Texas Lawmakers Trying to Uncover Mystery of Trader Joe’s Brews

By Josh Agate | July 18, 2012 | 0 Comments |
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If anyone has ever taken a look at the beer selection at the local Trader Joe’s grocery store, you might come away a bit perplexed.  The brews that you see lining the shelves will surely be unfamiliar for a good reason.  Trader Joe’s has a unique relationship with many of its vendors requiring them to be silent partners.  The first rule of Trader Joe’s Club is you don’t talk about Trader Joe’s Club.  The company has entered strategic partnerships with many of its supplies in that Trader Joe’s is allowed to do their own branding, while suppliers just serve as silent OEM partners.

This concept may sound completely absurd especially in the beer market, but it is actually not all that uncommon.  A number of chain restaurants have their “own beer” on tap with some crazy applicable name to whatever image they are trying to portray.  For example, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, sells their Amber Ale under a number of different names including: Iron Mike’s Amber Ale at Ditka’s in Chicago, Island Ale, and Paradise Beach Ale, the latter two belonging to Cheeseburger in Paradise chains.

This seemingly harmless practice is causing some problems in the Lone Star State.  A very peculiar Texas law states that beer brands cannot be exclusive to one chain.  Therefore, anyone in Texas should be able to sell some of Trader Joe’s unique brews.  Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, stated that there have been inconclusive discussions over purchase and distribution issues with representatives of Trader Joe's.  This sounds like it will be a fun case with lots of lawyer-talk.  While many of the exact same brews will be able to be purchased and distributed by anyone with a liquor license in Texas, the name and label on the beer may be different.

If you dig a bit deeper, you are able to uncover many of the brewers that are partnered up with Trader Joe’s and the list is pretty impressive.  Unibroue out of Canada, which is popular for their offering of Belgian brews, produces Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale.  One of the more popular breweries out West, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., produces a number of their brews including the Mission St. series.  Goose Island, Shipyard Brewing Company, Minhas Craft Brewery, and Gordon Biersch also hang their hat on a few of their brews.

No matter what you call it or what kind of label it has, we here at Beer-Universe hold the same sentiment…

Your Choice. Your Beer. Drink Up.
- Beer Universe

Josh Agate is a staff writer for Beer Universe follow him on Twitter at jagatelife.

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