in the late nineties brewing and distributing their flagship brand, Pawtucket Patriot Ale, a standard bearer in the rising style known as New England Pale Ale. The beer is the only shelf product distributed by the 40,000 barrel-per-year brewery although they do offer special brewery releases at their taproom.
Duff Brewing, centered in Springfield, is the multi-million dollar company known for it’s self-named Duff line, a trio of mass market offerings; Duff, Duff Light and Duff dry (that interestingly taste exactly alike to this reviewer), as well as beers brewed specifically for international distribution; Duff Stout (Ireland), Düff (Sweden) and Le Duff (Canada). The brewery also releases special “one offs” in their tasting room from time to time, including Dark Duff, Raspberry Duff, Lady Duff, and yes, even Tartar Control Duff.
From its humble beginnings as a small start up brewery, Duff soon grew at an industry alarming rate. Duff Brewing was soon able to weave together an impressive national distribution while growing its brand marketing in Springfield. The brewery currently owns the “Duff Blimp”, one of the few remaining national brand blimps still in service; along with the theme park based “Duff Gardens”, which boast an annual attendance in the millions, as well as being the primary sponsor for the AA minor league baseball team The Springfield Isotopes, which plays at the self named Duff Stadium.
Rumors first began swirling last year when Pawtucket Pat’s announced that it was greatly expanding its bottling line as well as its distribution. Industry insiders questioned how the brewery could afford such expansion with its limit share of its home market, and began speculating that the brewery must have gotten outside assistance; although at the time, such assistance could not be proved.
Proof finally surfaced this weekend from San Diago, host city for the annual Comic Con Convention. Normally this would seem unusual, but as everyone knows, as far as last week was concerned if it didn’t come out of Comic Con, it simply wasn’t news.
The proof came in the form of footage shown at the Crossovers panel in Hall H. Crossovers, a show that takes a TV family from one town and unceremoniously drops them into another TV family’s town, is a hopeful tent pole for Fox’s Tuesday lineup. In order to give the show a push, Fox is airing a special Sunday night addition that will see Pawtucket brewery employee Peter Griffin and his family of the TV reality series Family Guy as they try to make sense of Springfield, home to TV reality show veterans The Simpsons.
During one scene shown, Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson are engaged in an argument over which beer is better, Pawtucket or Duff, when an irritated Moe Szyslak, owner and bartender of Moe’s Tavern where the scene was filmed, pulls the label off of a bottle of Pawtucket Patriot to reveal a Duff label underneath. Here are some not so exclusive screen shots of the scene, courtesy of Springfield Channel 6:
“Yeah, I probably ought not have of done that”, said Szyslak after the footage had been shown. “But those two ingrates were getting on my nerves and I already had a tough day and all. Besides it’s ridiculous that uz all didn’t know. You can see the outline of the Duff label under the Pawtucket one, and when the label gets wet the Duff colors bleed right through there. That’s why I never ice my beers. Well that and the ice machine was broke when I bought the place.”
Word spread quickly in Springfield as video of the footage began to appear on the internet. When asked about the incident, Duff spokesman Arthur Duff said, “Duffman has no comment!” While Android’s Dungeon and Baseball Card Shop owner Jeff Albertson said, “Worst case of craft beer fraud ever!”
On the other side of the controversy, Pawtucket craft beer fans were equally upset. One of the most vocal was Channel 5 News anchor Tom Tucker who said, “This is Tom Tucker with thoughts on this breaking story, Ollie?”, “IT’S A TRAVESTY!”, “Thank you Ollie.” Meanwhile, two Quahog residents who only wanted to be identified as Bruce and Jeffery had this to say, “OH NO! Pawtucket is owned by Duff! Hey Jeffery, Pawtucket beer is owned by Duff!” ,”OH NO! That’s Adams’ beer!”, “I know!”, “OH NO!”, “I know…” While local Hummer salesman Paddy Tanniger took the opposite position, “Pawtucket Brewery is owned by someone else? Big whoop, want to fight about it?”
In a probable attempt to quickly defuse the situation, the Mayors of both cities went on the record. “I just want to say, that I for one am glad that for once there is a scandal in this city that doesn’t involve me!”, stated Springfield Mayor “Diamond Joe” Quimby. Meanwhile Quahog Mayor Adam West responded, “I intend to prosecute this Pawtucket Patriot fellow to the full extent of the city’s law. Right after I find out who keeps putting these pumpkin beers on the shelves in July. Are you the one putting pumpkin beers on the shelves in July?”
For those who don’t understand why this is cause for alarm, the industry watch dog, The Brewer’s Association has strict definitions as to who can call themselves a “craft brewery”. And one aspect of that definition is they have to be owned or controlled less than 25% “by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.” I quickly got in contact with someone who sounded like Brewer’s Association State Coordinator Acacia Coast, but who probably wasn’t, who assured me, “We’re treating these allegations as just that for now – allegations. But you can be assured that the BA will be launching a full investigation into the Pawtucket/Duff situation.”
What could be the ramifications if Pawtucket comes out on the wrong side of those investigations? “Well I rather not comment until we’ve fully questioned everyone involved. But if this proves to be true it could greatly influence the location of their booth at next year’s GABF!” Coast warned.
We’re going to stay on top of this breaking story as it unfolds. Be assured that we will pass along any information that we receive to you. To see the full trailer for Fox’s up coming show Crossovers, click on the Youtube video below.
[Requests to Duff and some women named Angela at Pawtucket Pat’s for comments were not returned by the time of this posting]