Hashigo Zake has always had a distinct policy regarding beer selection. We don’t only want to stock beer that is very good; we want to offer products that are uncommon, innovative, made by small and independent brewers or that are in some other way under-appreciated or hard to find. We’re consumers ourselves and we care about choice and oppose practices that eliminate choice. If a brewery uses anticompetitive practices then we don’t want anything to do with them. But also if a supplier is so dominant that their products are ubiquitous then they don’t need us and we’d rather give someone else a break (provided the alternatives are of high enough quality).
In late 2015 the news came through that one of our favourite breweries, San Diego’s Ballast Point, was being sold. And their new buyers – multinational liquor company Constellation Brands - were shelling out a remarkable $US1 billion. It came as a real bombshell for us at Hashigo Zake and Beer Without Borders, as we saw Ballast Point as a great example of a brewery that could grow and grow without needing to sell out.
For the sake of consistency with its expressed principles of avoiding the products of massive producers (or ones using anticompetitive practices, which wasn’t the case here), Hashigo Zake declined to keep stocking Ballast Point beer.
But as Ballast Point’s New Zealand distributor, Beer Without Borders had a duty to Ballast Point and their New Zealand customers to not suddenly halt any trade in their beer. Plus Ballast Point was BWB’s biggest brand, so it would have been reckless to BWB - and its staff, customers and other suppliers - to terminate the trade.
So for the last year and a half Beer Without Borders has continued to sell Ballast Point beer while Hashigo Zake hasn’t. It’s been somewhat confusing since the two companies have the same ownership.
We’ve found that with Hashigo Zake a Ballast-free zone, rather than take advantage of that vacuum, other Wellington bars have slowed down their own purchasing of Ballast Point beer. It is now rare to see BP beer on tap in Wellington. Causing very good beer to be lost to local consumers and reducing choice is definitely not what Hashigo Zake selection guidelines are for.
So in the interests of ensuring that Ballast Point’s very good products remain available in Wellington, Hashigo Zake is stepping back from its policy of the last year and a half, and will resume offering Ballast Point beer.