When Ted Kulongoski twisted off the cap off a bottle of Henry's he sneaked into the Aladdin Theater last month, he had no idea the craft-brewing community would open a can of whup-ass on him.
Kulongoski was one of four gubernatorial contenders squaring off in the "Jabbin' at the Aladdin" debate, which was sponsored by X-PAC, a group best known for drafting young people into politics over drafts of local brew. At the event, Kulongoski declined an onstage offer of a beer with a wry "No thanks, I brought my own." He then pulled a bottle of union-brewed Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve from inside his jacket, to the raucous applause of his Teamster supporters who'd packed the back of the hall.
Members of the Oregon Brewers Guild were less thrilled when they read about Kulongoski's trick.
Executive Director Jim Parker dashed off a letter to the Democratic frontrunner, chastising the former attorney general for illegally sneaking a Henry's into a beer hall that sells only brews from Oregon's Widmer Brothers. (A state liquor spokesman says failing to get permission to bring in your own booze is a "minor, minor" violation.)
The bigger crime, however, was not legal but political. As Parker noted, Henry's may be union-made, but those jobs went to Washington when Miller Brewing moved production of the macrobrew from Portland to Tumwater in 1999.
"A lot of people in this state have a problem with Henry's and their 'beer means more here' billboards," Parker told WW. "I know a lot of brewers who lost their jobs when Henry's moved to Washington." He called Kulongoski's support of Henry's a "slap in the face" to the Oregon brewing community, which he estimates provides roughly 5,000 (mostly non-union) jobs in brewing, distribution and retail.
His organization also counts scores of "enthusiast members" called SNOBs (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer). In fact, the brewers guild just registered its 80th member last week: a beer drinker named Ted. The candidate made nice with the local beermakers last week by joining the organization and forking over the $20 membership fee.
Kurt Widmer, co-owner of Widmer Brothers Brewing, and registered Democrat, applauds Kulongoski's conversion to craft brewing, but says he will still base his vote for governor on where the candidates stand on beer excise taxes, not on who's the bigger SNOB.