Thursday, April 10, 2008

the right thing to do

If you hadn't heard, pay attention. There may be tiny glass shards in some bottles of Sam Adams beers. The bottles can be identified by the code: N35 O-I.

From a Boston Beer Company website announcement, dated 7 April 2008:

During a routine bottle inspection at one of our breweries, we detected possible defects in a small percentage of bottles resulting in the random presence of bits of glass, most the size of grains of sand, but some small slivers in some bottles as well. Based on this sample, we quickly began testing bottles of Samuel Adams at all of our breweries and identified that the problem appeared to be isolated to a single glass plant of the five that supply us.

Condé Nast columnist Lew Bryson has addressed the situation in his most recent piece:
The lot, embossed on the bottom rim with the code N35 O-I, came from the Auburn, New York, plant of Boston Beer’s single glass supplier, Owens-Illinois. “It’s a defect in the bottles, not our bottling lines,” said [Boston Beer spokesperson Michelle] Sullivan, adding that Owens-Illinois had confirmed that statement.

The first thing to notice is that Boston Beer Company obviously has the robust quality control procedures in place to detect such a problem.

Second thing: as soon as BBC had discovered the issue, it took immediate, public, and decisive action.

This is a commendable response, and one that is —and without naming names —not always the course taken by breweries, let alone other businesses when serious problems are discovered. The recent safety hearings concerning the FAA could be a case in point of how not to behave (and of the potentially dangerous consequences of inaction).

More from Bryson's piece entitled Breaking News (cleverly using that overworked phrase):
The best strategy in any industry recall is to get the word out quickly and completely, take responsibility for the problem, and offer a solution. After a day, Boston Beer has two parts of that well in hand. Wholesalers and retailers knew within hours, in part because Boston Beer sent emails to major beer-enthusiast websites. Boston Beer’s stock dipped yesterday afternoon following news of the recall but recovered by this morning, presumably because of the company’s fast response. <...>

The third step in the recovery strategy—a solution—is more complicated. Boston Beer is having wholesalers and retailers pull the beer from shelves and urging consumers to dispose of the defective bottles. It’s issuing full refunds on potentially affected products.

This episode —and Sam Adams' rapid reaction —increases my admiration of Jim Koch and his company.

1 comment:

  1. I tip my hat to The Boston Beer Company for moving so quickly on this. If I recall correctly, a year or so ago, Koch also pulled a couple of million dollars worth of beer that was out of date.

    The epitome of NOT taking control of a bad beer situation was demonstrated back in the 1970s when Schlitz made one bad decision after another, leading to their eventual demise and sale to Stroh after the feds blocked their sale to regional G. Heileman.

    The arrogance and stupidity of the Schlitz board of directors is detailed now in college text books as an example on how NOT to make a bad business situation better.

    But Schlitz is coming back, starting distribution in the greater Chicagoland area, and will use the original, pre-screw up "formula." Of course, we know it's owned by Pabst and brewed by Miller. Despite the questionable parentage, it was the beer I was raised on as a young punk. Sorry St. Pauli, but you never forget your first Schlitz.

    Click on my name for more Schlitz info.


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