Today, the Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams, is filing suit against a former employee for violating a non-compete clause by working for Anchor Brewing Co. (Read the article here). The Boston Beer Co. claims that Judd Hausner, a former employee, signaled his intentions to leave Boston to work for Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, CA in direct violation of a non-compete agreement he signed. The agreement stated that if Hausner were to leave Boston Beer Co., he would not work for another company in the “Better Beer” category for a full year. Hausner was hoping to take a key sales and marketing position with Anchor.
This is bad news for craft beer. This incident bares a resemblance to an earlier suit by the the Boston Beer Co. when they sued an Arizona brewery for using glasses that are too similar to their own. It would seem that the collaborative and friendly nature of the craft beer world is quickly being taken over by the greed that is commonplace in many other industries. It was this very non competitive environment that really captivated me about craft brewing. There are still many breweries who work together on collaboration beers, but I hope that these brewers won’t follow in the footsteps of the Boston Beer Co. It remains to be seen if bigger brewers such as Sierra Nevada and Stone can retain their renegade spirit and independent nature as their companies grow.
While I think that Sam Adams has a right to sue Mr. Hausner because the two parties agreed to this in a contract, I believe that practices like this undermine the entire spirit of craft brewing. Instead of keeping a close eye on their bottom line and discouraging competition, Samuel Adams should continue to promote craft beer as a whole. They are still only a drop of beer in the keg compared to Miller, Coors and Budweiser.
What do you think? Is the Boston Beer Co. doing the right thing? Can craft breweries remain collaborative and friendly as they grow?